Euphiletos Painter, 530-520 BC, Greek
62.23 cm height
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Every four years, games were held at the Panathenaic festival, a celebration in honor of Athena, patron goddess of Athens. Winners in these games received—as prizes—Panathenaic amphoras, vessels of the distinctive shape and size you see here. Each amphora was filled with forty-two quarts of olive oil from groves sacred to Athena.
The production of Panathenaic amphoras began in the sixth century BC, and continued for several centuries. Athena always appeared on one side, according to a traditional formula. On the other side of the vase, painters depicted the event for which the prize was won. In this case you see five runners in a footrace, probably a sprint. Greek athletes exercised in the nude; they offered artists the opportunity to represent the human body in all its beauty, and in action.