- Museum number
Pottery: restored fragments of red-figured bell-krater.
Heracles sacrificing. In the centre a burning altar made of unworked stones (άργοί λίθοι), on which are four tiers of logs laid lengthwise and endwise alternately, with the god's parts of the animal (including the curled tail) being burnt on the top, on the right of which is the youth Lichas, ΛΙ[ΧΑΣ, Λίχας, wreathed, and holding a piece of meat on a spit over the fire; on the left has been another youth similarly employed; only the top of his head now remains. Apparently it is to this youth that the name, ΦΙΛΟΣΚΕΤ, Φιλο[σ]κ[τ]ήτ[ης, higher up on the vase refers. Behind the altar is a wooden cult image of a goddess, draped and surmounting a fluted Doric column with necking, to left a tree from which hang votive tablets, πινάκια, with designs representing a Satyr, a Maenad, and two horsemen. On the left stands Heracles, wearing a wreath and a himation which passes over his left shoulder and is wrapped round his legs. Behind him is a piece of drapery which does not appear to be part of his himation, but may possibly represent the poisoned peplos. On the right of Lichas is part of a draped female figure on a comparatively small scale, which may have been a Victory, as on one of the vases with scenes of sacrifice to Chryse. Still further to the right and closing the scene stands Athene, wearing helmet, the crest of which is supported on a Sphinx, while the front is ornamented with the figure of a griffin, recalling the helmet of the Athena Parthenos. On her breast is the Gorgoneion. In front of her face is the letter N, probably part of her name. On the reverse in the centre is a Satyr moving to right, who has been followed by a Maenad, draped and carrying a thyrsos, and preceded apparently by another Maenad carrying a torch.
Diameter: 46.85 centimetres
Height: 26 centimetres (max)
- Curator's comments
- BM Cat. Vases
Raoul-Rochette, Peint. Ant. Ined. pl.,6, p. 401, fol., published the central fragments, without arriving at a definite explanation. He conjectured that the vase had been made at Tarentum, and this has been accepted as a fact by a number of subsequent writers who speak of the ‘Tarentinische Fragmente.’ Gerhard, in Arch. Zeit. 1845, pl• 35, fig. 2, restores the figures of Heracles, the youth beside him and the female figures on the right of Lichas (cf. Arch. Zeit. 1847, p. 155). The British Museum Catalogue of Vases (1851) (NB. ‘Old Catalogue’), under No. 804*, accepts the explanation of the scene as that of Heracles sacrificing at the altar of Chryse, but takes the name ΦΙΛΟΣΚΕΤ = Philoctetes as referring to the youth Lichas, whose name Λί[χας] was not then legible. Michaelis in Ann. dell’ Inst. 1857, p. 243, does not agree with the view of the British Museum Catalogue as regards the application of the name ‘Philoctetes’, but thinks that it may rather have been meant to indicate in a general way the sacrifice in Chryse. Milani, Il Mito di Filottete (1879), pl. 1, fig. 2, reproduces a fragment as given by Raoul-Rochette, loc. cit. Flasch, Angebliche Argonautenbilder, p. 19, accepts the sacrifice in Chryse. Mr. Cecil Smith, in J.H.S. ix, p. 1 ff., proposed to join the figure of Athene on to the fragment of a draped figure in front of her, and to regard the whole scene as an ordinary act of sacrifice to Athene on the Acropolis of Athens. Since then it has been found that the fragments cannot be so joined without destroying the curve of the vase and the proportions of Athene.
Stephani, in the Compte-rendu pour 1869, pl. 4, fig. 1, p. 179, and again, 1876, pl. 5, fig. 1, p. 161, publishes certain fragments of a large vase found at Kertch, and now in St. Petersburg, representing a similar scene of Heracles sacrificing at an altar with two youthful ministrants, of whom the one on the left is named Lichas, while the one on right has lost his name, if he had one. Stephani calls him Hyllos, and very rightly explains the scene as the sacrifice made by Heracles to Zeus Patroos at Mount Oeta, as described in the Trachiniae of Sophocles, on which occasion both Hyllos and Lichas were present as youths.
Were it not for the presence of Lichas and what appears to indicate the poisoned peplos behind Heracles, taken in comparison with the St. Petersburg fragments, our vase would seem best to represent the sacrifice of Heracles at the altar of Athene in Chryse, in accordance with the argument of the Philoctetes (έν Χρυσή Αθηνάς βωμόν). Among the other vases which illustrate this episode is one which includes a Nike bringing fruits for the sacrifice. In no other instance except on the Museum fragments, is Athene herself present, though that is natural enough in connection with Heracles.
The difficulty caused by the presence of Lichas at a sacrifice in Chryse is increased when we find in many writers that Philoctetes also had a part in the sacrifice of Heracles at Mount Oeta. For example, Hyginus, Fab. 36, after stating that Heracles, when the poisoned peplos took fire, had cast Lichas into the sea, adds, " Tunc dicitur Philoctetes, Poeantis filius, pyram in Monte Oetaeo construxisse Herculi eumque accendisse mortalitatem. Ob id beneficium Philocteti Hercules arcus et sagittas donavit." (Then Philoctetes, son of Poeas, is said to have built a pyre for Hercules on Mount Oeta, and he mounted it . . . [and cast off his] mortality. For this service he gave Philoctetes his bow and arrows.) And again, Fab. 102, speaking of the serpent which bit the foot of Philoctetes, he says, " quem serpentem Juno miserat, irata ei ob id quia solus praeter ceteros ausus fuk Herculis pyram construere cum humanum corpus est exustum et ad immortalitatem traditum. Ob id beneficium Hercules suas sagittas divinas ei donavit." (Juno had sent the snake, angry with him because he alone rather than the others had dared to build the funeral pyre of Hercules when his human body was consumed and he was raised to immortality. Because of the favour Hercules gave him his marvellous arrows.) This appears to have been the current view among later writers, and Sophocles seems to confirm it when he makes Philoctetes claim to have received the bow for services rendered (Philoct. 662, and again 784 fol., while in 724 he expressly refers to the pyre as Mount Oeta). Apparently the two legends had become confused in literary sources, and to some extent also by our vase-painter, though no doubt the incident mainly in his mind was the sacrifice at the altar of Athene in Chryse.
The drawing is of the finest period, perhaps shortly after the completion of the Athene Parthenos by Pheidias. The inner markings are of light brown, which is also used for shading the drapery, the aegis and the rocks of the altar. The eyes are in profile, with a curious formation of the eyelid.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number