The Farnese Hercules at UT’s Stark Center

I. Artist: The Farnese Hercules is credited to be carved by a sculptor named Glycon of Athens. Although there is no mention of Glycon in ancient writing, it is believed that he lived in the period between Lysippus and the early Roman emperors. Lysippus is credited to creating the Heracles of Sicyon, a bronze statue that art historians believe to be the
inspiration for Glycon’s Farnese Hercules. The name of the artist is carved into the main
support of the statue, and the inclusion of the Omega in Glycon’s name, a feature not
used in inscriptions until shortly before the Christian era, solidifies the time period
Glycon might have lived.

II. Date: The original Farnese Hercules was created in the 3rd century AD. The replicated statue displayed at the H.J Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports was created sometime between 2007 and 2009. According to the Stark Center’s webpage, “the Stark Center’s Farnese Hercules was made from a mold taken from the original Farnese Hercules at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy in approximately 1900.”

III. Location: A copy of Glycon’s Farnese Hercules is currently on display at the entrance of the H.J Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports located in the Darrel K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium on the University of Texas campus.

IV. Acquisition: The Stark Center Directors, Drs. Jan and Terry Todd, both admirers of Glycon’s sculpture, adopted the symbol of Hercules to emphasize their emblem of strength, determination, and commitment. With knowledge that the Royal Museum for Art and History in Belgium was capable of casting replicas of the Farnese Hercules, the directors commissioned for a statue to be copied for the Stark Center. The Stark Center’s Farnese Hercules was molded from the original Glycon sculpture, now located at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy. In June of 2009, the replica was shipped in four large crates, and in August 2009, Hercules was assembled and installed in the Stark
Center by two artists from the Atelier. The Stark Center contains a library, archives, and
museum dedicated to the study of physical culture and sports. In the context of the
athletic world, literature on strength training and sports, and awards for Longhorn and
Olympic victories, the Farnese Hercules is a symbol for the modern athlete. According to
Terry Todd, the Farnese Hercules is at the Stark Center to serve as a reminder of the
importance of physical culture in human culture. At the Stark Center, the Farnese can be
perceived as the physique modern athletes and people can achieve.

V. Description: The Farnese Hercules carved by Glycon of Athens is a ten and half foot marble statue. Since the replica displayed at the Stark Center is molded from the original statue, the replica is of the same stature as the original. The statue portrays a tired Hercules leaning on his club. The skin of the Nemean Lion is draped over the club, signifying that the Greek hero is resting. Other indications of Hercules’ weariness is his downward gaze and relaxed left hand. In his right hand, mysteriously held behind his back, are the Golden Apples of Hesperides. This inclusion in the sculpture, along with the state the hero is portrayed to be in, signifies Hercules has just completed his eleventh labor.

The classical mythological elements included in this statue are the Nemean Lion skin, the
club, and most significantly the Golden Apples of Hesperides. According to myth,
Hercules had to serve King Eurystheus as a way of purifying himself. For his first labor,
Hercules was sent to kill the Nemean lion, a monster with impenetrable skin. Hercules
succeeded by choking out the beast. (Apollodorus, Library, 34). After his success, the
skin animal can be seen as worn armor for the hero. Eurystheus assigned the Hercules ten
labors, but he added two more after being unsatisfied with Hercules’ completion of two
prior labors. For his eleventh labor, the king ordered Hercules to obtain the Golden
Apples of Hesperides from Mount Atlas in the land of the Hyperboreans. This location
was practically unknown and a great trek for any mortal man. The Apples were a
wedding gift for Hera from Gaia, and in addition to being at the western edge of the
world, the Golden Apples were guarded by an immortal serpent with one hundred heads
and the Hesperides. Hercules travelled far, coming across other challenges on his journey,
to reach the Golden Apples. Before reaching his destination, Hercules was advised by
Promthesues, after saving him from his eternal punishment, to send Atlas, the god
holding up the sky, to obtain the apples for him. To do this Hercules offered Atlas he’d
hold the sky in return. However, after retrieving the Apples, Atlas plotted to leave
Hercules in his place. With quick thinking, Hercules tricked Atlas into holding up the sky
again and leaving with the Apples. Other myths say Hercules himself retrieved the
Apples from the serpent (Apollodorus, Library, 39-40). However the myth of Hercules’
eleventh labor is expressed, it is evident that he travelled far and faced adversities on his
journey to the Hesperides. This weariness is therefore accurately portrayed in the statue
carved by Glycon. The Farnese Hercules clearly holds a mythological context with its
presence. The posture of the hero and the inclusions of elements from the twelve labors
support how Glycon’s statue is an artwork that tells a story about enormous burden. From
a real world perspective, The Farnese Hercules holds a symbol of athleticism, strength,
and physical health. The original Farnese Hercules was discovered in the ruins of the
Baths of Caracalla in 1546, and it is believed that the statue served as one of the many
artworks that decorated the public baths in Rome. In Ancient Roman culture, public baths
were symbols of community and health. These baths were connected to gymnasiums and
included libraries containing Greek and Roman literature. In essence, the Roman baths
were places where one could better themselves mentally and physically. It’s no surprise
that a statue of Hercules was most likely commissioned to be made as decor for these
baths since Hercules can be perceived as a symbol of physical health, athleticism, and
strength of mind and body, all attributes the Roman baths, and gymnasiums connected,
centralized. Overall the symbolic meaning of the Farnese Hercules can be a combination
from its mythological context and original location in Rome. The mythological aspect of
the statue depicts a hero who has gone to extreme lengths to finish his task, embodying a
sense of accomplishment at the expense of physical strain. In a way this interpretation
can also be translated into modern symbolism of Hercules as an embodiment of human
body physical achievement and athleticism. For the modern human, achieving a physique
like Hercules is an accomplishment that comes at the expense of physical strain.
Similarly, athletes accomplish their victories at the expense of many sacrifices. These
interpretations of the Farnese Hercules support why Drs. Jan and Terry Todd wanted a
replica of the statue at Stark Center, an area for athletic achievement and overall physical
health accomplishment.


Theoi Classical Texts Library. Accessed May 1, 2021.

“A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology William Smith, Ed.” A
Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, Gabaeus, Glaucon, Glycon.
Accessed May 1, 2021.

Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, Dr. Beth Harris, and Dr. Steven Zucker. “Lysippos,
Farnese Hercules.” Smarthistory. Accessed May 1, 2021.

“The Farnese Hercules.” H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.
Accessed May 1, 2021.

“Rome, Baths of Caracalla.” Livius. Accessed May 1, 2021.

Trzaskoma, Stephen M., R. Scott Smith, Stephen Brunet, and Thomas G. Palaima.
Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation, n.d.

“Visitors.” H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, February 12, 2020.

Vermeule, Cornelius. “The Weary Herakles of Lysippos.” American Journal of
Archaeology 79, no. 4 (1975): 323-32. Accessed May 1, 2021. doi:10.2307/503065.

Author: Michael Anthony

UT student’s photo of Centaur and Eros statue in the Louvre

One of my former students sent me some pictures of the mythological artwork that she encountered on her visit to the Musée du Louvre in Paris. This marble statue of Eros (Roman Cupid) and a Centaur is one of pieces of Greco-Roman artwork that caught her attention. This famous  statue is believed to be a 2nd-century-AD, Roman copy of Greek statue by a sculptor of Aphrodisias. It is a good example of a piece of Greco-Roman artwork for which there is no myth in Greek and Latin literature that we can used to interpret this statue. Therefore, it is unclear as to why the centaur’s hands appear to be tied behind his back, and more interestingly, why is Eros teasing this centaur in the first place.

Zeus Ammon at the Met

A quick thanks to one of my former students for sending me this personal photo of a 2nd-century-AD marble head of Zeus Ammon that was on display at The Met. It’s a great visual example of the syncretism that occurred in Hellenistic cultures. If you look closely, you can see part of the ram horns of the Egyptian god Amun (Greek Ammon) on the head of Zeus. Now if we could only find a Zeus with longhorns on him, we could really be confident that “what starts here changes the world”.

Hermes Medallion


I. Artist: Paul Philippe Cret was the designer for the University of Texas at Austin Union building, which is home to the Hermes Medallion we will discuss today. Born in 1876, Paul Cret was an architect hired by UT Austin to consult on the master plan campus designs from 1930 until he passed away in 1945. Cret earned his place on the UT staff with an architectural degree from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and a specialization in designing public buildings. After graduating, Cret continued to build a reputation for himself as a designer by becoming a tenured design professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and even started his own firm in Philadelphia that was responsible for impressive projects such as the Indianapolis Public Library (1914-1917) and the Delaware River Bridge (1920-1926). It was these accomplishments and more that put Cret at the
height of the Beaux-Arts movement, a style “characterized by the symmetrical,
axially disposed plans with elevations articulated by historicist detailing derived
from antiquity and the Renaissance”.

II. Date: The University of Texas at Austin Union Building was first designed in 1922 and ended construction in 1933.

III. Location: The Hermes Medallion is located on the west side outside wall of the UT Austin Union building facing Guadalupe Street. It is close to the third floor in height placement.

IV. Acquisition: The Hermes Medallion was placed on the side of the Union building as it was constructed from 1922 to 1933. The medallion was put there to represent the patron saint of the UT McCombs Business School, Hermes. Next to this medallion on the Union also exists the patron saints of the UT law and engineering schools.

V. Description: The Hermes Medallion is a 2’9’’X1’11” limestone base-relief sculpture carved within a circle. The backing of the medallion is a darker shade of yellow, contrasting from the white beige of the Union walls.

Within the relief sculpture, a side profile portrait of Hermes is depicted with him wearing
a winged headband. The winged headband is a symbol of Hermes commonly associated with his divine ability to travel across boundaries. Reference to this accessory can be seen
in a description of an ancient Greek play portraying the Judgement of Paris, “Tiny wings
of gold were projecting from his locks, in which they had been fastened symmetrically on
both sides” (Apuleius, The Golden Ass 10. 30 ff). An example of boundary crossing can
be seen when Hermes travels down to Tartarus, crossing the border between the living
world and the dead, to rescue Persephone from Hades (Ovid, Fasti 4. 417 ff).4 This power
of movement may have been part of what drew the McCombes School of Business to
choose Hermes as their patron saint. His ability to overcome barriers is an inspiration to
future businessmen and women. Similarly, to the right of Hermes a star is depicted
hanging overhead. The star most likely represents the planet Mercury, the Roman name
for Hermes. According to the Hyginus’ De Astronomia, “This fifth star is Mercurius’
[Hermes], named Stilbon. It is small and bright. It is attributed to Mercurius because he
first established the months and perceived the courses of the constellations”
(Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42). This accomplishment of understanding the stars
and creating the months plays into the wisdom and innovation of Hermes, attributes the
McCombes School of Business strives for. The presence of the star may also be a
reminder to “shoot for the stars” and channel more of Hermes’s traveling abilities.
Underneath the star we see the caduceus wand. This well-known symbol features two
snakes intertwined with a winged rod between them. The caduceus wand is commonly
mistaken for the symbol of medicine, the rod of Asclepius. The actual caduceus wand
symbolizes harmony and trade as described in the Apollodorus myth of Hermes stealing
Apollo’s sacred cattle as well as the Hyginus’ De Astronomia. In the story, Hermes trades
a shepherd’s pipe for the golden staff Apollon used to herd the cattle (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 112 – 115). Later when traveling to Arcadia,
“[Hermes] saw two snakes with bodies intertwined, apparently fighting, he put down the
staff between them. They separated then, and so he said that the staff had been appointed to bring peace” (Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7). Finally, below the caduceus we see a bag decorated with the modern dollar sign. This symbol, though it has no direct correlation to Hermes in classic Greco/Roman myth, could be referencing Hermes as the god of commerce, merchants, and trade. This association leaves no question of the relationship between Hermes and the school of business. Overall, all these symbols illustrate how the values of McCombs are personified through Hermes, making him a fitting patron saint.


APOLLODORUS. “The Library of Greek Mythology”. Translation by Aldrich, Keith. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1975.

APULEIUS. “The Golden Ass”. Translation by Walsh, P. G. The World Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Atsma, Aaron J. “HERMES – Greek God of Herds & Trade, Herald of the Gods.” Theoi Greek

Mythology. Theoi Project. Accessed April 30, 2021.

Burkert, Walter. “From Telepinus to Thelpusa.” Essay. In Structure and History in Greek
Mythology and Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

HYGINUS. “The Myths of Hyginus”. Translation by Grant, M. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Publications.

Nicar, Jim. “Hermes in the House!” The UT History Corner, April 24, 2017.

OVID. “Fasti”. Translation by Boyle, A. J. & Woodard, R. D. London: Penguin Books.
“Paul Phillippe Cret Collection.” University of Texas Libraries. Texas Archival Resources
Online. Accessed April 28, 2021.

Curtis, Todd. Greek and Roman Myth on UT Campus. Department of Classics, April 2, 2021.

Author: Kasidy Grant

Many Thanks to Cole Maguire and Lance Henderson for the Campus Mythomap!

The Campus Mythomap is well on its way to being complete! We are currently updating the files for the Campus Mythomap to include all of the holdings in the Blanton Museum of Art that are related to Greek and Roman mythology. The Campus Mythomap is the brainchild of Cole Maquire and Lance Henderson, who have put a lot of time and effort into creating this incredibly useful and interesting tool. This interactive map allows faculty, students, and visitors to easily locate Greek and Roman mythological art and iconography on UT’s campus. By clicking on the map, you can see a quick description and image of the item of interest. You can also search by the name of the mythological figure to find all the places on campus that have images of a particular Greek or Roman hero or god. There is even a link that reveals who is the most popular mythological figure on campus. I can not thank Cole and Lance enough for putting this together! Please make use of this wonderful resource.

Ariadne and Dionysus on a Red-Figure Column Krater

I.  Artist: This work is attributed to an Athenian red-figure vase-painter, whose name is uncertain. However, the painter’s name is thought to be Pig Painter, a name that was inspired by images of swineherds that the artist painted on pelike, which is currently located in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge. Certain stylistic characteristics have led to a belief that this artistic identity has also done several other vases throughout 480 BC-460 BC. [1}

II. Time frame: 470 BCE (5th century BCE)

III. Location on Campus: Blanton Museum of Art on The University of Texas campus, Ancient Greek and Roman Art room (first piece – right across from the mezzanine)

IV. Acquisition: This Red-Figure Column Krater (Wine Mixing Vessel) was one of the many pieces donated in 1980 by the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation It is believed that Huntington’s interest in offering an art venue to the school was sparked by his wife Anna Hyatt’s sculpture Diana of the Chase. As discussed previously in class this donation of his can be found in the honors quad. In 1927, he donated 4,300 acres of land to UT Austin, which kicked off the Blanton Fund, which has since funded the krater collection and many other permanent pieces inside The Blanton Museum of Art. The Huntington legacy still lives on today and it is displayed through one of the finest university’s campus-based art collections.

V. Description: European Greek-Attic, terracotta red-figure column-krater (wine mixing vessel), 40.5 cm (15 15/16 in). Red-figure art is a pottery form of Greek vase painting that originated around 530 BCE in Athens. The style is distinguished by drawn red figures and a black-painted backdrop. Designs could be painted directly onto the vessel after it has dried rather than scraped out, allowing for further detail than in black-figure pottery.

Ariadne, who is the daughter of Minos and displayed on the left side, is displayed stepping into a quadriga, also known as a four-horse chariot. Ariadne is identifiable through her typical Minoan clothing, long layered dresses with short sleeves, and her crown that was given to her by Dionysus. Displayed in the center of the piece, Dionysus is holding a vine branch and kantharos (wine cup) in each of his hands, respectively. Dionysus is known to be the god of wine and drunken revelry, which is why many wine vessels would contained themes of Dionysus utilized to consume and collect alcohol. [2][3] Since Ariadne and Dionysus are related by the myth of Theseus, these two mythological figures are depicted together on this wine-mixing vessel or krater. Ariadne played a huge part in Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur.[4] Dionysus then encounters her and rescues her. In some myths, this is what leads to Ariadne becoming Dionysus’ wife. [5] Therefore, she is shown driving the quadriga upon her return because historically goddesses responsible for victory, such as Nike, are suggested to lead the chariot. [6] The use of the quadriga in ancient Greek athletic games and as a symbol of victory is of importance given the image of the scene on the opposing side of the piece.[7]

On the opposing side of this piece, two athletes training with a specialist is shown. The individual on the left is holding a javelin, while the other is holding halteres (jumping weights). The dressed man in the middle is the trainer, as shown by the forked staff. [8] Since this piece is associated with the myth of Theseus, this scene clearly depicts that of Greek ephebos (an adolescent young man of the age of training in Athenian culture). It can be interpreted that the human malefactors are in training following Theseus’ story with the Minotauros. This symbolizes the principles of Athenian education and the heroic nude represents the ideal muscular body built in the Greek gymnasion. Given the importance of the gymnasion to the bodily and physical education of Athenian ephebic youths, Theseus’s story with the Minotauros could symbolize the ideals of Athenian education. Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur may indicate the superior quality of the Athenian physical and mental education of their young men, given that much of ephebic training was in readiness for civic and military service. [9] In this instance, these column-craters are likely associated with victories in Greek athletic games. However, the intended use for the kraters is still speculated. For example, they could have been created to serve as reward to those who finished second or for other game events. They were potentially used as commemorative practical vases for festivities after Panathenaic victories. Or lastly, they could have been used as model samples of pottery art in workshops.[10]


Works Cited

[1] T. Mannack, The Late Mannerists in Athenian Vase-Painting. London: Oxford Press 2001, pp.12-15

[2]  “DIONYSUS – Greek God of Wine & Festivity.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Accessed April 24, 2021.

[3] Buxton, R. G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016.

[4] Siculus, Diodorus. “Library of History, Volume II.” Loeb Classical Library. 1935.

[5] “ARIADNE – Greek Goddess Wife of Dionysus (Roman Libera).” Theoi Greek Mythology. 2017. Accessed April 24, 2021.

[6] Wedemeyer, Dr. B. “Erecting the Quadriga – the Quadriga in History.” 2008. Accessed May 10, 2021.

[7] Hesiod. Theogony. Translated by Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1954.

[8] Blanton Museum of Art, Red-Figure Column Krater (Wine Mixing Vessel).

[9] Curtis, Todd A. n.d. “Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performance Arts.” Accessed April 30, 2021.

[10] Hadziaslani, Cornelia. 2003. “ΤΩΝ ΑΘΗΝΗΘΕΝ ΑΘΛΩΝ.”

Author: Sana Usman

Athena on a Black-Figured Amphora of Panathenaic Shape

I. This artifact is described as a Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape, otherwise known as an oil container. The painter of the amphora is unknown (Blanton Museum).[1]                                                                                                                                              II. The amphora was created around 540 BCE (6th century BCE) and founded in Athens.

III. The Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape is located at the Blanton Museum within The University of Texas at Austin.

IV. This piece was able to be retrieved through the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation. Due to the individual who donated the amphora wishing to remain anonymous, it is difficult to determine why the previous owner of the amphora decided to donate the piece in particular to the Blanton Museum. The piece did come to the museum through the stated foundation during 1980.

V.  This amphora is 27.5 cm. On the front of the amphora is an image of Athena, standing in a fighting pose with her signature spear and shield. Two owls can be seen on the columns surrounding her while on the back sits a man playing the pipes to a bearded judge. Athena is also depicted as a white figure while the men at the back of the amphora is depicted as black as a way to characterize gender.

The Classical mythological elements that are presented in the piece would be the owls in association with Athena and references to the Panathenaic Festivals. Athena’s attributes are presented in the amphora with the depiction of owls, a helmet, a spear, and an aigis.[2] The owl is considered one of Athena’s attributes, which can be seen in a myth in which  she turns a princess from the island of Kos into an owl for making fun of her grey eyes.[3] The spear, the helmet, and aigis can be seen during the Athena’s first moments as she springs from Zeus’ head with her helmet, “shaking a sharp spear…hold[ing] the aigis.” [4]

The mythological elements of the Panathenaic Festivals are presented with the unknown man playing an kithara to a judge. The depiction can be interpreted as the Panathenaic Festivals due to the statement of Smith and Planzos, commenting that the beginnings of the Panathenaic Festivals marked a turning point in Greek lekythos making as the style of Panathenaic Amphora – the style of the amphora in Blanton – just beginning to emerge in Greek history. [5]   A lekythos can be described as being “used as a containers for oil, perfumed oil, and as an offering for the dead.” The kithara is important in Greek Mythology through its representation of music and by the painter utilizing such a design is able to elude to the importance of music in Athens to Apollo’s love for music. In Herodotus, a skilled player of the kithara named Arion was thrown overboard from a ship and was miraculously saved by the dolphins of Apollo.[6] Such rescue of a kithara player represents the approval of the instrument by Apollo and ultimately its favor presented in the Panathenaic festivals.

The symbolic aspects of this amphora can be seen through the depiction of Athena and the assumed depiction of the Panathenaic Festivals -a religious festival that included athletic and musical competitions as well as cultural events – as a representation of what Athens stands for as a whole.[7]  If this amphora is associated with carrying oil, it makes for an interesting symbolic connection to the mythological contest between Poseidon and Athena to become the patron deity of Athens.[8] In Pausanias’ Description of Greece, “Athena is represented displaying the olive plant, and Poseidon the wave” and through Athena introducing the olive plant to Athens, the goddess wins patronage of the city.[9] With Athena’s connection to olive oil and Athens, a connection is thus established between Athenian oil containers and depictions of “a fighting Athena” as she is able to represent the athletic competitions of the Panathenaic games where competitors would wrestle for the prize of an olive wreath.

The man playing an instrument in front of a judge is also symbolic as it appears to be a description of the Panathenaic Festival – a particular festival that finds its origins in the creation of Athens as a city state. In Plutarch, he tells a myth about how Theseus created a city-state and “he called the city-state Athens, and instituted the communal festival of the Panathenaia.” [10] The Panathenaia was a place rich with festivals and music to worship the patron goddess Athena and many competitions emerged in praise of crafts and arts. One of these competitions can be seen during the Greater Panathenaea, where there were contests of the rhapsodes of old and the winner would receive an olive crown set with gold.[11] Such music contests represent the importance of the olive tree as the winner of such competitions would receive the symbol of Athena as a grand prize.

In many respects, this amphora in the Blanton Museum represents the strong connections between the Athena of Greek mythology and the customs of Athens.

Works Cited

[1]Blanton Museum, Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape Plaque.

[2] Richard Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology (New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 2004), 69.

[3] Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (New York: Penguin Books,. 1996) 2.50.

[4] Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Homeric Hymn (Loeb Classical Library, 1914), 31.

[5] Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos, A Companion To Greek Art (Blackwell Publishing, 2012),

[6] Herodotus, Herodotus (New York: Penguin Books., 1996) 1.23.

[7] Zoe E. Thomas, interview by Rachel Peacher, Office Hours, April 23, 2019.

[8] Debra Schafter, A Lekythos in Austin Attributed to the Oionokles Painter and the Representation of Nikai on Late Archaic and Early Classical Lekythoi (Austin: The University of Texas at Austin., 1989), 7.

[9] W.H.S. Jones, Pausanias, ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918),

[10] Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Smith, and Stephen Brunet, Plutarch (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016), 335.

[11] Aaron Atsma, “Panathenaia,” Theoi Project.April 22, 2019.

Author: Rachel Peacher

Heracles fighting the Nemean Lion, Oinochoe, Greek-Attic, c. 550-500 BC

Artist: While listed as ‘anonymous,’ the time period from which this oinochoe was created allows us to imagine the techniques and styles used by the artist. A Greek poem, most likely composed in 6th century Athens, gives an amazing visual for pottery making during this time period:


If you pay me potters, I will sing:

Come here, Athena, and hold your hand over the kiln.

May the cups and bowls all turn out a good black,

May they be well fired, and fetch the price asked…

But if you turn shameless and deceitful,

Then I will summon the ravagers of kilns…

Stamp on the stoking tunnel and chambers, and may the whole kiln

Be thrown into confusion, while the potters cry aloud.

Great care was put into building the kiln, and pottery was seen as quite valuable. Black-figure vase painting was the earlier style utilized by Greek artists, as the materials were cheaper, but red-figure would soon take over. Many Attic vases show lighter painted lines that are raised from the surface, lines which added contour for clothing and anatomy. Instances of this technique can be seen in this oinochoe, with Heracles’ weapons in the tree and in the anatomy of the figures. It is also evident from this piece that the artist was skilled in their work, as the black gloss appears opaque and not a reddish-brown (Sparkes, Greek Pottery: An Introduction, 20-22).

Date: 550-500 BCE

Location: Blanton Museum of Art

Acquisition: This piece was brought to UT Austin by the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation in 1980. Archer Huntington dedicated his life to creating one of the world’s largest collections of Hispanic art and literature while the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation focused on creating collections of contemporary American and Texan art. This oinochoe from Attic Greece demonstrates a historical marker for pottery that adds to the timeline of techniques and styles used by artists.

Description: Athenian black-figure painting on an oinochoe (13.9 cm (5 1/2 in.) that depicts Heracles’ first labor: the Nemean Labor. A defining theme in the artwork of the demigod, Heracles, is that of his twelve labors.

Born from the affair of Zeus and Alkmene, the myth of Heracles finds its genesis in his pathos driven by the anger of Hera. Such is where we get his namesake, “Fame from Hera.” Driven by jealousy and hatred, Hera cursed Heracles with madness, causing him the kill his wife, Megara, and his children. To atone for his wrongdoings, Eurystheus, ruler of all the Argolid, instructed Heracles to complete a series of Labors that would prove his strength and virtue (Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology, 114-115).

The first labor, the Nemean Lion, hinted at the strength and cleverness of the Greek hero Heracles. On the oinochoe, weapons are depicted hanging from the tree, reminding the viewer that Heracles fought the Nemean lion with his bare hands. In On Heracles, written in the late 5h-early 4th c. BC, Herodorus attempts to rationalize the true meaning of the myth of Heracles through allegory. The lion is a noble animal, and with the skin of the Nemean lion wrapped around him, Heracles is noted as a noble hero. Herodorus also mentions Heracles’ iconic club as a symbol for philosophy (Herodorus, On Heracles, 14). This club is also depicted on the oinochoe, being held over the head of Heracles by his son Iolaos as a gesture of assistance.

An oinochoe is a vessel for wine, one which would’ve been used in a Greek symposium. These ‘drinking parties’ were dominated by the men of the society, and it is where we often see instances of pederasty. The relationship between the Greek eromenos and erastes was often used for mentorship and even political preferment (Ludwig, Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, 30).  The depiction of Heracles on the oinochoe could therefore reinstate the power of men in the society and the importance of mentorship and filial piety seen in the inclusion of Iolaos in the piece. The defeat of the Nemean Lion is the pinnacle of male strength in the perspective of Ancient Greece, and the use of such a scene with the respect to the Greek symposium emphasizes the importance of patriarchy in the Greek society.


Buxton, R. G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Ludwig, Paul W. Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Sparkes, Brian A. Greek Pottery: An Introduction. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1991.

Trzaskoma, Stephen, R. Scott Smith, Stephen Brunet, and Thomas G. Palaima. Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2004

Posted by Sage Tuchsen 

Epic Mythomemology

I have added a page that uses memes to humorously illustrate classical epic poems. The original idea for this page came from Mira Bhat, who suggested to me that memes would be a fun way of thinking about Greek and Roman myths. These Epic Mythomemologies present a meme for each of the books in an epic poem. They were written by undergraduates who were taking classical mythology at UT.  Currently, there are memes for Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In the Spring, we will address Apollonius’ Argonautica. Enjoy!