The Panathenaia, a state religious festival, honored Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Held every four years, the festival included athletic, musical, and other competitions. Amphorae filled with oil pressed from olives from the sacred trees of Athena were given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games. These amphorae had a special form with narrow neck and foot and a standard fashion of decoration. One side showed Athena, the goddess of war, armed and striding forth between columns, and included the inscription "from the games at Athens." The other side showed the event for which the vase was a prize. Leading vase-painters, commissioned by the state, decorated these vessels, which continued to be decorated in the black-figure technique long after it had gone out of fashion for other vases, probably due to religious conservatism. The same conservatism is applied to the depiction of Athena.
On this example, the figure of Athena is portrayed in an Archaistic or old-fashioned style. An additional inscription, seen here to the right of Athena, names the archon or city magistrate. Because historical records date these magistrates, the vase can be dated very precisely. The event side of this vase shows a special race in which an apobates or armed competitor had to leap off a moving chariot, run along side it, and then jump back on.