An amphora of this quality would have been
for funerary purposes, or possibly at the most
exclusive symposia (drinking festivities). This
piece has been published and exhibited and is
linked to the Painter of Tarquinia.
The obverse depicts a mounted hoplite and
attendant riding side by side. The hoplite wears a
Corinthian helmet with greaves and his shield
emblazoned with a bull’s head in white. His
companion wears a petasos and carries two
spears. An eagle in flight is featured in the field
behind the two riders. This bird, characterised by
its size and large eye, symbolises the devotion of
the hoplites to Zeus.
The reverse depicts a similar scene, but in this
case the shield of the hoplite is emblazoned with
a leaping hare motif. A zig-zag motif in black
runs across the top of both picture fields.
The departure of hoplites to battle was a popular
subject for Athenian vase-painters of the sixth
century B.C. In the seventh century B.C. many
Greek city-states formed volunteer armies,
composed of adult male citizens who could
afford to acquire the panoply of a hoplite-
namely spear, helmet, cuirass, greaves and most
importantly the large defensive shield. The name
of the hoplites derives from the Greek ‘hoplon’,
the word for arms and more specifically when
used in the singular, shield. It was an honour to
serve as a hoplite since it conferred status and
was an outward expression of citizenship and
wealth, as well as affording the opportunity to
gain glory. In the sixth century B.C., the archon
Solon divided the hoplites into four classes,
receiving status and political responsibility in
relation to their wealth. The second highest class
was that of the ‘hippeis’, the cavalry, equivalent
to Roman equestrians or medieval knights. These
‘hippeis’ would be drawn from the aristocracy,
being wealthy enough to arm themselves and
maintain a war horse.
Exhibited: ‘Art Antique, Collections Privees de
Suisse Romande,’ Musee Ruth, (Geneva, 1975)
Published: J.Dorig, ‘Art Antique, Collections
Privees de Suisse Romande,’ (Geneva, 1975), no.
H. Metzger and D. Van Berchem, ‘Festscrift fur K.
Schefold,’ (1971), pp. 155, pls. 55 and 56, 2.