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Gallery Text

This amphora showcases Athenian civic pride. Made in Athens or surrounding Attica, it depicts Athena, goddess of war and the city’s patron deity, charging ahead in battle. An inscription identifies it as one of the containers filled with local olive oil and awarded as prizes at the athletic games of the Panathenaia, a festival honoring Athena. Dated more precisely than most ancient objects, it was made “when Theiophrastos was magistrate,” or 340–339 BCE. Old-fashioned features in its design signaled the antiquity of the Panathenaic games. The swallow-tail hemlines of Athena’s dress, for example, mimic artistic styles of a previous period.

Two brawny boxers, their hands bound with leather thongs, illustrate the contest in which this amphora was awarded. Victorious boxers received 60 amphoras of Athenian olive oil at the Panathenaic games. Roughly equal to 600 gallons, this was a valuable prize. The boxers are framed by a partly veiled personification of the Olympic games (“Olympias”) and a bearded referee. The black-figure technique, long outmoded when this vessel was painted, contrasts sharply with the more advanced rendering of the human figures. Note the elongated bodies with relatively small heads, full and three-quarter views with foreshortened limbs, and relaxed and leaning poses.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Attributed to the Marsyas Painter
Panathenaic Prize Amphora (storage jar)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Attic Black-figure Panathenaic Prize Amphora
Work Type
340-339 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Classical period, Late
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
80 cm h x 39 cm diam (31 1/2 x 15 3/8 in.)
[Rome, 1899] sold; to Joseph C. Hoppin, Pomfret, CT, (1899-1925), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1925.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #303148
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Joseph C. Hoppin
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Side A: Athena Promachos advancing to right clothed in an archaic Ionic chiton ornamented with a dotted border in white and provided with rudimentary sleeves ending in two swallow-tails thrown over each shoulder, Attic helmet with tall crest, and brandishing a spear in her right while covering herself with a shield which she holds in her left. Her head, helmet, and right hand project into the upper border. On both shoulders and breast, crossing cords in white with a central knot which originally supported th e aegis, but now has almost entirely disappeared. Traces of a bracelet on her right wrist and sandals on her feet in light brown. On either side of her a Doric column, supporting a figure, that on the left a female, helmeted figure (probably Athena), holding a tiller, that on the right Zeus with sceptre and Nike. Along each column the inscriptions "kionedon," on the left TON ATHENETHEN ATHLON, on the right THEIOPHRASTOS ERXE.

Side B: Athletic scene. In the center, two nude boxers full front, their hands bound with the cestus. At the right a trainer to left wearing a cloak draped over his left arm and a wreath in his hair, holding a staff in his left, his right outstretched. At the left a female figure draped entirely in a mantle which leaves only the upper part of her face bare, the lower part being outlined beneath it, leaning on a Doric column. Beside her head OLYMPIAS.

Spout, shoulder, handles, and base glazed, with a reserved band on upper part of base. Palmette chain on neck at junction of handles and below an elongated tongue pattern shorter on B than on A. Panel on each side containing the design, that of A longer than B. Applied white is used for the exposed flesh surfaces of Athena and the details of her drapery, as well as those of the figures on the columns on A, head and feet of Olympias, wreath and staff of trainer and the column on B. Execution careful with good incisions, originally filled with white.

Said to have come from Capua. Intact, except for the rim, which has been broken and repaired.
Distinctive in shape and iconography, the amphora identifies itself through an inscription, painted vertically behind the standing figure of Athena: “TON ATHENETHEN ATHLON” ([I am] from the games at Athens). The first examples of this amphora type are associated with the reorganization of the Panathenaic Festival in 566 BCE, when athletic competitions were established, to be held by the Athenians every four years on the 28th of Hecatombaion (July–August) at the events called the Greater Panathenaia. A Lesser Panathenaic festival was held annually in the intervening years. These celebrations were meant to mark the birth of Athena, patron goddess of the city.

Under the direction of the festival’s officials, black-figure vases such as these, among some of the largest produced from the Athenian potters’ workshops, were filled with olive oil from the sacred trees of Athena and awarded as prizes for the particular athletic events depicted on the reverse side of the vases. Probably because of the conservative customs associated with this religious festival, Panathenaic amphorae remained relatively standard in shape and decoration, holding an average of about thirty-nine liters or one ‘metretes,’ an Athenian unit of liquid measure, and were always decorated in the black-figure technique, long after that decoration had been abandoned for the red-figure style. Awarded as prizes in the games as late as the second century BCE, Panathenaic amphorae are testimony to the unique and enduring tradition of this Athenian festival and its prizes.
Publication History

The Beazley Archive, Revue Archéologique, Vol.1976(2), p.349, 303148

Joseph Clark Hoppin, [Unidentified article], American Journal of Archaeology (1906), pp. 385 ff., pl. 16

[Unidentified article by Robinson], American Journal of Archaeology (1910), pp. 424, note 1, and 425, note 1, no. 9

Georg von Brauchitsch, Die Panathenäischen Preisamphoren, B.G. Teubner (Leipzig and Berlin, 1910), p. 57, no. 92

Joseph Clark Hoppin and Albert Gallatin, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, U.S.A.: volume 1, Hoppin and Gallatin Collections, Libraire Ancienne Edouard Champion (Paris, 1926)

George M. A. Hanfmann, Greek Art and Life, An Exhibition Catalogue, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1950), no. 144.

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), p. 105, no. 116, ill.

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 108-109, ill.

Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Athena, Add. 67; Olympias 4; Zeus 190.

Aspasia Papanastasiou, "The Relations Between the Black-Glazed and Red-Figured Vases of Attica During the Fourth Century BC" (2000), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Julia Shear, Serving Athena: The Festival of the Panathenaia and the Construction of Athenian Identities, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2021), pp. 29-30, fig. 1.6pp. 29-30, fig. 1.6

Exhibition History

Greek Art and Life: From the Collections of the Fogg Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Private Lenders, Fogg Art Museum, 03/07/1950 - 04/15/1950

Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Collection Highlights

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