Panathenaic Amphora

This Panathenaic amphora, along with the valuable olive oil it contained (about 10 gallons), was used as a prize in the Panathenaic Games.  These vases typically had a representation of Athena on one side and a depiction of the event for which the amphora was a prize on the other.   The figure of Athena above represents the traditional pose of the goddess striding forward agressively, brandishing her spear.  She is wearing the aegis, an upper-body armor that is made out of an impenetrable goat-skin.  Another traditional element is the pair of columns with roosters perched on top that surround Athena.1   The meaning of these cocks is open to question, but it has been reasonably argued that they represent the fighting spirit of Athens.  The inscription running down the left side of the vase reads: TÔN ATHÊNÊTHEN ATHLÔN, which means "[one] of the prizes from Athens."  Sometimes the word EMI is added to this phrase, in which case the meaning would be: I2 am [one] of the prizes from Athens."

Below is a composite photograph of both sides of another Panathenaic amphora, intended as a prize for a foot race.  Again we see the official inscription on the left, authenticating this vase as a Panathenaic prize.  The script on the right side is the signature of the vase painter.


1.  The roosters are often replaced by other figures in later vases.  Back to text.
2.  In Greek inscriptions, it is normal for objects to speak in the first person. Back to text.