Height: 20.500 cm
Diameter: 28.000 cm
GR 1867.5-8.962 (Vases B 424)
Greece and Rome
Black-figured lip cup, attributed to the Phrynos Painter
Greek, around 540 BC
Made in Athens, Greece; from Vulci in Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)
'Hail and drink me, yes!'
This black-figured lip cup shows the birth of the goddess Athena, daughter of Zeus and Metis, from the head of her father. Before Athena's birth, Zeus was presented with a dilemma. He learned that if Metis were to give birth to a daughter, she would afterwards produce a son who would overthrow Zeus himself. To avoid this happening he swallowed Metis and her unborn child alive. When the time came for the child to be born, Zeus instructed the smith-god Hephaistos to split his skull open with an axe. The fully-grown and fully-armed warrior goddess Athena sprang out, as shown on this cup.
Finely potted cups of this and related shapes were popular in Athens in the middle decades of the sixth century BC. As well as miniature paintings, many carry inscriptions: the signatures of many potters and a few painters are found, alongside exhortations like the one on this cup, which may be translated as 'Hail and drink me, yes!'
J. Boardman, Athenian black figure vases (London, Thames and Hudson, 1974)
L. Burn, Greek myths (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
D. Williams, Greek vases (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)