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Red-figure pelike


Artist: Aison
Date: 420-390 BCE
Dimensions: 10.56 x 8.38 in. (26.83 x 21.27 cm)
Object Type: Ceramic
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Terracotta
Credit Line: Lent by the Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Rebecca Darlington Stoddard.
Accession Number: L2020.05.02
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries


Athletics played a large role in Greek male life during antiquity. The Olympic Games were founded in 776 BCE, and celebrated every four years at the site of Olympia. Even today, the Olympic torch is lit at Olympia before it is carried across continents and countries to reach the host city in time for the Opening Ceremony. Olympia was one of four major athletic centers hosting the Panhellenic games, the others included Isthmia, Nemea, and Delphi. Other cities held their own games such as Athens which celebrated the Panathenaic Games every four years. Poets such as Pindar wrote victorious odes to celebrate athletic accomplishment.

Daily life for boys, youths, and men included exercising at the gymnasium where they competed in various sports but first they covered their bodies in olive oil. Many of these activities took place in shallow pits filled with sand. With the body covered by a mix of olive oil, sweat and sand, the athlete would scrape it off with a strigil, a curved implement which the two young athletes hold in this view on the Attic red-figured pelike by Aison. The older bearded man standing in the center is probably their trainer. Often, trainers were previous victorious athletes.

- Dr. Katherine A. Schwab



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