The ancient Greek myths are stories about the adventures of superhumans, heroes, and gods. These myths were painted in ceramic vases to depict the culture and the past of the nation. Such paintings are valuable information sources for researchers as they provide insights into ancient people’s beliefs and traditions. Analyzing each artwork to examine how myths are told and depicted is critical. This essay addresses a ceramic vase called Krater that illustrates a myth about Amazons, or women warriors, who battled the Greeks.
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To begin the examination of the vase, it is critical to identify the characters depicted on it. In the center, there are two male foot soldiers, or hoplites, who are holding the shields that are decorated with laurel wreaths. Next to the soldiers, specifically on the right, there are also the trousers of the two women warriors, one woman is in a tunic mounted on the horse, and the shield is held by another warrior on the left. These women warriors are wearing something with patterns and different shapes. By this, it can be identified that they are the Amazons who are from the place called Scythia, which is located in the eastern and northern parts of Greece. The clothes of the Amazons remind the style of Persia, the state that is located on the east side of Greece. Aside from males and females, there is also a depiction of horses.
After the identification of characters, it can be said that the event that is presented on the vase is the battle of the Amazons with the Athenians. According to ancient Greek mythology, the Amazons were enemies of Greeks who were often included in the adventures of Heracles, Theseus, and Achilles (Dowden, 2016). Here, in the center of the vase, there is Theseus, a mythical king of Athens, holding a black shield on his left arm and a spear in another hand. The warrior woman can be either Antiope or her sister Hippolyte.
With regards to another version of this myth, Theseus was the husband of Antiope, who is the queen of the Amazons. Some scholars think that Antiope was stolen by Theseus, and that is why the Amazons are battling with the Greeks on the vase (Dowden, 2016). Yet, other versions of this myth suggest that the queen of women warriors loved Theseus and that this story is a tragic love story. These two points of view on the myth provide the facts that the Amazons were not happy about what happen to their queen. The Amazons wanted their Antiope back; however, the people of Theseus did not want to let the queen go to her nation. According to the myth, the Amazons violently participated in the battle against the Athenians and returned Antiope. Ancient Greek mythology contains numerous accounts about the Amazons and their fighting against them.
More mythical stories regarding the Greeks and Amazons can be found on the Parthenon and the Temple of Hephaistos in Athens. Aside from Krater, there are many artworks that illustrate the Amazons and their culture. For instance, there is terracotta lekythos, an oil tube that provides the myth of the sister of Antiope, Hippolyte, and the Amazons who fight against Theseus and his people (Mayor, 2016).
In addition, the women warriors are also depicted in the adventures of Hercules, who had to finish twelve labors provided by the king to prove his superiority. During his 9th labor, Hercules needed to steal a magical belt from Hippolyte, which was given to Hippolyte as a present from her father, Ares, the god of war (Falkner, 2020). In other scenarios of Hercules’ myth, Theseus helped Hercules obtain the belt and defeat the Amazons. In response to Hercules’s invasion, the Amazons started to fight against him and Theseus. The Amazons also wanted to protect Hippolyte; that is why they were cruel to the Greek strangers. In comparison to Krater, other paintings depict an additional character like Hercules to develop the story of the Amazons and Athenians.
As such, the myths about the Amazons and Greeks vary in their central figures, Antiope and her sister Hippolyte. It is not clear who was the queen of the Amazons. Yet, Theseus was the main enemy of the women warriors in different versions of the myth and remained its critical character. Ceramic vases and other survived accounts that illustrate tales tell similar stories but with extra details, making ancient Greek mythology complicated. However, the mythological stories share backgrounds, characters, and events, suggesting the common culture of the Greeks.
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To conclude, Krater is a ceramic vase depicting the battle between the Amazons and the Greeks. The central figure here is Theseus, who is fighting against Antiope or her sister Hippolyte. The vase shows the violent event that suggests the relationship between the Amazons and Athenians and the role of Theseus in ancient Greek mythology. The Greeks did not like the women warriors due to their image of cruel women who would do anything for their queen and nation.
Dowden, Ken. “Amazons.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics. 2016.
Falkner, David E. “The Legend of Hercules.” The Mythology of the Night Sky. Springer, Cham, 2020. 119-131.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Warrior women: the archaeology of Amazons.” Women in Antiquity. Routledge, 2016. 1005-1021.