Attic Black Figured Amphora ca. 530 B.C. Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Vatican One of the most famous vase paintings of the mid-6th century B.C. is that of Mycenaeans Achilles and Ajax playing a game which might be dice. The vase is in the black figure style, by the Exekias. The ancient Greek word at the most left hand side of the scene means “Exekias made me” (Exekias epoiesen). The figure on the left is Achilles, his name written upside down behind his bent head, and Ajax (Aondos- the possessive form for Aeas- Ajax) is on the right, his name appearing over his bent head near the decorating band encircling the neck of the vase. The two are at Troy, taking a break from battle. There is an incredible story implied in this scene; a humanization of these legendary figures who could not live every moment of their lives heroically larger than life, but also needed to relax in such a homely and simple, even child-like way. The men have their spears and shields ready, and Ajax’s helmet is resting on his shield behind him, ready to be donned swiftly should they come under attack. Holding the spears in one hand, and fingering the dice with the other, we sense the pent-up tension behind the scene as the men seem never to be able to let their guard down completely. The battle will commence, and both will die- Achilles in battle, and Ajax by his own hand. All ancient Greeks, knowing the story of the Iliad, would then look upon this bittersweet scene with the knowledge of what was to come for Achilles and Ajax, and confirmation of their belief that one can not escape one’s fate. The reverse of the vase shows the interesting family of the “twins” Castor and Pollux. Pollux, (Polydeuces) is on the far left behind his mother, Leda. Next is Castor, famed for his horsemanship, while on the right is the father Tyndareous, King of Sparta and a slave carrying a seat for the elderly king. Now Leda was indeed mother to the Dioscouri (the twins), but they had different fathers who had both conceived children the same night. The father of Pollux was Zeus, who had come to Leda in the form of a swan, and the father of Castor was King Tyndareous, Leda’s rightful husband whose honeymoon was shortened by the swan. The twins had a famous sister, Helen, who became famous in the “Iliad”. The scene might show the twins leaving to rescue Helen from Theseus, her first abductor. Castor is walking away from his mother, and Pollux is saying farewell to his dog. Exekias (???????) was an ancient Greek vase-painter and potter, who worked between approximately 550 BC – 525 BC at Athens. Most of his vases, however, were exported to other regions of the Mediterranean, such as Etruria, while some of his other works remained in Athens. Exekias worked mainly with a technique called black-figure. This technique involves figures and ornaments painted in black silhouette (using clay slip)with details added by linear incisions and the occasional use of red and white paint before firing. Exekias is considered the most original and most detail-orientated painter and potter using the black-figure technique. The vase-painter Andokides is considered to be a student of his. An amphora is a type of ceramic vase with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body. The word amphora is Latin, derived from the Greek amphoreus, a compound word combining amphi- (“on both sides”, “twain”) plus phoreus (“carrier”), referring to the vase’s two carrying handles on opposite sides.