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Black-figured amphora


Height: 40.600 cm

GR 1843.11-3.40 (Vases B 163)

Room 69: Greek and Roman life

    Black-figured amphora

    Greek, around 540 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; said to be have been found at Vulci (now in Lazio, Italy)

    Herakles and the Stymphalian birds

    The Stymphalian birds were so numerous that they were destroying the crops in the neighbourhood of Lake Stymphalos in Arcadia. Various sources claim that they were man-eating, or at the very least able to shoot their feathers out like arrows. One of the Twelve Labours set for Herakles was to rid the country of these pests. It is not clear exactly how he achieved this; some sources say that he shot them with bow and arrows, others that he used a special kind of bird-scarer.

    The painter of this vase has shown Herakles attacking the long-necked, multi-coloured birds with a sling, as they flutter about him or droop dying to the ground. Herakles wears a cloak made from the skin of the Nemean lion, which he killed to fulfil his first Labour; the fore-paws are knotted across his chest, while the lion's head forms a terrifying helmet.

    L. Burn, Greek myths (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


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    On display: Room 69: Greek and Roman life

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    The Portland Vase, £5.00

    The Portland Vase, £5.00