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Art of the Ancient Mediterranean

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Open Access

Red-figure pelike

Artist: Aison (ca. 390 BCE)
Date: 420-390 BCE
5th century BCE
Dimensions: 10.56 x 8.38 in. (26.83 x 21.27 cm)
Object Type: Vessel
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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third century BCE
Century in the proleptic Gregorian calendar including the years 299 to 200 (or 300 to 201) Before Common Era.
Refers to an ancient Greek style and period that begins around 480 BCE, when the Greek city-states defeated the Persian invaders, and ends around 323 BCE, with the death of Alexander the Great. It is characterized by the rebuilding of cities after the Persian wars, the flourishing of philosophy, drama, architecture, sculpture, painting, and the other arts. In the visual arts, it is known for the mastery of the human form and sophistication of architectural design.
Containers designed to serve as receptacles for a liquid or other substance, usually those of circular section and made of some durable material; especially containers of this nature in domestic use, employed in connection with the preparation or serving of food or drink, and usually of a size suitable for carrying by hand.
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.
second century BCE
Century in the proleptic Gregorian calendar including the years 199 to 100 (or 200 to 101) Before Common Era.
Games that involve a significant degree of individual skill and physical prowess.

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