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Lekythos showing Odysseus escaping from Polyphemos' cave


Height: 15.000 cm

GR 1837.6-9.72 (Vase B 687)

Room 14: Greek vases

    Lekythos showing Odysseus escaping from Polyphemos' cave

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    Lekythos showing Odysseus escaping from Polyphemos' cave

    Greek, around 480 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; found at Vulci (now in Lazio, Italy)

    On his journey home from Troy, Odysseus found himself trapped in the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemos, a terrible, one-eyed and man-eating giant. Each night the Cyclops ate two members of the crew, until Odysseus thought of a cunning plan. First he drugged Polyphemos with strong wine, and then, as he lay sleeping, he and his remaining comrades gouged out the giant's eye. Odysseus then tied his men beneath the bellies of the Cyclops's woolly sheep, while he himself clung to the thick coat of the finest ram in the flock. At daybreak the Cyclops sat at the door of his cave and felt the backs of his sheep as he let them out to graze; and in this way Odysseus and the rest escaped.

    The lekythos is decorated in the 'Six' technique, so-named after the Dutch scholar Jan Six who first studied it. The entire body is coated in black slip, with the figures, in this case Odysseus and a ram, added in a combination of thickly applied white clay slip and incised lines. Added red or black could also be used to enliven the areas of white. The technique was invented at Athens in about 530-520 BC, but never became very popular.

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


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    On display: Room 14: Greek vases

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