The ancient Greeks were enormously innovative in many respects, including art and architecture. They produced elaborate illustrations on everything from the glorious Parthenon to a simple wine cup. Given its epic nature and crucial role in Greek education, many of the characters in the Iliad can be found in ancient art. From the hero Achilles to Hector’s charioteer, these depictions provide great insight into Greek culture and art. Here’s a brief slideshow of images from Barry B Powell’s new free verse translation of The Iliad by Homer which depict many of the prominent characters.
Fig 2.1 – Gray-haired, he had already seen three generations of men. He wears no armor and holds a staff of authority, appropriate to his role as advice-giver. On an Athenian red-figure vase, c. 450 bc.
Helen and Priam
Fig 3.1 – The scene is not from the Iliad but inspired by it. Helen is inside—note the column on the left—and pours out wine into a special dish, from which Priam will pour a drink offering. The buxom Helen wears a gown covered by a fine cloak. She pulls the veil away from her face, perhaps to speak. Priam is an old man with a white beard who holds a staff in his other hand. Above him a shield hangs from the wall with a lion blazon, and a sword. Interior of an Athenian red-figure wine cup, c. 460 bc.
Hector and Andromachê
Fig 6.2 – Hector bids farewell to Andromachê and Astyanax. Andromachê, seated in a fancy chair unlike in Homer, wears earrings, a bracelet in the form of a serpent, and a necklace. The boy, wearing an ankle bracelet in the form of a serpent and a headband, stretches to touch his father’s helmet. A beardless Hector, naked from the waist up, holds in his left hand a spear and shield. From a south Italian red-figure wine-mixing bowl, c. 370–360 bc.
Kastor and Polydeukes
Fig 9.2 – The brothers of Helen (probably) attack the Kalydonian Boar. The fish beneath the ground-line indicates a lake or stream. Spartan black-figure
wine-cup, c. 555 bc.
Patroklos and Achilles
Fig 16.1 – The younger, beardless Achilles wraps a bandage around the arm of his older, bearded friend. Achilles is in full armor, but without shinguards.
Patroklos, who looks away in pain and squats on a shield decorated with a tripod (?), carries a quiver and bow on his back. He wears a felt cap. An arrow lies parallel to his calf. There is no such scene in the Iliad, but the painting was inspired by the intimacy of the two men and modeled on the scene where Patroklos binds the wounds of Eurypylos. Athenian red-figure wine-cup (kylix) by Sosias found in Vulci, Italy, c. 500 bc.
Fig 16.3 – Hector’s charioteer mounts his chariot before being killed by Patroklos. Hector, holding a spear and wearing a robe, and an armed companion stand to the left of the chariot; Glaukos, holding a spear and wearing a similar robe, and an armed companion stand to the right. Kebriones is in the chariot. The figures are labeled. It is a four-horse chariot, which never appears in Homer, unless the outside horses are trace-horses. Athenian black-figure wine-jug, c. 575–550 bc.
Fig 19.2 – Achilles stands armed with a spear, sword, helmet, shinguards, and breastplate. Two sides of an Athenan red-figure water jug by Oltos, c. 510 bc.
Fig 19.2 – Briseïs is dressed in an elegant gown and smells a flower. Two sides of an Athenan red-figure water jug by Oltos, c. 510 bc.
Fig 20.1 – The beardless youthful warrior is labeled ACHILL EUS. Dressed in a diaphanous shirt beneath a breastplate decorated with a Gorgon’s head, he stands looking off pensively to his left. In his left hand he holds a long spear over his shoulder, his right hand propped on his hip. A cloak is draped over his left arm and a sword in a scabbard hangs from a strap that crosses his chest and rests at his side. He has no helmet, shield, or shinguards. On the other side (not visible) a female, probably Briseïs, holds the vessels for a drink-offering. Athenian red-figure water jar by the
Achilles Painter, c. 450 bc.