Briseis taken from Achilles

Cup, made in Athens, about 480 BC

In his great epic, the Iliad, Homer recounts part of the story of the Trojan War. He begins in the tenth year of the war and tells of the anger of Achilles and its dire consequences.

Achilles, the son of Peleus and Thetis, was the greatest of the warriors on the Greek side. His anger was aroused when Agamemnon, brother of the aggrieved Menelaos and leader of the Greek forces against Troy, unjustly appropriated Achilles' prize of honour, the slave girl Briseis.

The scene on this vase shows two heralds, one on either side of Briseis, leading the girl away to the left. Behind them stands a man gazing into the tent where Achilles sits alone, isolated in his anger and resentment. His head is covered with his cloak and his hand clutches his head. The muffled, enclosed figure is eloquently expressive of the warrior's mood.

Achilles was furious at the loss of Briseis and, wishing to punish the Greeks for this perceived dishonour, he withdrew himself and his forces from the fighting.