4/5/24 Classical Myth on Campus Tour

Information about the Tour

The tour will depart from the Blanton Museum. The tour will last approximately one hour. There will be three tours: 10:00 am, 11:00 am, and 1:00 pm. Please be aware that the walk will be a little less than a mile long and we will be walking up and down steps. You’re welcome to leave the tour at any time you see fit.


Littlefield Fountain

Google map for Littlefield Fountain can be found here.

Between the South Mall and W. 21st street stands the iconic Littlefield Fountain. Since its completion in 1933, Littlefield Fountain has been the most widely recognized statuary on UT’s campus. It is a powerful amalgamation of Greek iconography that have been appropriated to create a World War I monument. It was carried out by Pompeo Coppini, an Italian-born sculptor living in San Antonio.  He depicted Columbia, the symbol of the American spirit, standing on the bow of a ship being pulled by three sea horses. Behind her are two soldiers one representing the Army and the other the Navy.  By depicting Columbia traveling victoriously across the waters in her defense of liberty, Coppini intended the sculpture to create an image of a strong, unified America.


The winged Columbia standing with arms raised up borrows from the iconography of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. In Greek vase paintings, Nike is depicted driving the battle chariot for Zeus in the Gigantomachy, the war between the Olympians and the Giants. In myth, Nike is famous for siding with Zeus and the Olympians in their victorious war against the previous generations of gods known as the Titans. Another classical influence for Coppini’s Columbia standing on the eagle prow of a ship is perhaps the famous Hellenistic sculpture called the Nike of Samothrace, whose Nike also appears to be standing on the prow of a ship. Instead of holding a phiale (a libation bowl), Columbia is depicted holding the torch of liberty in her right hand and the palms of peace in her left hand.


The Mermen in the fountain are anthropomorphic figures which are controlling sea horses, known as Hippocampi (Gr. Hippo = horse + campi = sea monsters). In ancient Greek and Roman art, the hippocampi were traditionally depicted as half horse/half fish creatures pulling the chariot of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. Instead of the horses which pull the quadriga of Nike, Coppini has replaced them with hippocampi to emphasize the discovery of America and the United States’ power being via the sea.

There are numerous inscriptions on the monument. On the left side, the ship is inscribed with “Columbia – November XI MDCCCCXVIII.” The Roman numerals “XI MDCCCCXVIII” stand for November 11, 1918, which marks the end of World War I. On the right side, the ship is  inscribed with “Columbia – April MD CCCCXVII”,  April 1917, which marks the date when the United States entered World War I.



Columbia faces the statue of Lady Liberty on top of the Texas State Capitol, which seems to emphasize UT’s relationship to the government of Texas. Inscribed in the limestone flanking the backside of the statue are the words of the famous Roman statesman, Cicero (Philip., 14.12), written in Latin: “Brevis a natura nobis vita data est, at memoria bene redditae vitae sempiturna,” which is translated, “A short life has been given to us by nature, but the memory of a life honorably offered is everlasting.”

A more detailed account of the history of Littlefield Fountain can be found here.

The Main Building (also known as ‘The Tower’)

Location of the Main Building on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world.

The inscription on the Main Building beneath the Tower, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”, comes from an English translation of the Greek in the Gospel of John 8:32 (καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς). The words are attributed to Jesus Christ, when he was explaining that if one were to live according to his words that person would become his disciple. The ‘truth’ Jesus is referring to in this passage appears to be the revelation of who he is.  According to the context of this passage in the Gospel of John, the ‘freedom’ that this truth brings is salvation from death and the slavery to sin that Jesus is offering to those who follow his teachings. Taken in the context of the iconography of the Tower and Main Building, the ‘truth’ spoken of in this passage from the Bible has been appropriated to mean ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ in the general context of academic pursuits. The reinterpretation of this biblical passage is reinforced by the academic iconography that adorns the Main Building, namely the ancient alphabets (Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets) on the Tower and the seals of famous universities .

The symbolism of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the UT Tower is often overlooked by the casual passerby. The location of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the Tower suggests that the great intellectual achievements of Greco-Roman world are something the University of Texas aspires to.  In some respects, the Tower itself looks like some of the modern artistic interpretations of the appearance of the famous Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, which stood guarding the city of Hellenistic Alexandria and its world-renowned library. The Tower’s resemblance to the Pharos Lighthouse would be rather fitting given the Tower was originally intended to house the university’s main library.

Battle Hall

Location of Battle Hall on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

Battle hall is named after the  Professor of Classics and 6th President of the University of Texas. William James Battle served as President of UT from 1914-1916. He joined the university in 1893 as an Associate Professor of Greek. Some of the plasters now displayed in the William J. Battle Collection of Plaster Casts were placed along the walls of the auditorium he would lecture in, which is why this lecture hall was known as “The Greek Room.” In 1908, Battle became the Dean of the College of Arts. He became the President of the UT in 1914. After serving a rather tumultuous presidency that even threatened his position as President, Battle left UT to teach at the University of Cincinnati. He later returned to UT in 1920 as Professor of Classical Languages.  Some of his most indelible influences on the university were while he was Chairman of the Faculty Building Committee, a role he served for nearly three decades until 1948. Battle’s profound influence on UT’s campus is evident to this day, most notably the design and symbolism of the Main Building and its Tower, which was spearheaded by Battle.  Some of Battle’s other noteworthy contributions to the university were the foundation of the University COOP (1898) and the design of the university’s seal (1901). Additional information on William Battle can be found via the  Texas State Historical Association.


Located beside the Tower, Battle Hall is quite conspicuous due to its ornate facade richly adorned with colorful symbols. This is particularly evident around the windowed balconies on the building.






If you look closely at the repeated images, around the windows you will observe the Roman god Janus. Janus is an appropriate image for doors since, for Romans, he is a god of beginnings/end, transitions, and doorways. He was commonly depicted as a two-faced god who looks to the past and the future.  Janus was seen as presiding over war and peace, which can be observed with the function of the doors of his temple in Rome. These temple doors were open during times of war and closed during times of peace. Janus is conventionally associated with the month we call January, which derives its name from the Latin word for doorway, ianua. January is symbolically the doorway to a New Year since its inclusion as the first month of the year dating back to the Julian Calendar, which was established on January 1st 45 BC.

Alternating with the symbol of Janus is the helmeted head of Athena. Here again Athena’s iconography is used to indicate that Battle Hall is a place of acquiring wisdom. Coupled with the head of Athena, the head of Janus suggests that this is a place of transition assumedly through the acquisition of knowledge.

Above each of the windowed balconies on Battle Hall are a series of medallions with images representing the signs of the Zodiac. It is important to bear in mind that knowledge of the Zodiac signs was not connected with the kind of mundane prophetic statements associated with reading one’s horoscope.  For centuries, the Zodiac was understood as the movement of different constellations of stars whose position in the night sky indicated the passage of time and was used as a means of navigating. Knowledge of these constellations was also a fundamental part of medical education from the inception of medical universities in Italy. Greek myths were often associated with these constellations.

In some Greek constellation myths, Sagittarius is said to represent the centaur Chiron. During Hercules’ battle with a group of unruly centaurs, Chiron was said to have been accidentally hit by one of Hercules’ errant arrows. The arrow, which had been dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernean Hydra, caused incurable suffering to Chiron. Unfortunately for Chiron, he was immortal making him unable to find release in death. Therefore, Chiron offered himself as a substitute for Prometheus, who had been punished by Zeus for his disobedience of giving fire to mortals (Prometheus was chained to a rock in Tartarus where he was constantly tormented by an eagle that daily consumed his liver). In recognition for Chiron’s sacrifice, Zeus honored Chiron by placing him in the stars.


Lady Liberty/Athena on Main Building

UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world. The figure above the window resembles Athena (Roman name Minerva). It is often identified as Lady Liberty (of Texas). This interpretation is partially based on the single star above her head, which suggests that she is associated with the Lone Star State. Lady Liberty is a personification of freedom commonly seen in iconography for the American Revolution. Lady Liberty is an abstraction of the goddess Athena, and therefore, the two figures often bear a striking resemblance to each other in artwork. This would make sense considering Athena was viewed as the patroness of the democratic government of Athens. And the martial nature of Athena is also evident in the depictions of Lady Liberty’s participation in democratic revolutions such as the image of Lady Liberty stamping out tyranny in The Apotheosis of George Washington in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building.

Athena’s Owl on the Union Building

Location of the Union on campus via Google Maps.

In Greek iconography, the owl is an attribute of the goddess of wisdom, Athena (Minerva to the Romans). Subsequently, it is commonly used as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom in the European tradition. The owl of Athena at the Union (Commons) is situated among a number of symbols  germane to the state of Texas (i.e. Jackrabbit, Rattlesnake, Roadrunner, Horned Toad, Cacti, and the Longhorn). Athena’s owl being situated between the words “Arts” and “Sciences” suggests that the acquisition of wisdom is the element that unifies the arts and sciences at the UT.


Greek Masks of Comedy, Tragedy, and Satyr

Location of Hogg Memorial Auditorium on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

Located behind the Tower and the Union is the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. The Hogg Memorial Auditorium was designed by the famed French architect Paul Cret, who also was responsible for the design of the Tower. Upon its completion in 1933, the building became the first theater on the school’s campus. The auditorium was named after James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born Governor of Texas. Information about the Hogg Memorial Auditorium’s rich history can be found here.

Greek theater consisted of three different dramatic genres: tragedy, satyr, and comedy. All three of these dramatic genres are represented by the three different personas/dramatic masks on the facade of the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. To get an appreciation for some of the basic differences between ancient Greek and modern dramas, a brief description of Greek dramatic performances has been provided in the following:

The most important presentations of tragedy at Athens took place once a year as part of a competition at the city’s main festival in honor of the god Dionysus. For this festival, one of Athens’ magistrates chose three playwrights to present four plays each. Three were tragedies and one a satyr play, the latter so named because it featured actors portraying the half-human, half-animal (horse or goat) creatures called satyrs. Satyr plays presented versions of the solemn stories of tragedy that were infused with humor and even farce. A board of citizen judges awarded first, second, and third prizes to the competing playwrights at the end of the festival. The performance of Athenian tragedies bore little resemblance to conventional modern theater productions. They took place during the daytime in an outdoor theater sacred to Dionysus, built into the slope of the southern hillside of Athens’ Acropolis. This theater of Dionysus held around 14,000 spectators overlooking an open, circular area in front of a slightly raised stage platform. To ensure fairness in the competition, all tragedies were required to have the same size cast, all of whom were men: three actors to play the speaking roles of all male and female characters and fifteen chorus members. Although the chorus’ leader sometimes engaged in dialogue with the actors, the chorus primarily performed songs and dances in the circular area in front of the stage, called the orchestra (“dancing area”). Since all the actors’ lines were in verse with special rhythms, the musical aspect of the chorus’ role enhanced the overall poetic nature of Athenian tragedy.

– Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander


Although Greek drama, particularly tragedies, were often set in the heroic world of Greek myth, they were used as a way of investigating contemporary Greek issues. Many of the narratives of Greek myth that are preserved in the writings of mythographers are based on the dramatic tellings of Greek myths by Athenian tragedians, such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. In Greek myth, the dramatic arts of poetry, music, and dance were said to be inspired by female deities called Muses. The Muses were described as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). Overtime, the different forms of poetry, music, and drama became associated with specific Muses. The Muse for tragedy was called Melpomene and the Muse for comedy was called Thalia.

Greek comedies generally had far less to do with myth than the genres of Greek tragedy and satyr. The early Greek comedies were mainly satirical, mocking political figures and people of importance for their vanity and foolishness. Our primary example of comedy is from the playwright Aristophanes. One the few examples of Greek comedies with an extended treatment of characters in Greek myth is Aristophanes’ Frogs. Frogs tells the story of how the god Dionysus travels to the underworld to bring the tragedian Euripides back from the dead because of the poor quality of Athens’ living tragedians. The potential for irreverent depictions of the gods can be observed in the character of the god Dionysus, whose behavior and numerous errors along the way to the home of Hades provide the primary source of humor in this comedy.

A ‘satyr’ was the term for a mythical creature associated with Dionysus. It was also the term used for a short burlesque play performed after a series of three tragic plays. The satyr play kept with the general theme of the three tragedies by poking fun at the plight of the characters in the series of tragedies. In keeping with the uncivilized nature of the mythical creature also called a satyr, actors in these plays were described as wearing large phalli to create a comic effect. The fact that the Hogg Auditorium has included the face of a satyr is highly unusual since most modern theaters only depict the Greek dramatic masks for comedy and tragedy when paying homage to their classical foundations.


Diana of the Chase

Location of this statue can in Google Maps.

Tucked away in the honors quadrangle between Blanton, Littlefield, Andrews, and Carothers dormitories, stands a statue of the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana to the Romans). The statue was originally installed by William Battle in a niche in the library in Battle Hall. Later, it was moved to its current location among the honors dorms. Given Diana’s mythical association as a protector of young women, the statue’s subject matter was probably considered appropriate for it to be located next to the all-female dormitories that enclosed the quadrangle.

This hidden treasure of the university was created by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase was first modeled in 1922. As legend has it, an 18-year-old Bette Davis posed for this statue. Diana of the Chase has been cast many times, appearing at institutions around the world such as Columbia University in New York City, Audubon Park in New Orleans, Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana, Cuba, Jardin des Lices in Blois, France, and the Jardin Fuente de Diana in Madrid, Spain. UT’s statue is from a 1927 casting.  Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase represents her long-term engagement with outdoor statuary that often focused on two strong female figures, Joan of Arc and Diana. Diana of the Chase elegantly depicts a partially nude Diana pointing her bow toward the heavens with a hunting dog eagerly jumping upward.

In some ways, the statue is a striking departure from the Greco-Roman statues of Artemis/Diana, which typically depict Artemis as a young woman clothed in a short dress holding a bow in hand and often accompanied by a stag deer. Perhaps Huntington’s choice to depict Artemis naked with a hunting dog is meant to remind one of the Greek myth of the death of Actaeon. According to Apollodorus (3.30 ff), while hunting with his dogs, Actaeon happened upon Artemis bathing. The insult of being seen naked by a mortal male could be construed as a threat to Artemis’ virginity, which she vigorously protected.  Artemis punished Actaeon by changing him into a deer and having his dogs tear him apart. Taken in this context, the naked Artemis in UT’s quadrangle is a fearful image for any male who may have wandered into this ‘sacred space.’ The upward aim of Artemis’ bow is another departure from classical iconography. Perhaps Huntington is suggesting that Artemis’ heavenward aim points to the heights women can and should aspire to. Or perhaps, Artemis’ upward bow is aimed at Zeus, and thereby symbolizing a female rejection of patriarchal rule in general.


Google map for Waggener Hall can be found here.

Our tour ends at Waggener Hall (the side facing the Tower). Waggener Hall was named after the University’s first President, Leslie Waggener. The building was designed by Paul Cret, and it was constructed in 1931. Constructed out of white limestone, multi-colored brick, and red-tile roof, Waggener blends with the other Mediterranean Renaissance-style buildings that Cret designed.

Photo by Marsha Miller/The University of Texas at Austin


Although there are numerous classical architectural features on Waggener Hall, the 26 medallions at the top of the building do not pay homage to the Greek and Roman world. These medallions represent the chief exports of Texas at the time of its construction (e.g. cotton, oil, cattle, lumber, etc.). These symbols reveal that Waggener hall was originally designed to house the School of Business Administration. Waggener Hall is now home to the Department of Classics, which is where UT students learn to read Greek and Latin, study Greco-Roman history, and learn about archaeology and ancient scripts. The Department of Classics’ main administrative office is located in Room 123 on the first floor. Next to the office is the Classics Lounge, which hosts department meetings and colloquia. The ground floor of Waggener Hall houses the Classics Library and its annex, the Visual Resources Collection, the Institute of Classical Archaeology, and the office of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory.

A history of Waggener Hall can be found here.


Asclepius on Cos

Caroline Dubois-Weber sent the following pictures from her trip to Cos.

“The statue of Asclepius is from the archaeological museum at the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus. This Asclepion is famous for being the mythological birthplace of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.”

“The Asclepieion of Kos is one of the most famous Asclepions from antiquity. Located on the island said to be the birthplace of Hippocrates, the site of this Asclepieion contains ruins of a medical school rumored to have been founded and taught at by the acclaimed ‘father of modern medicine.’ Because of these ancient ties to the history of medicine, many physicians from around the world pay visit to the asclepion. Some Greek medical schools even host their white coat ceremonies at the site.”

Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix in the Blanton Museum

Name and Creator: Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix -Type B (Wine Cup). While the creator of this kylix is unknown to historians, it is known that it was constructed “in the manner of the Lysippides Painter.” The Lysippides Painter was a famous Athenian black-figure vasepainter whose identity is a mystery. As an artist, the Lysippides Painter was well-known to have a distinctive art style that matches this kylix. However, considering that this wine cup was made circa 430 BCE which was before the time period that the Lysippides Painter was known to be active (around 530 to 515 BC), it may be wrong to assume that the Lypippides Painter created this kylix.

Date of Creation: This piece of art was created circa 430 BCE.

Location on Campus: This red-figure kylix is featured in the Greco-Roman Art Exhibit of the Blanton Museum of Art.

Acquisition: This art piece became part of the Blanton Museum of Art on UT’s and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation. While the Huntington Fund contributed $600,000 out of the $1.5 million over the course of thirty-five years to open the original Art Building with the Archer M. Huntington Gallery in 1963, the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation has worked to fund endowments and innovative projects since its establishment in 1950.

Type of Art Work: The Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix – Type B (Wine Cup) is a Greek-Attic red-figure vase painting on a terracotta kylix, 3 3/8 Å~ 8 7/16 in. (8.5 x 21.5 cm) overall.

Description: In this work of art, the cupped portion of the kylix that holds the at the very center. The particular female Gorgon shown here seems to be Medusa as reflected by the unique portrayal of her defining characteristic: her serpentine locks of hair. At the wide base of this wine cup, there are two large, prominent eyes, rumored to belong to Dionysus or the Gorgons, gazing intensely at the holder of the kylix. Surrounding these eyes, there are graph vines spiraling everywhere that frame the rest of the base of the kylix.

In Greek mythology, the Gorgons, which roughly translates to “the terrible ones,” were three powerful and winged sisters: Medusa (Guardian), Euryale (Wide-stepping), and Sthenno (Strength). In ancient Greek art, these winged bestial women were commonly portrayed with round heads, large staring eyes, protruding tongues, and sharp tusks resembling those of swine (Curtis). All of these characteristics can clearly be seen in this kylix. Moreover, the Gorgon that is the depicted on the kylix is adorned with snake-like coils around her head as hair, indicating a serpent motif, lending us to identify her as Medusa as in most well-known myths. However, it is important to consider that this does not necessarily imply that the artist believed Gorgons had snake-hair. The serpent element in the sculpture likely signifies the Gorgons’ status as chthonic deities, where snakes or dragons often represent the divine and uncivilized nature of sacred places in Greek mythology (Curtis).

Unlike her sisters, Medusa was describes as being the only mortal Gorgon (Hesiod’s Theogony 276-278). Interestingly, she was also described as a beautiful woman by late classical poets who believed she was turned into a monster by Athena as punishment for having sexual relations with Poseidon in her shrine (Atsma – Gorgones). In contrast, earlier Greek writers and artists portray her as a monster who was born into a family of monsters. The portrayal of the latter can be seen in this red-figure kylix.

Another important figure in Greek mythology that can be seen on this ancient wine cup is Dionysus. As the Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness, theater, and wild frenzy, Dionysus was depicted as either a young or old man who was commonly seen with a thyrsos (a pine-cone tipped staff), a drinking cup and a crown of ivy in Greek paintings and vases (Atsma – Dionysus). Moreover, he was also shown to be flocked with Satyrs and Maenads and surrounded by grapevines. While most of these characteristics are not reflected in this kylix, there are several allusions to Dionysus’s sphere of influence, wine, that tie into the meaning of the artwork.

There are numerous interpretations that can be made regarding the intended symbolic meaning of this work of art. Being placed strategically on the wine cup, the menacing face of the Gorgon, Medusa, is intended to turn away evil and remind the drinker of the dangers of drinking wine and alcohol in excess, consequently intimidating the drinker to stay safe from harm. Moreover, the two eyes on the exterior of the base turn the kylix into a mask when the cup is held up as the drinker takes a sip of wine from

These eyes can either be interpreted as those of the Gorgon or of Dionysus. If they are meant to be the eyes of the Gorgon Medusa, then they reflect a similar sentiment as mentioned before to warn the drinker and other of excess. By illustrating the eyes of Dionysus surrounded by grapevines, the base tends to be paying homage to Dionysus, the god of wine. Moreover, the way the kylix becomes a mask also reflects Dionysus’s playful nature and his sphere of influence of theater as masks were used extensively in ancient Greek theater (Curtis).


Atsma, Aaron J. 2000. “DIONYSUS – Greek God of Wine & Festivity.” Theoi Greek Mythology. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Dionysos.html.

Atsma, Aaron J. 2017. “MEDUSA & GORGONS (Medousa & Gorgones) – Snake-Haired Monsters of Greek Mythology.” Theoi.com. 2017. https://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Gorgones.html.

“Black-Figure Cup – Type a (Wine Cup).” n.d. Blanton.emuseum.com. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://blanton.emuseum.com/objects/15073/blackfigure-cup–type-a-winecup?ctx=dbb3f04ef2b150e1b90d16f2b8b89e21ed26da75&idx=4.

“Collections Online | British Museum.” n.d. Www.britishmuseum.org. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG59261.

Curtis, Todd. 2018. Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performing Arts. Top Hat. https://app.tophat.com/e/992301/assigned/content/974293::43909cc2-dbc0-47c7-842e-3570a3d702ff.

Hesiod. 1997. Theogony. Translated by M L West. Oxford ; New York: Clarendon Press.

“UTIMCO.” n.d. Www.utimco.org. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://www.utimco.org/funds/allfunds/stories/st_utaus_00.asp.

By Anika Yamdagni

Athena and Tethrippon (Quadriga) depicted on a Black-Figure Neck-Amphora in the Blanton Museum

Creator(s): These creators of this amphora are unknown, but they are attributed to artists who were active during the last two decades of the 6th century BCE, named after the potter Leagros (Shapiro). They were specifically given this name after five hydriai, water-carrying jugs, with kalos inscriptions found praising Leagros. A few identified members of the Leagros Group include the Acheloos Painter, Chiusi Painter, and Daybreak Painter.

Known for their distinctive black-figure pottery, they decorated large vessels in a complex style which featured intricate designs and overlapping figures drawn in black against a red background. Their depictions favored scenes Herakles and the Trojan War, as well as Dionysian themes. In addition to their technical skill and artistic creativity, the Leagros Group was also notable for their attention to detail and their ability to capture lifelike poses and expressions in their figures.

Date of Creation: This piece of art is dated c. 510-500 BCE.

Location: This amphora is located in the Blanton Museum of Art on the second floor in the Greco-Roman art exhibit.

Acquisition: Thanks to the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation, this object was brought to an exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Austin campus. It was likely acquired in Italy in 1820-1830 and arrived in England in 1941 by Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton. It then likely stayed within the possession of the 2nd to the 7th Marquess of Northampton until it was sold on July 2nd, 1980, to be part of the Castle Ashby Vases collection.

Type of Art Work: Athena and Tethrippon (Quadriga) depicted on a Black-Figure Neck-Amphora (Wine Storage Vessel), 45.6 cm tall ceramic piece of pottery with terracotta medium.

Description: This amphora showcases an image of Athena, goddess of wisdom, driving a quadriga, which was commonly referred to as a tethrippon in ancient Greece. An amphora like this was specifically designed for use in symposia to hold wine, formal drinking parties that were important social occasions for elite Greek men. The ancient Greeks considered the consumption of undiluted wine to be barbaric; civilized drinkers always mixed their wine with water. Symposium vessels reflect this practice. This amphora was likely mixed with the water of a hydra into a krater. The mixture was then distributed from the krater into the kylikes of individual drinkers. Although these vases may have once been used in parties, they were eventually deposited in tombs (Blanton Museum).

Looking at the iconography on the vase, we recognize Athena from her sharp-tipped spear, majestic breastplate, and Corinthian helmet (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70 ff, Mayer, 5.312). In ancient Greece, the quadriga, or tethrippon, was a four-horse chariot commonly used in athletic competitions such as the Olympics. These chariots were also used in warfare, particularly by the wealthy elite, and were often associated with victory in battle. Many myths display the quadriga being ridden by a variety of gods, such as Nike, Helios, and Ares. The four-horse chariot is also prominently featured in Roman art and architecture as the Quadriga of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, features four horses pulling a chariot with a statue of the archangel Michael on top, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil (Curtis). Overall, the quadriga was an important symbol of victory and power in both Greek and Roman mythology and played a significant role in their respective cultures (Nike & Chariot).

Since Athena was strongly associated with military strategy and the defense of the city, the imagery on the amphora conveys her martial nature in ancient Greek culture (Curtis). This resembles what is shown on the opposite side of the vase, as two hoplites advance over another third kneeling hoplite. Hoplites were the most common type of heavily armed foot-soldier in ancient Greece from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE. These soldiers were not only expected to fight battle in the front lines, but also be courageous to be the first attacked and ready to respond on any enemy invasion (Cartwright). On the vase, the warrior on the left carries a Boeotian shield with scooped indentations that allow him to thrust his weapon more effectively while protecting himself. Such a shield also had several other smaller indentations or ridges on the surface, which were used to improve grip and to deflect or absorb blows from enemy weapons (Blanton Museum).

According to Greek mythology, Athena is often described as engaging in battles or aiding Greek heroes during their quests, such as Perseus, Jason, and Theseus. Many warriors would believe that Athena, along with her brother Ares, would watch over the battle of war, with Athena saving those that come back and wishing for their good fortune and happiness. Many Greeks embraced this role as in myth she took a leading role in the Trojan War, fighting against the Trojans (Homeric Hymn 11 to Athena, Cashford, 11.1-4). As a result of these notions, some may believe that the depiction of Athena on this amphora is after a general victory of a people or that of a hero. Additionally, she may be arriving at a time of need under the context of the hoplites, showing her presence to bring a side she favors to victory.


“ARES GOD of – Greek Mythology.” n.d.Www.theoi.com.https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/AresGod.html.

Atsma, Aaron. 2000. “ATHENA – Greek Goddess of Wisdom,War & Crafts.” Theoi Greek

Mythology. 2000. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Athena.html.

“Birth of Athena – Ancient Greek Vase Painting.” n.d. Www.theoi.com. https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K8.11.html.

“Black-Figure Neck Amphora.” n.d. Blanton.emuseum.com. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://blanton.emuseum.com/objects/15077/blackfigure-neckamphora? ctx=dbb3f04ef2b150e1b90d16f2b8b89e21ed26da75&idx=0.

Cartwright, Mark. 2013. “Hoplite.” World History Encyclopedia. February 9, 2013. https://www.worldhistory.org/hoplite/.

Cashford, Jules. 2003. The Homeric Hymns. London; New York: Penguin Books.

“Collections Online | British Museum.” n.d. Www.britishmuseum.org. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG59160.

Curtis, Todd. 2018. Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performing Arts. Top Hat. https://app.tophat.com/e/992301/assigned/content/974293::43909cc2-dbc0-47c7-842e-3570a3d702ff.

“Kerameikos.org: Leagros Group.” n.d. Kerameikos.org. Accessed April 21, 2023.http://kerameikos.org/id/leagros_group.

Mayer, Roland. Seneca: Phaedra. London: Duckworth, 2004. Ovid. Metamorphosis. Londini, 1678.

“Nike & Chariot of Zeus – Ancient Greek Vase Painting.” n.d. Www.theoi.com. Accessed April 21,

  1. https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/T24.2.html.
  2. Shapiro, H.A. 2021. “#Leagros: An Athenian Life.” Edited by Dylan K. Rogers and Jenifer Neils.

Cambridge University Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2021.https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/cambridge-companion-to-ancientathens/leagros-an-athenian-life/85965395A881142804065FFA05F99C95.

By Arul Yamdagni

Pelike with Eros Chasing a Fawn in the Blanton Museum

I. Artist: The sculptor of this particular Pelike is unknown to historians. The one piece of information that is known is that the artist is believed to be from the Gnathia region of Southern Italy. However, a remarkably similar piece of pottery is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This piece is from a slightly later time range around late fourth century B.C. Though its specific sculpture is also unknown, it comes from a similar region of Italy and is attributed to the Group of Bologna 585, a sector of sculptures in Northern Italy whose pieces carry distinguishing features (Eros). Similarly, the artist of this Pelike is believed to be from the Gnathia region of Southern Italy.

II. Date: This piece of art is dated around 360-300 B.C.

III. Location on Campus: The Pelike jar is located in the Blanton Museum of art on the second floor in the Greco-Roman art exhibit.

IV. Acquisition: This object was placed on UT’s campus in the Blanton Museum in 1988 as a part of the Archer M Huntington Museum Fund. After originally providing the University with the Diana of Chase statue, Mr. Huntington became infatuated with providing an art venue for the University of Texas and its students. He gave a gift of around $145,000 to start a fund for the cultivation of art around campus. This gift ultimately laid the foundation for the Art Building where the Archer M. Huntington Gallery was originally housed (“A Vision”). As an eventual addition to this collection through the Huntington fund, the Pelike of Eros chasing a fawn is not the grandest piece of the collection or most recognizable, but it demonstrates the ever present impact of love and desire on innumerable myths to the student audience. Though primarily known because of the great love story of Eros and Psyche, simply depicting Eros with a fawn simplifies and broadens the scope of the Olympians’ impact and possible interpretations.

V. Description: This Pelike Jar is simply titled “Pelike (Jar)”. It is a piece of ceramic pottery, fired black, detailed with white characters, and completed with terracotta as a medium and support. The white figures on the Pelike portray the winged somewhat effeminate god Eros chasing a fawn. There is a plant etched behind Eros and a curvy design above the fawn. White patterns encapsulate the scene on the top and bottom. Use of white, red, and yellow coloring on the piece was common for this type of ornate pottery.

In order to truly understand this piece of art, one must understand the cultural context
surrounding Eros. Two separate figures of Eros were prominent in Greek culture. One version was the primeval god who came forth form Gaia. This form of Eros represented desire and attraction, but not in a physical sense (Brettenburger). Rather, it bonded together various elements of the universe in order to spur creation, development and creativity. The other version of Eros is the son of Aphrodite. He is often depicted as a young winged man whose sphere of activity is physical attraction with respect to lust and sexual love. This version of Eros is often seen as a companion of Aphrodite, aiding her in conveying lust and sexual desire upon unsuspecting mortal and immortal victims (EROS).

The winged and youthful appearance of Eros on this Pelike makes clear that he is
representative of the later version of Eros. Though this piece of pottery is believed to be crafted right in the middle of the age of Hesiod, who yielded the former interpretation of Eros and the works of Ovid who made popular the secondary view of Eros, it can clearly be determined that he is representative of this sexual love associated with later verisons of Eros. The great power of Eros to attract lovers is made evident in a scene from the Metamorphoses. When one of Eros’ arrows simply scratched Aphrodite , “She became enraptured by the beauty of a man” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 525 ff). Eros has incredible power and influence over gods and mortals alike to influence their loves and effections. This is especially important in interpreting this Pelike because of the fawn Eros is chasing after. Rather than a mythological half goat-half human. This fawn is an actual young deer, often associated with young women. Deer in general are found to be associated with Artemis, who was believed to protect and defend these wild creatures (Hughes). Artemis association with virginity and purity can also be associated with these creatures. This makes Eros’ pursuit of the creature especially intriguing given that he is known as
a figure that, “smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.” (Seneca, Phaedra 290 ff). Eros great power to manipulate sexual desires coupled with the relative innocence of the young fawn show that this Pelike is meant to warn young Greeks and their guardians about the dangers of Eros. This type of controlling and manipulating lust is always lurking and ready to capture the heart of any unsuspecting victim. This piece can be understood as a warning for Greeks to stay alert and ready in case they are stricken by an attack of eros, because gods and mortals alike know of his great power and influence. But also, it can be seen as a testament to Eros’ great power, as seen by his gigantic size compared to the young fawn and its seemingly helpless flight from this great god. Though he is not depicted as the strongest amongst the gods, Eros incredible ability to influence desires and passions is unmatched and must be heeded by viewers.

Works Cited
“A Vision Grows into One of the Finest Art Collections on Any U.S. Campus.” UTIMCO, 2010. https://www.utimco.org/funds/allfunds/stories/st_utaus_00.asp.

Breitenberger, Barbara. Aphrodite and Eros the Development of Greek Erotic Mythology.
Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

“Eros.” EROS – Greek God of Love (Roman Cupid, Amor). Theoi. Accessed April 29, 2022.

Hughes, J. Donald. “Artemis: Goddess of Conservation.” University of Chicago Press, October 1, 1990. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.2307/3983705?journalCode=foreconshist.

Mayer, Roland. Seneca: Phaedra. London: Duckworth, 2004.
Ovid. Metamorphosis. Londini, 1678.

“Pelike (Jar). Blanton Museum of Art Collections.” Omeka RSS.

By Benjamin Martin Spangler

Saturn Devouring His Chicken

Nihal Tangeda sent me this humorous photo of Saturn devouring some KFC. The image comes from famous Goya’s painting Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Child, which is based on the Greek myth of Cronus eating his children, as told in Hesiod’s Theogony. Goya’s paining is perhaps the most shocking image of the brutality of Saturn’s cannibalism. This painting is part of his so-called ‘Black Paintings’, which were painted on the walls of Quinta del Sordo. The Quinta del Sordo was a house Goya lived in during a dark period in his life (1819-1823), a time when he sought to escape the world around him. Unlike his other paintings, the Black Paintings were never meant for the public. The transference of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Child to canvas led to it becoming one of the most well-recognized paintings in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Sirens in the MET

Maria Buendia sent me this photo of her trip to the MET this Summer. She took this picture of her and a Greek terracotta statuette of Siren (c. 500-550 BC). In early Greek art, Sirens are depicted as mischwesen (mixed-creatures) that had the head of woman and the body of a bird. Over time, they became more anthropomorphic in artwork, being depicted as female figures with bird legs and wings. In Greek literature, most notably the Odyssey and Argonautica, they are dangerous female monsters that lived near the seashores, luring sailors to their their death through their music/song. As to their shape, the origins of the feminine nature of the Sirens could be based on the Greeks’ personification of the coastline as a deceptive female with the irresistible power to draw sailors to their destruction. Perhaps the bird form of these monsters represents the seabirds that sailors listened to and looked for when determining if they were approach land.