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A man faces off against several warriors while another man kneels below.

The vessel has a shallow-necked rim and two handles. In red and black a shirtless man faces off against three men in helmets with shields, two men face the other figure while the other faces the other way. There are two dogs behind the group. On the floor under the shields another man crouches on all fours with his head bowed under the knees of the partially clothed man. There is a geometric vine/leaf pattern in a border above both images, a geometric spike design around the base of the vessel.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Attributed to Group E, Greek
Amphora (storage jar): Herakles Fighting Geryon; Arming of a Warrior
Work Type
540 BCE-530 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Archaic period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

43.2 cm h x 28.2 cm diam (17 x 11 1/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Jacob Hirsch; Sale, Paris, Hotel Drouot, June 30-July 2, 1921; Frederick M. Watkins; Bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1972.

Additionally, a handwritten note in the 1973 catalogue written by David Mitten quotes a March 5, 1973 letter from Dietrich von Bothmer: "brought back by Hirsch at the Hotel Drouot Sale of 1921 and later sold to Watkins."

[Andreya Mihaloew 4/28/2008]

State, Edition, Standard Reference Number

Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #301042

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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On one side: Herakles fighting Geryon. For one of his labors, Herakles was required to travel to Erytheia, an island in the far west, to take the cattle of Geryon, a triple-bodied monster.

Herakles stands at the left of the scene, with a red beard, and wearing his characteristic lionskin over a short red tunic (chiton). He wears the head of the lion over his own, with its front legs tied over his chest, pulled in by a belt at his waist. The lionskin is decorated with incised double lines to represent the fur. In his right hand he holds a sword; his left hand is obscured by Geryon’s shields.

At Herakles’ feet and behind his left leg there is a man crouching down on his hands and knees. This is Eurytion, Geryon’s henchman, who seems to have already been dispatched by Herakles. He wears a red tunic under another garment which is tied with a red belt, and a wool cap of a kind which characterises him as a peasant.

Opposite Herakles is Geryon, depicted as three overlapping warriors. Each wears greaves, a helmet, and a cuirass, and carries a shield with its outer band in red; two of the helmets overlap with the decorative frieze above, and may have been originally painted in red. The three figures stand in with their left legs forward in unison; the closest and farthest wear red greaves while the middle has black greaves, which helps visually differentiate these three pairs of legs with identical poses.

The warrior closest to the viewer turns back, facing towards the right, revealing the interior of his shield, and holding a rock in his hand, rather than a true weapon, indicating his monstrous nature. The middle warrior faces Herakles to the left, and seems to hold a spear up pointing at the hero’s face. His shield once had a device of the front half of a horse painted in added white but this is now barely visible. Only the top of the far warrior’s helmet is visible behind the other figures; his shield can be seen behind the middle warrior’s shield, and he perhaps holds the spear of which a small part can be seen between the shields and the figure of Eurytion.

At the bottom right of the scene, between the monster’s legs, is his two-headed dog Orthros, whose nearest head wears a collar and has its neck painted in added red. Mythologically, this dog is the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, and therefore is the brother of the three-headed dog Cerberus who guarded the underworld.

On the other side: A nude warrior arming himself, watched by four figures. The warrior stands at the center, facing to the right, with red hair. He lifts up his left leg and holds a greave in front of it with both hands, about to put it on. On the ground below his left leg there is a crested helmet, with its added color worn off.

To his left stand two male figures facing towards him; the leftmost is red-haired and bearded and wears a cloak around his lower half, with his chest exposed. The other figure is also red-haired and wears a cloak draped over his a long tunic.

To the right of the warrior stands a woman, facing him and gesturing to him with her right hand. She wears a long belted dress (peplos) with incised decoration; the added color is lost. Her features are poorly preserved because her skin would have been painted with added white, which is lost. Behind her stands a bearded, red-haired nude male figure. The figures standing around the warrior may represent members of his family, farewelling him as he leaves for battle.

Each figural scene is in a reserved panel bordered on top by a frieze of lotus and palmettes. There is a band of rays at the base of the body.
The subject of Herakles and Geryon was particularly popular among Group E, a workshop of painters associated with, but earlier than, the famous painter Exekias. There are at least 14 surviving examples of this subject on Group E vases. This vase is unique among their output, and in Attic vase-painting generally, in its depiction of Eurytion on his hands and knees rather than on his back or side (but cf. a similar pose on a Chalkidian neck amphora Paris, Cabinet des Médailles 202, BAPD 909851). On Geryon and Group E, see:

P. Clement, “Geryon and others in Los Angeles” Hesperia 24 (1955): 1-12, pl. 1-5.
Philip Brize, Die Geryoneis des Stesichoros und die frühe grieschische Kunst, Konrad Triltsch (Wurzburg, 1980), 44-45.

The myth of Herakles and Geryon was famously told by the poet Stesichoros in the Geryoneis, a long lyric poem now only preserved in fragments, dating to the first half of the sixth century B.C. Some scholars have seen that poem as influential upon the depiction of the myth in archaic Greek art. See:

M. Robinson “Geryoneis: Stesichoros and the Vase-Painters” Classical Quarterly 19 (1969): 201-21.
Philip Brize, Die Geryoneis des Stesichoros und die frühe grieschische Kunst, Konrad Triltsch (Wurzburg, 1980).

Publication History

  • Collection Hirsch (Première Vente): Antiquités Égyptiennes, Grecques et Romaines, Objets d’Art du Moyen-Age de la Renaissance et des Temps Modernes: Les 30 Juin, 1er et 2 Juillet 1921, auct. cat. (Paris, 1921), p. 20, no. 141, pl. 6.
  • J. D. Beazley, Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, 1956)
  • Diana M. Buitron, Attic Vase Painting in New England Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 28-9, no. 10.
  • The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973)
  • Thomas Carpenter, Thomas Mannack, and Melanie Mendonca, ed., Beazley addenda : additional references to ABV, ARV² & Paralipomena, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, 1989)
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Euryton II 46; Orthros I 7.
  • Susanne Muth, Gewalt Im Bild : das Phänomen der medialen Gewalt im Athen des 6. und 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr., De Gruyter (Berlin, 2008)

Exhibition History

Verification Level

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