Black-figure hydria

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Attributed to the Tyrrhenian Group
Greek, Attic
About 560–550 BCE
Terracotta
32.2 x 28.1 x 23.8 cm
Yale University Art Gallery:
Gift of Rebecca Darlington Stoddard, 1913; 1913.107

The male figures depicted on this hydria are painted wearing the armor of Greek foot soldiers, or hoplites. Their nudity, however, should most likely be read as symbolic, emphasizing their strength and vitality, rather than as a realistic representation of ancient warfare. In addition, the presence of both a god-like figure on the left and mythological Sirens around the battle scene creates a connection between warfare and mythology, implying the importance of both themes in Greek art.

This vessel is an example of the popularity of imagery related to hoplite warfare in early Greek vase paintings. The central role of warfare in Greek culture is emphasized by its social memes, which demanded every male citizen’s adherence to the methods of hoplite warfare. The vase is informative about both ancient military dress and battle formation, showing soldiers assembled in straight ranks and wearing their traditional uniforms of war. The style of the composition also points to connections between Greek and Egyptian sculpture, particularly with regard to the inconsistent positioning of the soldiers’ frontward-facing bodies and sideways-facing heads.

This text was prepared by Alexis Savini, Class of 2014, based on her paper for  Professor Cohen’s Art History 21: The Art of Greece: Prehistoric to Classical

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Further reading

J.D. Beazley, ABV, p. 106.

Jay Hambidge, Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1920), 63, fig. 5.

John Boardman, The History of Greek Vases (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 48, 55, 164, 236, fig. 58–59, 263.

Professor Paul V. C. Baur, Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases at Yale University, 1st ed. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1922), 73, no. 107, illustration on p. 72, fig. 17.

Professor Paul V. C. Baur, Preliminary Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases in Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1914), 11, no. 106.

P. V. C. B, “The Stoddard Collection of Greek Vases,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University (1929): 50, no. 3.

Robert Cook, Greek Painted Pottery, Third (London: Routledge, 1997), 73, 75–76, 80, 147, 242, 261, 282, 301–302, 337, pl. 20B.

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