Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Attic black-figure amphora with Heracles

The amphora, attributed to a painter whose name derives from a vase preserved in Berlin, depicts two episodes from the myth of Heracles, the figure most often represented in Attic pottery in the 6th century BC. The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Alcmena, the hero was protected by Athena and was the emblem of strength and human intelligence over nature.

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The main side of the amphora depicts the battle between Heracles and the Amazons, the legendary warrior women who lived near the shores of the Black Sea. This was one of the most celebrated labours assigned to the hero by Eurystheus, the king of Argos. Heracles is gripping the club, his traditional weapon, and is wearing the leonté or skin of the Nemean lion, the invincible wild beast that the hero killed with his bare hands.

On the other side of the vase, Heracles is battling Cycnus, the bandit prince of Thessaly and the son of Ares. The middle of the scene is occupied by a mantled figure, probably Zeus. Behind the two contenders we can glimpse their protective deities: Athena for Heracles and Ares for Cycnus.

Provenance: Palagi Collection
Datation: 550–525 BC, Berlin Painter 1686
Material: Clay
Dimensions: h cm 42
Inventory #: G 4 (PU 192)

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Exhibition rooms | Rooms V and VI - Greek collection