Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora

Attributed to the Kleophrades Painter

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 500 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; black-figure

Dimensions: H: 25 in. (63.5 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1916

Accession Number: 16.71


This splendid Panathenaic amphora is inscribed with the words "from the games at Athens." On one side is the figure of Athena, the presiding goddess at the Panathenaic games in Athens, and on the other side, shown here, is the pankration, the contest at which this vase was awarded as a prize. The object of the pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling, was to bring one's opponent to the ground. A favorite trick was to seize a contestant by the leg and force him to fall backward, such as depicted here. One athlete has grasped the other's foot and is trying to throw him by placing an arm under his opponent's thigh. A trainer stands nearby, closely watching the struggle to see that all rules are properly observed
The pankration was the toughest and most dangerous of all athletic events. One could twist, strangle, hit, and pound one's opponent; in fact, the only things forbidden were biting and gouging the eyes. Injury to the competitors was unavoidable since they sought to win by all possible means, heedless of the life of their opponents.