The Portland Vase, £5.00
Height: 11.500 cm
Length: 15.200 cm
Bequeathed by Sir William Temple
Room 71: Etruscan world
Bronze figures of mounted Amazons
From Capua, Campania, Italy
About 510-490 BC
These small bronze figures of mounted Amazon are two of four such figures which decorated the rim of a Campanian bronze cinerary urn (container for the cremated remains of the dead). The large globular vessel was of a type similar to a dinos, a container used for serving wine at banquets, and may in fact have served for this purpose during the life of the deceased.
One of the Amazons turns to fire an arrow at an enemy behind her. The mythical race of warrior women was renowned for their archery. There may be substance to the myth, for the people of Thrace (an area equivalent to the modern Balkans and the region thought to have been inhabited by the Amazons) were considered superior archers in antiquity, and recent excavations on the steppes of Russia have yielded the graves of women who, judging by their grave-goods, were mounted horse-warriors.
L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
D. Von Bothmer, Amazons in Greek art (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1957)
S. Haynes, Etruscan bronzes (London, Sotheby's Publications, 1985)