Invoking Achilles: Black-figure Iconography and Hero Cult

By Stan Burgess | 2023.05.17
1§1. An over-scaled winged warrior, far larger than life-size, carrying two spears and a Boeotian shield, darts from left to right above a ship under oars towards its bow. The warrior dwarfs the ship. He appears to have flown from a curvilinear black and white object rising abruptly from the sea, a mostly white island. The ship is either departing from or passing by the island. An ominous over-scaled sea-bird perches there, watching the warrior apparently about to engage the ship. In what way? Friend or foe? Below the ship a school of fish swim, as if waiting in anticipation. The scene is filled with suspense. A major engagement seems imminent. Will the winged warrior battle the sailors, or is he there to rescue or support them against an unseen threat? The right side of the image does not reveal an objective. Yet in his urgency the warrior seems focused on what is ahead. His objective would appear to be outside the composition. This unusual scene is found on the obverse of an Attic black-figure vase-painting on a neck amphora in the British Museum (B 240; 1848,0619.2). [1]
© The Trustees of the British Museum
1§2. On the reverse there is a more familiar scene: two warriors are engaged in single combat over the body of a fallen comrade. The hero on the viewer’s left bears a striking similarity (minus the wings) to the over-scaled winged warrior on the obverse: The helmet and its plume are similar, so too the shield and greaves, and his hair and beard. His right foot is firmly planted on the ground and his left foot is raised. The hero is lunging forward toward his enemy. The figure on the right, typically the position of the soon to be defeated opponent, seems to be leaning slightly backward, though the surviving image is too damaged to be sure. Damaged too is the image of the fallen hero between them. But he does not yet appear to be dead because he is sitting semi-prone, leaning backwards and still clutching his spear. His head is turned to the right towards his assailant. There are no inscriptions identifying the figures.
© The Trustees of the British Museum
1§3. It is the over-scaled winged warrior on the obverse that sets this vase-painting apart. This figure within the iconography has been commonly identified as an eidōlon. [2] The figure on B 240 would have been familiar to any archaic Greek viewer, if it were not for the scale. In the black-figure iconography of the period the figure was consistently diminutive, rarely larger than 1/3 life size. Yet here it is the size of a warship. This apparently singular departure from within the tradition in fact assists the viewer in interpreting the vase-painting. To be sure, there are several other divergences from the iconographic tradition in the composition which are contributing factors to its comprehension. All will be dealt with in due course.
1§4. Attempts to interpret the vase-painting began shortly after the British Museum acquired the neck amphora in 1848. The consensus of scholars (with one notable exception) is that the over-scaled warrior represents the eidōlon of Achilles (see 9§ Appendix). Where scholars differ, to the limited extent they engage with the rest of the scene, is over what action the figure might be engaged in, and where. Most locate the scene at Sigeion at the headland of the Troad. These readings tacitly assume that. the vase painter was illustrating a scene from a text, either epic or tragedy, or, more generally, a myth related through one of these verbal media. This assumption undoubtedly colors their interpretations. According to those readings which interpret the figure as the eidōlon of Achilles, the winged warrior is engaged in one of three possible actions. The first claims that Achilles is attempting to arrest the Achaean fleet’s departure from Ilium to demand the sacrifice of Polyxena, as exemplified (albeit later than this vase) by Euripides’s Hecuba. That the Hecuba is later than the B 240 does not invalidate the idea. The Polyxena stories are multiform, and there is no reason to suppose that the version in the tragedy was invented from whole cloth (2§16, 9§2-4). The second possible action, following the lost epic Nostoi, claims that Achilles is attempting to warn Agamemnon and forestall the fleet’s final departure from Troy until the Achaeans have propitiated the gods, so that they will avoid the fate awaiting their return. The third suggests that the figure is the eidōlon of Achilles departing Sigeion for his particular afterlife on the island of Leuke. This interpretation relies on the Aethiopis (9§5). One scholar dissents from this group which identifies the winged warrior with Achilles. Susan Woodford argues that the eidōlon is that of Palamēdēs, who is racing to get ahead of the Achaean fleet returning to the Greek mainland so that he might alert his father Nauplios to avenge his death by wrecking the ships on the rocks of Cape Caphereus (9§14) with false beacons.

1§5. While I agree that the over-scaled winged warrior represents the afterlife hero Achilles, my account will reject the notion that the composition illustrates a scene based on a text or myth directly. The entire song culture backgrounds the artist’s effort. Integral to the background is the interaction of mythology and hero cult. Very often the scholarship avoids the importance of hero cult in the interpretation of vase paintings. Gregory Nagy unequivocally contests such an approach:

On the other hand, it can be said that both the visual and the verbal media of heroic narrative were dependent on the basic principle of making contact with the traditional world of heroes—who were honored by way of ritual as well as myth. As I have argued extensively elsewhere, the rules of heroic narrative in the archaic period of Greek civilization were governed by the myths and rituals linked with the cult of heroes. What applies to the medium of poetry applies equally to the medium of painting. [3]

What seems to be specific references are not indicative of direct quotation by the vase painter. Iconographic, metaphoric, and metonymic references are sourced from the ambient culture at large. [4] Drawing on the ambient culture, the vase painter enacts, by using the iconography, an evocation of the cult hero. Given the dating of the vase to around 500 BCE, the painting visually invokes the hero Achilles to assist Athens in supporting its allies rising up against Persia at the time of the Ionian Revolt. This is the contemporary relevance and urgency of the vase painting. Viewed synoptically every component on both the obverse and reverse together reinforces this interpretation.

1§6. Invoking the gods or heroes for support was commonplace in the face of an imminent threat. Herodotus attests to several invocations of and interventions by both epichoric and Panhellenic heroes, especially those from the Trojan War. No example is more dramatic than before the battle of Salamis:

ἔδοξε δέ σφι εὔξασθαι τοῖσι θεοῖσι καὶ ἐπικαλέσασθαι τοὺς Αἰακίδας συμμάχους. ὡς δέ σφι ἔδοξε, καὶ ἐποίευν ταῦτα· εὐξάμενοι γὰρ πᾶσι τοῖσι θεοῖσι, αὐτόθεν μὲν ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος Αἴαντά τε καὶ Τελαμῶνα ἐπεκαλέοντο, ἐπὶ δὲ Αἰακὸν καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους Αἰακίδας νέα ἀπέστελλον ἐς Αἴγιναν. (Herodotus Histories 8.64.2)
And it seemed best to them to pray to the gods and to invoke the Aiakidai as allies. As this seemed best to them, they did these things. For having prayed to all the gods they then invoked Ajax and Telamon from Salamis, and they sent ships to Aegina for Ajax and the other Aiakidai. [5]

Before the sea battle in 480 BCE the Athenians sent to Aegina to bring the Aiakidai to Salamis (likely in the form of their agalmata) and to enlist them in their fight against the Persian fleet. The invocation occurs as a matter of course in the campaign. Herodotus’s account of the ensuing battle attests to the intervention of Ajax on behalf of the Greek fleet. [6] Upon their victory Themistocles, the presiding Athenian commander, dedicated one of the captured Persian ships to Ajax (Histories 8.121). His account vividly attests to the perceived agency and power of hero cult during this time frame. It also attests to the reciprocal relation between the parties.

1§7. On my reading, this vase-painting on B 240 should be interpreted as an invocation of Achilles to aid the Greeks in the broader context of the Persian threat in the late 6th century/early 5th century. Achilles himself might even have satisfied the Athenian invocation from Themistocles of the Aiakidai at the battle of Salamis. Aiakos was the grandfather of both Ajax and Achilles. In the Iliad Achilles is identified twenty four times with the epithet “grandson of Aiakos.” And Pindar frequently includes Achilles as a son of Aiakidai. In Pythian 8.98-100 (after 446 BCE) he specifically invokes Achilles in the roll call of the Aiakidai (this time for the aid of the Aeginetans):

Αἴγινα φίλα μᾶτερ, ἐλευθέρῳ στόλῳ
πόλιν τάνδε κόμιζε Δὶ καὶ κρέοντι σὺν Αἰακῷ
Πηλεῖ τε κἀγαθῷ Τελαμῶνι σύν τ᾿ Ἀχιλλεῖ.
Dear mother Aegina, on its freedom naval campaign / take care of this city, with Zeus and King Aiakos / and Peleus and noble Telamon, and with Achilles.

The relationship at the time between Aegina and Athens was fraught. In fact, their rivalry often involved claims on the Aiakidai. Both could and did invoke one or another of the sons of Aiakos. Another time Pindar calls Achilles οὖρος Αἰακιδᾶν, the guardian (or favorable wind!) of the Aiakidai (Isthmian 8.55). But the larger point is not just that one or another polis claimed a degree of their primogeniture for the sake of legitimacy and self-fashioning, but that they both almost reflexively invoked the Aiakidai to intervene against contemporary threats.

In what follows I will show how a comprehensive reading of the iconography of the vase-paintings on B 240 supports this interpretation. This exploration will begin with a survey of the eidōlon motif in black-figure iconography. Then I will examine how the artist defamiliarizes its normal representation to draw out its specific identity and power. This will be followed by a similar survey of the iconography of islands. By virtue of the unusual rendering of the island object depicted on B 240, I will propose a specific identity for this one. Together, eidōlon and island, will establish the identification of the hero. [7]

2§. Iconography of the Eidōlon

2§1. Center stage on B 240 is the much larger than life winged warrior, dwarfing the ship above which he is flying. In every way this figure is modeled on the eidōlon prevalent in late 6th century Black-figure iconography, except one. He is over-scaled. Where a scenographic context is given, this is the only extant example in which the figure is not diminutive. [8] What accounts for this exception? This figure within the iconography is commonly identified in scholarship as an eidōlon, and most often occurs on scenes adjacent to a sēma or tumulus, or those of a warrior’s death. As noted above, Nagy in his study of the apobatic ritual contests depicted on vase paintings calls the diminutive figure a “homunculus.” This is helpful because it recognizes the distinction from how the term eidōlon is used in Homer, where it is apparently life-size. Gérard Siebert argues that the diminutive winged eidōlon figure was employed by artists in part to distinguish it from the larger winged divinities, if also present in the image. [9] But this is a limited subset, and even in scenes without winged gods, the figure is diminutive. He also suggests their size may have been a graphic answer to the problem of distinguishing the figure of the deceased from the heroes and gods in the image. To this I would add that the small size was useful to visually identify a psychē moving between the world of the living and the world of the dead, as when it departs a just-slain corpse, or receives honors at his funeral games. In these contexts it also marks the hero as an object of cult. Later, on white ground lekythoi of the mid 5th century, the eidōlon loses most of its detail to become a virtual stick figure, and is perhaps a twentieth of life size. Even so, the eidōlon retains its “go-between” and cult function, but at a familial level. [10]
2§2. The scholarly use of the term eidōlon for the diminutive figure is somewhat unfortunate and misleading. [11] The figure itself is in important ways markedly different from how the term eidōlon is used in the Iliad and Odyssey and later texts. Again its size is the most obvious difference. In each instance in Homer it is noteworthy that the eidōlon that manifests itself appears life-size. In epic, the term eidōlon has three distinct usages, as Jean-Pierre Vernant observes: as “a dream image (onar), an apparition sent by a god (phasma), and a phantom of the deceased (psychē ).” [12] These share the quality that they are both present and absent, visible but not physically there. Vernant identifies the eidōlon as a kind of “double.” In the Iliad, Homer uses eidōlon as the term for the double which Apollo fashions for the injured Aeneas as his simulacrum on the field of battle (5.449 & 451). In the Odyssey, Athena creates an eidōlon in the form of Iphthimē, Penelope’s sister, to appear in a dream to Penelope to counsel her to cease her lamentations (4.796, 824, & 835). Later when Theoklymenos forecasts the suitors’ fate, he warns them that though still alive, they are (already) eidōla hastening down to Erebos (20.355). His prophecy is soon fulfilled. In Homer they are all apparently life-size. When the psychē of Patroclus appears to Achilles, “in every way, in stature and his beautiful eyes and in voice he is like himself, πάντʼ αὐτῷ μέγεθός τε καὶ ὄμματα κάλʼ ἐϊκυῖα / καὶ φωνήν (Iliad 23.66-7; 102).
2§3. Like an eidōlon in Homeric usage, a cult hero occupies an interstitial space. From the vantage point of the living, both can move between realms, and importantly, retain agency in both worlds. In black-figure iconography the eidōlon is exclusively comparable to Vernant’s third usage in epic, that is, as a psychē of a recently deceased hero, a phantom of the deceased. On one black-figure hydria in Münster (Wilhelms-Universitat, Archaologisches Museum, 565) the diminutive figure is generically labelled as “psychē” ( On two other vases the figure is identified as “Patroklos:” on an amphora at the British Museum, 1899,7-21.3 (; and on a hydria at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 63.473 ( [13] Of the nearly thirty black-figure scenes in which an eidōlon is present, there are no other inscriptions labelling the figure.
2§4. On late archaic black-figure vases the eidōlon figure is consistently found in one of two types of scenes. One type represents activities associated with the hero’s burial and tomb. In this type a sēma or tumulus is always present. In this group are those Nagy has identified with the apobatic races conducted in the Panathenaic Games (2§9). [14] Present in these also is Achilles dragging the body of Hector. In addition, in this typology are two examples of Neoptolemos bringing Polyxena to Achilles’s sēma to be sacrificed. The other typology represents the moment of death of the hero or the immediate aftermath. Often in these cases the hero’s body is being carried from the field by either the divinities, Hypnos and Thanatos, (in the case of Sarpedon), or by Eōs (Memnon), or by a comrade (Achilles, Memnon). The popularity of the theme of Ajax carrying the body of Achilles had a long run, yet only a few of these scenes include an eidōlon of Achilles. Those that do so are dated to the last quarter of the 6th century BCE. In this second group the recently deceased hero has not yet been given final rites. In both types the eidōlon anticipates the hero’s cult status. In the former, by its adjacency to the sēma, it makes more direct reference to its localized efficacy.
2§5. The Black-figure tradition has a very circumscribed number of hero eidōla: Patroclus is foremost in surviving examples. Then there is Achilles, Hector, Sarpedon, and Memnon. (No other heroes, even those with their own extensive cult status, such as Heracles and Theseus, were depicted as eidōlon.) All are diminutive on vase paintings, with one exception, B 240. Most are armed, but in various degrees. Most but not all are winged. All are aloft and do not come in contact with the ground plane. The pose is noteworthy. Klaus Stähler calls it “Knielaufschema,” [15] or knee-run pose, which he identifies as a symbol of rapid movement or flying. The extension of the legs and bent knees highlight movement. The figure is clearly not passive. The Knielaufschema denotes action and agency. In the scenes with a sēma the figure is almost always backgrounded, active but distant from the foreground action. In the apobatic race scenes, the foreground action is conducted on his behalf. When noticed by other actors in the scene, the composition becomes especially powerful. In the death scene typology, the figure is near the corpse and appears to be departing, often near the body’s face. In these he is sometimes front and center. In both typologies his movement aloft and the context evoke his transitional status between two worlds beyond the moment of the scene.

2§6. That the figure is usually winged on vase paintings is another characteristic distinct from an eidōlon in epic. When the deceased Patroclus appears to Achilles there is no mention of his psychē being winged. From where might the winged figure in vase-paintings have developed? I would suggest that the winged figure that appears in death scenes on vase-paintings is an artist’s visual interpretation of the metaphor which occurs in epic for the psychē departing the body. Recall Homer’s metaphor at Hector’s death (Iliad 22.362):

Ὣς ἄρα μιν εἰπόντα τέλος θανάτοιο κάλυψε,
ψυχὴ δ᾿ ἐκ  ῥεθέων πταμένη Ἄιδόσδε βεβήκει,
ὃν πότμον γοόωσα, λιποῦσ᾿ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.

So having spoken, the finality of death covered him
and his psychē having flown from his limbs went to Hades
bewailing his fate, leaving behind his manliness and youth.

At his death Hector’s psychē flies from his limbs to Hades. πταμένη is the aorist middle participle of πέτομαι, to fly, and is etymologically related to πτερόν, feather or wings. In vase paintings, Emily Vermeule identifies this departing psychē as a “soul-bird”. [16] Birds in the vicinity of a death or funereal scene have a long pedigree in Greek vase-painting. They appear on late Geometric funeral vases (circa 750 BCE) in friezes and adjacent to pyres ( On a Protoattic “Nessos” amphora at the Metropolitan Museum (11.210.1) from around 660 BCE Heracles is depicted slaying the centaur. Above the struggling Nessos a bird appears to be departing ( The iconography is nearly as old as the earliest figurative scenes on Greek vases, and I would suggest that the birds in some of these circumstances anticipate the eidōlon on late archaic vases. The metaphor was likely traditional in both verbal and visual culture. In some single combat scenes over a fallen hero, a bird in lieu of an eidōlon of the fallen warrior flies between the combatants (§25). There is a later red-figure column krater in the British Museum, 1772,0320.36, (, that makes this equivalence explicit. The scene is the death of Prokris, from whose dying body a bird departs. While stylistically different from the late black-figure eidōlon, the artist depicts the head of the bird with a human face individualized in such a way that it matches the deceased.

2§7. Common to the scenes in the first typology (and absent from the second) is a sēma or tumulus. These have a tightly delineated beehive or catenary form. Often a chthonic snake is near the base of the sēma too. Together with a sēma a snake is also indicative of hero cult. In the vast majority of scenes in this typology, the eidōlon represents Patroclus. As noted above, on three examples the eidōlon is labelled (2§3). While important to the scene, the sēma and eidōlon however are not visually foregrounded. They are commonly either in the background or placed off to one side of the frame. There they provide just enough context for the viewer to associate the action in the foreground with the dragging of Hector’s corpse. The foreground is dominated by a four horse chariot with charioteer dragging a body on the ground behind, and a hero stepping on or off the chariot or running beside it. In many but not all examples a goddess, usually winged, interposes. In the majority of the scenes in which a goddess interposes, the front legs of the horse are not galloping, but are planted on the ground. The goddess has arrested the race. In others the horses and apobatic racer are still running.
2§8. Though often taken to be in some way illustrative of the funeral games in the Iliad, these vase paintings do not correspond to or illustrate the narrative in the epic: Not once does the Iliad project a psychē hovering above its tomb. Nor are there four-horse teams [17] (with one exception at Iliad 11.699). And though the dragging of Hector’s corpse is narrated in books 22, 23, and 24, not once is the chariot being driven by a charioteer. It is always Achilles. In books 22 and 23, when the dragging of Hector’s corpse occurs, the sēma for Patroclus has not yet been constructed. Only in book 24 is Patroclus’s sēma, now built (and ready for Achilles to share), circled by Achilles dragging Hector’s body (24.15-6). In book 24, when the gods finally determine it is time to stop Achilles’s attempted desecration of Hector’s body, it is Thetis who is sent to inform Achilles, not Iris. Iris though is sent to bring Thetis to Zeus so he might bid her to go to Achilles (24.77f). And Thetis visits Achilles in his hut, not while he is out dragging Hector’s body. Yet it is Iris who is depicted on these vase paintings. In the Iliad (24.159f) she in turn is sent to Priam to arrange a ransom. The most significant departure from the Homeric epic is that Achilles is either running beside the chariot or just stepping off of it. As a prelude to several battle scenes, a hero is said to have leapt from his moving chariot to engage his opponent (Iliad 11.211…), but these all happen elsewhere in other contexts and do not occur in the chariot race in the funeral games, nor when Achilles is dragging Hector’s corpse. While these vase painting scenes seem to be loosely associated with the events in the Iliad, the many discrepancies make it clear that the visual artists were not illustrating the epic directly. Rather, more contemporary concerns are being referenced through interaction with the broader traditions of visual and verbal media. [18]
2§9. The vase paintings in this typology have been extensively studied, first by Klaus Stähler and then Gregory Nagy. [19] Stähler and Nagy interpret these scenes as depicting an apobatic contest, to which they associate the hero cult of Achilles and Patroclus. Apobatic chariot races were held in the late 6th century BCE and beyond every four years exclusively at the Great Panathenaia in Athens. Nagy stresses that this type of chariot race was exclusive to Athens and was restricted to Athenians. [20] Its institution coincided with the Panathenaic Regulation under the tyrant Hipparchus in 522 BCE. A charioteer steered the chariot around the course and a contestant dressed in full armor rode beside him. At a certain point in the event, the contestant leapt from the chariot, hit the ground running, and then tried to out-sprint his opponents. The apobatic race, according to “pseudo-” Demosthenes 61.24, was valued because it was thought to be the most proximate athletic contest to epic combat. The contest provided a ritual continuum to an epic heroic past. In the apobatic subset of this typology of vase paintings the sēma around which the eidōlon darts serves as the turning point of the race, and as such, is parallel to the sēma of Patroclus that Achilles drags Hector’s corpse around three times at Iliad 24.14f. Achilles is the contestant who is either stepping off the chariot or running alongside it. In many of the examples he has the same knee-run pose as the eidōlon of Patroclus hovering near the sēma. Nagy suggests that the eidōlon’s running pose replicates that of the apobatic runner. [21] But the Knielaufschema pose and eidōlon both predate the historical apobatic contest, and have a more diffuse distribution of contexts. I would suggest that the apobatic runner, Achilles, in the knee-run pose depicted by vase painters instead replicates the eidolon’s pose. In about half the examples in which the apobatic runner is moving, both feet are aloft from the ground (in the other half, exclusive of those where he has stopped, the runner pushes off his rear foot planted on the ground, but his front foot strides aloft). His stride does not so much hit the ground running as leave the ground running. The runner’s pose, then, anticipates his own immortalization which he will share with the eidōlon of his companion Patroclus, just as he will share the sēma.
2§10. The vase-painters of the apobatic scenes have constructed a composite image, combining elements of funeral games, the dragging of Hector’s corpse around the sēma of Patroclus, and the action of the contemporary contest itself. Yet the composite image cannot be said to represent any one of these. According to Stähler, the image represents the beginning of the hero cult of Patroclus. [22] The eidōlon of Patroclus perceives Achilles competing in an apobatic event for Patroclus’s honor, and in actively facing the competition he accepts that honor. [23] For Nagy, the image virtually enacts (not represents) the apobatic contest as a ritual of the joint hero cult of Achilles and Patroclus exclusive to Athens. Nagy states “that these two heroes presided as cult heroes over the athletic event of the apobatai at the festival of the Panathenaia.” [24]
2§11. From a religious perspective what complicates the scene is the body of Hector being dragged behind the chariot. Neither in the two-horse chariot race described in the funeral games of Patroclus, nor in the four-horse chariot races in the games at Olympia, nor in the apobatic contests at the Panathenaia would there have been a corpse being dragged, or even simulacrum thereof. Had these vases been intended to be given as prizes for the apobatic contests, the depiction of Hector’s corpse would not have been appropriate. But the artists pair the thrill of the apobatic contest itself—the danger of stepping on and off a moving chariot—with the dragging of Hector’s corpse. Nagy posits that this is because it was the ritual function of the apobatic race in Athens “to purify the pollution caused by Achilles.” [25] But in order to depict the purification, the vase-painter has to make visual the transgression. In the course of the race as enacted in the vase painters’ depictions, [26] Achilles exhausts his anger for Hector’s slaying of Patroclus, and once the goddess intervenes, Achilles is then shown attending to the corpse. In the end, according to Nagy, Achilles will “obey the moral imperative of showing pity.” [27] Without the element of ritual purification the inclusion of Hector’s corpse would confuse and perhaps even negate the meaning. The vases depicted this transgression which required a ritual purification, and proleptically anticipates the positive resolution (just as later in the Iliad, Achilles develops pity for Priam when he comes to ransom Hector’s body (24.507f)). In this way too the apobatic vases are participating in the larger Athenian effort for the rehabilitation (and appropriation) of Achilles as a cult hero underway in the late 6th century.
2§12. Most of the apobatic vase paintings in this typology depict the scene quite simply. They include the charioteer with the four-horse chariot, a contestant, a sēma that marks the turning point of the race. All but a small few have an eidōlon nearby, and most, the body of Hector. An Attic black-figure lekythos attributed to the Diosphos Painter in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 25.70.2, dated around 500 BCE exemplifies the minimal version ( The four-horse team in full stride approaches the sēma, the charioteer focuses on the turn ahead, behind the chariot is the body of Hector, and Achilles is running along side the rear legs of the horses looking back in the direction of the charioteer (perhaps to mark his turning maneuver). The winged eidōlon, partially armed, darts from the far side of the sēma as if leading the way while looking back over his shoulder. Although an absent presence on the edge of the scene, the eidōlon in this case participates in the action and indicates where the contestants should make their turn.
2§13. Even in the more generic versions, differences occur. Of the sixteen vase painting identified as apobatic contests, seven include the goddess Iris arresting the progress of the dragging of the body, as seen on the Boston hydria above (2§3). In most of those in which the goddess intervened, the horses have stopped and their front legs are firmly on the ground. In only two scenes in which the goddess is present are the horses continuing the race. In both of these the goddess’s feet have not yet touched down. She is only at that moment arriving. In some paintings Achilles seems to be continuing in full stride, though in three he is bent over the body of Hector. On the shoulder of a hydria, J407 (or 1719), at the Antikensammlung in Munich ( there is a fine example. This too is by a member of the Leagros group. At the far left of the scene, the goddess, holding her kērykeion, has stopped the horse team. It has by now made its turn at the sēma, which is on the far right side. Above the sēma itself is the eidōlon of Patroclus. He appears to be focused on Achilles, who has sprung from the chariot, but instead of continuing the race, he has turned back to tend to the corpse of Hector. Nagy suggests that the hero is in the process of taking heed of the goddess’s admonition to have pity for Hector. Having pity for Hector clearly represents a stage in the act of purification of Achilles that Nagy argues is the ritual function of the apobatic event itself (2§11). In the scenes in which Achilles is moving to attend to the corpse of Hector, his relationship of the eidōlon of Patroclus is more direct. Either the figure is directly above Achilles, or they are facing one another at eye level, indicating the duality of the two heroes in and through the apobatic ritual.
2§14. There is one example which enhances the pathos of the scene beyond the conventional versions of the apobatic scene. This most sophisticated painting is on a black-figure hydria in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts, 63.473 attributed to the Leagros Group. ( Backgrounded at the far right is the sēma of Patroclus (so inscribed) and his eidolon. On the left side there is a temple-like portico in which Priam and Hecuba are beseeching Achilles, who at this intense moment makes eye contact. In the Iliad, however, they watch distantly from the walls of Ilium when Achilles drags Hector’s body (22.405f). The vase painter compresses both space and time. Whether he is leaping back onto the chariot or off, in looking back and facing Hector’s parents it is clear that his focus has dramatically turned upon the arrival of Iris, whose feet have not yet touched the ground. She is both in the center of the frame and foregrounded. She has already redirected Achilles’s efforts away from the desecration of Hector’s corpse. Achilles’s process of purification begins when he looks at the grieving faces of Hecuba and Priam. In this singular apobatic scene Patroclus’s eidōlon has an additional role. In the composition he thematically and visually balances the grief of Hecuba and Priam for Hector with the grief that Achilles experiences for Patroclus. It is the recognition of their mutual grief motivates Achilles’s empathy.
2§15. In the apobatic scenes, the eidōlon of Patroclus, though graphically deemphasized, nevertheless participates in the action. His primary function is that of an object of hero cult. He is acknowledging and accepting the honor Achilles is offering. His agency at the same time is reciprocal: his eidōlon helps to guide the competitors around the sēma that functions as the turning post for the race. Most importantly, he is anticipating Achilles’s purification for the abuse of Hector’s corpse so that when the time soon comes, they may be joined together in their sēma, and in their afterlife in cult.
2§16. There is one other scene in the first typology (eidōlon present at its sēma). Rather than relating directly to the cult ritual of the apobatic contest, this subgroup imagines the sacrifice of Polyxena at Achilles’s sēma. Only two black-figure examples survive, though the theme of her sacrifice was popular in the late archaic period. In both versions Neoptolemos approaches the sēma leading Polyxena. One version is depicted on an Athenian black-figure hydria from the late 6th century in Berlin Antikensammlung, F1902, attributed to the Leagros group ( As with the apobatic group, there is a sēma on the right side edge of the frame, together with a snake. Above the sēma is an armed and winged eidōlon. Here the apobatic scene resemblance ceases. [28] There is no athletic contest, body of Hector, or intervention by the goddess. The eidōlon is that of Achilles, not Patroclus, and the central action depicts his son, Neoptolemos, bringing Polyxena to the sēma after the sack of Troy. Polyxena’s head is turned slightly down though not turned away, and she looks directly at the tomb. Her right hand, held at the wrist by Neoptolemos, is open toward the tomb. The eidōlon of Achilles moves toward his son and Polyxena as if welcoming her sacrifice. Neoptolemos is accompanied by three warriors and a chariot team. Two of the warriors are looking away outside the frame of the image, as if they are anticipating a successful outcome and their voyage home.
2§17. There is a curious pared down version of this scene on a black-figure lekythos in the Callimanopulos Collection (NY), dated around 500 BCE, and attributed to the Acheloos Painter, [29] who is associated with the Leagros Group. On the right side of the image the eidōlon of Achilles darts directly above his sēma away from his approaching son. From the left Neoptolemos approaches the sēma with Polyxena in tow pulling her by her left wrist with his right hand. His left hand is open and raised in the direction of the eidōlon in a sign of supplication. On this vase he is not accompanied by other warriors. Polyxena’s countenance is quite different too. She turns her face away from the tomb, perhaps indicating that she is an unwilling sacrifice. Neoptolemos appears to be dragging her as she resists—her upper body is turned away and her right hand rests on her head in a gesture of mourning. Nothing in her countenance suggests willingness. Unlike on the above hydria, the eidōlon on the lekythos is moving away from the approaching party, as if Achilles too is rejecting her sacrifice. His head does not even turn to acknowledge them.
2§18. These two vase paintings reflect the multiformity of the myth. [30] Alive in the oral tradition, traces of the myth survive in the epic cycle in the partial summaries of Proklos’s Chrestomathia. In the Sack of Ilium (Iliou Persis 4c) it is simply stated that Polyxena is sacrificed at Achilles’s tomb. But in the Return (Nostoi 3a) another detail is provided. Here we learn that Achilles’s eidōlon appears in order to prevent the fleet from departing (by forewarning them what lies ahead?). But in Proklos’s sparse summary there is no direct motivation for which Achilles requires the sacrifice of Polyxena per se. Some gaps however are filled in by the Attic tragedies.

2§19. The most complete surviving version of the myth is to be found in Euripides Hecuba (424 BCE). At the play’s opening the eidōlon of Polydorus, son of Priam and Hecuba, whom they believed to be sheltered by King Polymēstor, appears before the audience and explains that the Achaean fleet sits idle on the Thracian coast unable to depart for home. Achilles, he reports, appeared to them above his tomb to demand the sacrifice of Polyxena (Polydorus’s sister) as his “unique prize” γέρας (35-41). This point is then repeated in the course of the play by the Chorus Leader to Hecuba, Polyxena’s mother (106-117), and by Odysseus (389-90). While her mother protests, laments and grieves, Polyxena expresses that she is a willing victim, as death is better than slavery (342-378). Finally, once the sacrifice has been carried out, the herald Talthybius reports the event to Hecuba, quoting Neoptolemus’s address to Achilles while conducting the sacrifice (534-541):

ὁ δ᾿ εἶπεν· Ὦ παῖ Πηλέως, πατὴρ δ᾿ ἐμός,
δέξαι χοάς μοι τάσδε κηλητηρίους,
νεκρῶν ἀγωγούς· ἐλθὲ δ᾿, ὡς πίῃς μέλαν
κόρης ἀκραιφνὲς αἷμ᾿ ὅ σοι δωρούμεθα
στρατός τε κἀγώ· πρευμενὴς δ᾿ ἡμῖν γενοῦ
λῦσαί τε πρύμνας καὶ χαλινωτήρια
νεῶν δὸς ἡμῖν †πρευμενοῦς† τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ Ἰλίου
νόστου τυχόντας πάντας ἐς πάτραν μολεῖν.

Then he said, ‘Son of Peleus, my father,
accept these appeasing drink offerings from me,
elicitations of the dead; come, so you may drink the dark
unmixed blood of the maiden, which we, the army
and I, give to you; be propitious to us
and free the sterns and mooring cables of our
ships, and grant to us a favorable return
from Ilium that all happen to reach their paternal land.

While the ghost of Polydorus and the Chorus Leader, and later, Odysseus (303-320), insist that the epiphany of Achilles is to demand his γέρας (for services rendered), Neoptolemus’s address directly to Achilles makes plain the ongoing reciprocity of hero cult. He expects that Achilles will repay the Achaeans for her sacrifice with clear sailing. The first example, the Berlin hydria, F1902, is not inconsistent with Euripides’s version of the myth. Achilles’s ghost has demanded Polyxena’s sacrifice, and when his son Neoptolemos delivers her, he expects reciprocity from his cult hero father. As in Euripides’s play, she approaches the sacrifice willingly. The inclusion of the three accompanying warriors indicate the larger interest of the expedition and the anticipated reciprocity of their homecoming requested from Achilles for the sacrifice. (Eduard Gerhard in 1852 and Carl Robert two decades later, who were among the first to interpret B 240, suggested that the scene depicted Achilles’s eidōlon coming to stop the fleet departing Ilium until they had sacrificed Polyxena to him (see appendix 9§2-4)).

2§20. If on the Berlin hydria, F1902, Achilles’s eidōlon is accepting Polyxena’s sacrifice, and Polyxena herself is willing as in Hecuba, what could be the explanation for the opposite scene on the Callimanopulos lekythos? Why would Achilles turn away apparently rejecting her sacrifice? A possible explanation may be found in their purported love interest. In multiforms of Polyxena’s mythography there occurs a complex love interest between her and Achilles. [31] Any love interest between Polyxena and Achilles is not apparent in the oldest surviving evidence. Early textual evidence is scant. But it may tangentially survive in the visual culture, in the iconography pertaining to Achilles’s slaying of Troilus, and on the Callimanopulos lekythos above. Whether a love interest would have prevented the hero from accepting her sacrifice is unknown. I suspect, though, that the vase painter may have depicted Achilles rejecting the sacrifice for an additional reason. As the need for his purification is reflected on the apobatic vases, the Callimanopulos lekythos may reflect a kind of image building on Achilles’s behalf, either by drawing on a different tradition or sanitizing the hero. All that one can confidently note is that in hero cult, the hero may reject an offering, and accordingly not fulfill a prayer. If the request was in any way improper, it is to the hero’s credit to reject it.
2§21. To summarize, in the first typology, which always includes a sēma, only the eidōla of Patroclus and Achilles are depicted. The majority of surviving examples are of Patroclus in the context of the apobatic contest to which both Patroclus and Achilles had a cult association in Athens. The two other eidōlon examples are of Achilles either accepting or rejecting the sacrifice of Polyxena. These scenes also were associated with Achilles’s hero cult. Any sacrifice presupposes a reciprocal relationship. That Polyxena’s sacrifice is received differently suggests the multiformity of the myth, but in the scene in which the sacrifice is rejected, the sensitivities of a contemporary audience and the Athenian appropriation of Achilles may have been linked.
2§22. The second typology is quite distinct from the first. It features a hero and his eidōlon at the moment of death or immediately thereafter. This typology belongs to a much larger category in which a dead hero is being carried from the field. There is never a sēma present. In addition to Achilles there are two other heroes represented as eidōla: Sarpedon and Memnon. A black-figure neck amphora at the Metropolitan Museum (56.171.25), ( provides a useful framework for a discussion of the this type scene, and, more broadly, the winged figure in general. The Metropolitan Museum dates this vase-painting to around the same date as B 240. Beazley attributed the painting to the Diosphos painter, associated with the Leagros group. On the obverse, the body of Sarpedon is being carried away by Hypnos and Thanatos. In this instance they are not winged as they typically are in the iconography, but the eidōlon is. Sarpedon’s eidōlon is winged, armed with spear, helmet, and shield, and is approximately one-third the size of his corpse. It moves upward away from the body in a knee-run pose as Hypnos and Thanatos lift the body. Typically the eidōlon is depicted horizontally, running parallel to the ground plane. Here he is running perpendicular to the ground plane. At Iliad 16.505 when Patroclus withdraws his spear from Sarpedon’s abdomen, the poet notes that he also drew his psychē out with it. Curiously, here the eidōlon itself appears to be withdrawing a spear from Sarpedon’s bleeding wound, maintaining the temporal connection between the wound, the spear, and the departing psychē. This subtle difference from the iconography calls attention to the psychē actually rising in the air (flying, 2§6) as it departs the body. The eidōlon now occupies a space between realms.
2§23. A similar vase-painting on a neck amphora in the Louvre, F388, shows the eidōlon, also perpendicular to the body in a knee-run pose. Here the eidōlon is facing the body as if approaching it from above ( The eidōlon would appear to be returning to the body. This vase is also attributed to the Diosphos Painter. [32] Much earlier in the Iliad (5.655f), when Sarpedon is struck in the thigh by Tlēpolemus’s spear, his psychē also leaves him (5.696-697). The image of the eidōlon returning towards the body perhaps appears to interact with this scene in Iliad Book 5. There Sarpedon recovers when Boreas, the north wind, revives him. He survives to live and die another day at the hands of Patroclus. On the Louvre amphora Hypnos and Thanatos are winged. But Hypnos and Thanatos do not attend Sarpedon in Book 5, only in Book 16. But the vase-painter does not directly privilege a text. He is clearly not illustrating a scene from the Iliad, but he does interact with the tradition of Sarpedon’s death and his hero cult by compounding elements to emphasize his immortalization. Likewise in the vase-painting above. Both of these vase paintings have elements consistent and inconsistent with scenes from the Iliad. The eidōlon is indicative of Sarpedon’s hero cult. Nagy notes that the passage in Book 5 is the only example in the Homeric corpus where a hero recovers once his psychē departs, and accordingly it ever so subtly indicates Sarpedon’s eventual immortalization. [33]
2§24. In his final scenes in the Iliad Sarpedon has not yet received funeral rites. His psychē is still in a transient state. Hypnos and Thanatos are about to convey him to Lycia. The Iliad uses very specific language to describe Sarpedon’s afterlife destination in Lycia (16.456-457=674-675). The rare verb ταρχύω is usually translated as “perform funeral rites,” but Nagy’s explication of its etymology argues that it “indicates not only that the relatives and comrades of Sarpedon will treat him like a cult figure but also that he will thereby attain some form of immortalization.” [34] His cult status will extend beyond his family. The eidōla in these two vase-paintings, at the Metropolitan Museum and the Louvre, reference Sarpedon’s immortalization and hero cult. Nagy argues that the Homeric scene makes subtle reference to the hero cult of Sarpedon. [35] The vase-painting scenes are doing something similar. The eidōlon in the vase painting alludes to the eventuality of his ritual immortalization.
2§25. Athenian interests in Sarpedon are demonstrated in different versions of his heroic death during the late archaic period, in both black and red figure. Donald Lateiner suggests several reasons for Sarpedon’s exceptional status both in the Iliad and indirectly in Athenian visual culture: he was the only son of Zeus in the Trojan War; his story was loved by Homeric audiences in the Anatolian lands (many of which were allied with Athens) at this time; and because his heroic defeat and implied apotheosis exalted Patroclus. [36] I would add that Sarpedon serves a paradigmatic function. He gives the clearest statements of the reciprocal obligations of a hero in his dialog with Glaukos (Iliad 12.310-28). In addition, although by the end of the 6th century Sarpedon’s homeland Lycia had aligned with Persia, Athenians perceived a distant relationship with Lycia. According to Herodotus (1.173), shortly after Sarpedon settled there in what was the land of the Termilae, another exile joined with him, Lycus son of the Athenian king, Pandiōn 2, when he was banished by his brother Aigeus. Lycia was then named for Lycus. Accordingly, Sarpedon was later appropriated and honored by the Athenians. Likewise his Lycian comrade, Glaucus, figured in Ionian affairs. Herodotus reports that his descendants were chosen to serve as kings in Miletus (1.147). Both Sarpedon and Glaukos were grandsons of Bellerophon, hence of Greek heritage. Athenian interests in the Lycian hero served a geopolitical function. In the aftermath of the Persian War Lycia itself was briefly part of the Delian League, which was under Athenian leadership.
2§26. Turning back to the vase painting on the neck amphora at the Metropolitan Museum, the reverse reveals another possible and likely older iconography of the psychē after death (above 2§6). In place of an eidolon, the artist has painted a bird. The visual and thematic parallel with the obverse is strong. This scene depicts the just slain Memnon being carried away by his mother Eōs. Above the warrior’s head a bird seems to lead the way. The bird is the approximate size of an eidōlon in similar scenes, and as suggested, a bird sometimes appears in death scenes in lieu of an eidōlon. In some instances a bird is found also in scenes of single combat over a fallen hero where an eidōlon might have been. When Achilles and Memnon are depicted fighting over the corpse of Antilochus, in some versions a bird flies between them above the fallen hero below. There is an excellent example on a black-figure amphora in Munich at the Antikensammlungen (J328)(, likely one generation earlier than most of the black-figure vase-painting featuring eidōla. On the neck amphora at the Metropolitan Museum, Eōs is also winged, as she most commonly is in the iconography, whether transporting Memnon’s body or pursuing Tithōnos. The one scene in which she is not typically winged, however, is in single combat scenes of Achilles and Memnon, such as this one, where their respective mothers bracket the frame behind each warrior. In both of these Eōs and Thetis are stationary. It is in scenes where Eōs is in motion that she has wings.
2§27. There is another version of Memnon being carried from the field after he was slain by Achilles on an Attic black-figure lekythos at Gela, in the Museo Archeologico, N41( It is dated a generation later than most in this group. The scene is thought to depict Memnon’s corpse being carried from the field, but unlike the earlier example where his mother Eōs is carrying him, he is being carried by two of his men, apparently Ethiopian. [37] A somewhat larger than normal but still only half life-size unarmed naked winged eidōlon flies or hovers over his corpse. Although the knees are bent, his movement lacks the exaggeration of the typical knee-run pose. The whole figure in flight parallels the ground. In other ways the figure is stylistically different. Naked and unarmed, it lacks the militancy and aggressiveness of the figure typical in other examples. It is possible too that this image expresses a multiform of the Memnon myth. In the likely older version, Memnon, as the son of Eōs and Tithōnos, has an eastern Ethiopian origin on the shore of Oceanos (see below 7§2). [38] In later versions as here he is associated with the African Ethiopia. Though the vase-painting is both stylistically and mythologically different, the eidōlon is manifest around the moment of death, and before the hero’s funeral rites. Not only is the version of Memnon’s death different from those interacting with the Aethiopis, but the style of the vase painting and the eidōlon itself is completely different than the many examples associated with the Leagros group.
2§28. One additional and all important scene fits within this typology. In it Ajax is depicted carrying Achilles’s body. This was a popular scene in archaic vase-painting, the most notable example of which is on handle of the François Vase. Only a few of these scenes include an eidōlon of Achilles. [39] The oldest, from the mid 6th century, is on a black-figure skyphos in the National Museum in Athens (, attributed to the Camel painter. It dates to around 545 BCE. On the obverse Ajax carries the body of Achilles towards a white haired and bearded old man, likely Peleus. Ajax is preceded by a small lion. Above the lion is a winged eidōlon, unarmed except for helmet, in typical knee-run pose. His wings are rendered in a style quite different from those typical later—they resemble the wings common to siren figures. The eidōlon iconography has not fully developed. On the right of the scene are two additional figures, a man with a Scythian cap holding a bow, followed by a youth. The old man has been variously identified as Peleus, Phoenix, or Nestor. The juxtaposition of Achilles’s eidōlon directly above the lion may also mark Achilles’s immortal heroic status.
2§29. Another example, dated to around 500 BCE in the same timeframe as B 240, is the most dramatic and detailed. It occurs on a black-figure hydria in the Munich Antikensammlungen, J409 ( The vase is also attributed to the Leagros Group. Here the eidōlon is consistent with the later 6th century versions. The scene fills the frame with the tumult over Achilles’s body. Ajax himself has just kneeled and put the corpse over his shoulder. Achilles’s Boeotian shield covers his body. On the left of the frame two warriors continue to attack them. On the right behind Ajax is another hero fending them off as Ajax lifts the body, while a chariot team stands by. Above Achilles’s head is the eidōlon of Achilles, with a shield similar to that covering his body. The eidōlon itself appears to continue to engage the enemy even after death. As such, the vase-painting may also, as I am arguing is the case of B 240, seek to invoke by means of the iconography of black-figure the cult hero Achilles against a contemporary threat.
2§30. The vast number of eidōlon scenes surveyed were painted in the last decades of the 6th century BCE, likely overlapping the first decade of the 5th century BCE. Stylistically the eidōlon are very similar too. The narrow window of time and consistent style suggest the works were likely done by either the same painters or by workshops in relative proximity. Of the 16 vase paintings in the first typology depicting the ritual of the apobatic games, 14 are either painted by a member of the Leagros Group or by a painter closely aligned with it by Beazley. Likewise the two depicting the sacrifice of Polyxena. Of the 8 in the second typology, 5 are affiliated with the Leagros group. This particular style of eidōlon seems to have been something of a trademark of those in or affiliated with the Leagros Group. As noted, a select group of heroes, all of whom were important to Athens and figured in hero cults at the time, are depicted. While scholars have proposed various painters for B 240, every painter identified was affiliated with the Leagros Group (1§1 n.1). The enormous eidōlon on B 240 is stylistically consistent with the others associated with the group, except that the hero is over-scaled and center stage.
2§31. One function of eidōla, common to the various types, is as an intermediary between the realms of the living and the dead. As Vernant makes clear, they mark an absent presence, or present absence (above 2§2). Lacking materiality they maintain agency in the physical world. As noted, most eidōla in the visual culture have wings. All are aloft, befitting their in-between status. Upon leaving the body at death they are manifest as the hero’s afterlife presence in its intermediary state. But this intermediary state is not a one-way vector. Not only are they objects of cult, they can engage in the living world. Accordingly they become transactional objects of veneration and worship. In black-figure iconography, winged figures more broadly are also intermediaries connecting disparate realms. On many vases Hypnos and Thanatos are winged when they carry the fallen Sarpedon off the battlefield home to Lycia. Iris is winged on the famous Boston hydria (63.473) when she appears to Achilles to inform him to cease dragging Hector’s body and allow Priam to recover him (2§14). Hermes, the ultimate intermediary god and messenger, often is depicted with winged sandals or headgear. In the Odyssey (5.51-55) he is even compared to a cormorant when he flies to Calypso’s island to announce that Zeus has declared that Odysseus be allowed to return home. Eōs herself is sometimes not depicted as winged when stationary, but as on a neck amphora at the Metropolitan Museum (56.171.25), when she is moving between worlds, the vase painter has given her wings as she carries off her fallen son Memnon to his immortal afterlife ( And as we’ve seen, a bird sometimes represents a psychē departing a body (2§6 & 25).
2§32. Though winged and in a Knielaufschema pose, the figure on B 240 differs in key ways from a typical eidolon. First and foremost, it is many times larger than life size. Similar figures in black-figure iconography are diminutive. This is in itself significant. Hildebrecht Hommel has taken the size to indicate Achilles’s divinity, which, he argued, predated the heroic Achilles. [40] Peifer also has argued that the size of the winged warrior on B 240 indicates his immortal status. [41] Moreover, when men in historic times uncovered what appeared to be larger than life skeletons, they took them to be heroes, and then often established a cult thereabout. [42] In addition, the eidōlon in this scene does not fit into the main typologies. The scene is clearly not a death, even if the fallen warrior on the reverse is taken into consideration. There are no examples of an eidōlon so much larger than life size departing a fallen warrior. Nor is it a funereal/apobatic scene. There is neither sēma nor chariot team, nor is there a corpse being dragged. Equally important, the over-scaled figure is centrally foregrounded, unlike the eidōlon in most scenes. The over-scaled winged warrior is not at the edge of the action of the scene, rather he is the center of its action. The sum of these departures from the iconographic tradition of the eidōlon suggests a different reading.

3§. Iconography of Islands

3§1. In concert with the over-scaled eidōlon, the depiction of the curvilinear black and white object on the left side of the panel provides an essential entry to a fuller interpretation of the scene on B 240. The identification of this object is crucial to the interpretation of the vase painting. Objects with this form typically indicate an island (or perhaps a headland). Those scholars who date the scene as occurring at the conclusion of the Trojan War interpret the object either as the Sigeion headland or as Achilles’s sēma there (3§12 & 9§). The one dissenter locates the action on the Greek mainland coast. In that reading the object represents the Capherean rocks. [43] First I will review the iconography for clues, especially looking at how this object compares with others from clearly identifiable scenes. As we will see, the manner in which this scene differs suggests its identification.
3§2. Within the iconography, examples of vase paintings depicting islands (and/or headlands) as settings are comparatively rare, as are land-forms in general. In black-figure these islands are usually rendered with black slip, sometimes with white accents or outlines. They commonly have curvilinear contours. Importantly, they all emerge from water, represented by wavy lines. The most familiar examples are evident in many versions of the popular scene in which the sirens are singing to Odysseus. A typical example is an Athenian black-figure oenochoe, c. 520 BCE, at the Berlin Antikensammlung (1993.216)( The black rendered islands rise out of the water above the ship. The one on the right near its peak has white lines following the curvilinear contour, while the one on the right has several faded (possibly once white) splotches. The rowers, and Odysseus tied to the mast, are quite large and heroically scaled in comparison to the ship, yet in no way are they the scale of the winged figure on B 240. A somewhat atypical example is on an Attic black-figure lekythos, dated between 525-475 BCE, at the National Museum in Athens (CC954)( Likely to accommodate the smaller canvas of the lekythos, the island objects are abbreviated in size. They are predominantly black, with white splotches, and between them Odysseus is bound to a column. The islands’ contours are not as curvilinear as most, but still the the edges and the tops are rounded off. Although somewhat later, around 480 BCE, another example, similar to the black-figure oenochoe in Berlin, is the Athenian red figure stamnos in the British Museum attributed to the Siren Painter by Beazley (1843,1103.31)( While in this case the islands are of course red, the curvilinear shape of both islands frame the imperiled ship with Odysseus bound to the mast.
3§3. Though versions of the famous scene of the Sirens sweetly singing to Odysseus contain the more typical examples of islands, several other scenes include curvilinear masses. On a Black-figure skyphos, around 500 BCE, in the Museo Archeologico Regionale (P335)( in Palermo, a hero, perhaps Odysseus [44] , is featured in an altogether different context. He is riding on the back of a large turtle between two islands. Both islands are also curvilinear, with the one on the right side highlighted with white. Similar black islands with white accents occur in scenes of Herakles waiting for Helios. For instance an Athenian black-figure lekythos, 550-525 BCE, by the Daybreak Painter (one of the painters identified by Pouilloux as the painter of B 240) at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens shows Herakles kneeling on an islet alert to Helios’s rising from the sea beyond Oceanos, [45] The islet itself barely rises out of the water. It too is predominantly black, but there is a white outline which helps the viewer distinguish the islet from the waterline and Herakles’s feet. As in other cases the white outline is there mainly to distinguish adjacent surfaces. The same theme attributed to the Theseus painter is depicted on an Athenian black-figure skyphos, c. 500 BCE, in Taranto at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 7029, The scene occurs somewhat differently on each side of the skyphos. On both sides Helios is rising from the sea, but on one side Heracles is sitting on the island anticipating Helios, while on the other he is climbing up the slope of the island and is looking over his shoulder at Helios’s arrival. On both sides of the vase the island slopes up from the sea at a gently curved shallow angle. Both islands are once again predominantly black, but like the lekythos noted above, a white band along the islands’ edges visually separated the water-line and the hero.

3§4. The predominant color of all these curvilinear masses is black, (red in the case of red-figure) though a few have white accents, which serve to outline the object and distinguish it from adjacent features. White blotches perhaps indicate the island’s or rock’s ruggedness. Looking at the form alone, the black and white object on B 240 clearly belongs within this iconography of islands. But the extent of white on the rendering of the island on B 240 expands the iconography. White glaze or slip comprises over half the form. What on other vases is a mere outline or accent, is here the predominant feature of the island. This variation from tradition suggests the artist deliberately rendered the island to make a specific reference. If so, the obvious interpretation is that this island object on B 240 is Leuke, the White Island, the site of Achilles’s afterlife, as first attested in the Aethiopis, a part of the epic cycle attributed to Arctinus of Miletus:

καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς πυρᾶς ἡ Θέτις ἀναρπάσασα τὸν παῖδα εἰς τὴν Λευκὴν νῆσον διακομίζει. Proklos, Chrestomathia.
After these things Thetis, having snatched her son from the pyre, transports him to the ‘White’ Island.
3§5. Supporting this conjecture, in addition to the curvilinear contours of these islands, and their predominantly black rendering, these islands in the iconography have another common characteristic. All the surviving examples are mythological places, beyond the known world. This is evident in the examples above. The sirens singing to Odysseus inhabit a meadow of human bones on an unnamed island (though later attempts were (and are) made to localize it [46] ). The myth referenced in the images of Herakles waiting for Helios places the location at the edge of Oceanos. There he secures Helios’s golden cup to continue his labor to steal the herd of Geryon grazing on Erytheia. And if the figure on the turtle is Odysseus being rescued beneath the cliffs of Scylla and Charybdis, once again the location is beyond the known world. The Sigeion headland (one possible interpretation of the curvilinear object) in the Troad would not be consistent with this pattern. On B 240 the rendering of the curvilinear black and white object is consistent with the iconography of islands beyond the known world. Its exceptional amount of white slip however identifies the island with the specific afterlife home of Achilles on the island of Leuke.
3§6. Leuke itself belonged to a mythological tradition at least until an island in the Euxine Sea was later encountered by Milesian sailors and localized as such. As Erwin Rohde assessed the issue, “The poet himself (of the Aethiopis) can hardly have imagined Achilles’ Island to have been in the Euxine Sea, where, however later Greek sailors located this purely mythical spot.” [47] Within the oral tradition before the Milesian excursion into the remote Euxine, there was a mythological place called Leuke rock beyond Ocean in proximity to Hades. This is where the Odyssey locates Λευκὰς πέτρη (24.11-18). Contrary to some scholars, [48] there is no reason to presume the Λευκὴ νῆσος of the Aethiopis is mythogeographically different than the Λευκὰς πέτρη in the song culture, unless one assumes this part of the Aethiopis was composed in the 6th century after Milesian expansion into the northern Euxine Sea. The Odyssey however, according to the rest of this passage, places the afterlife of Achilles in the Meadows of Asphodel, not on Leuke. Greek authors placed Achilles’s afterlife home in various mythological locales: Arctinus on Leuke Island; the Odyssey in Hades and on the Island of Asphodel; Pindar (Olympian 2) on the Islands of the Blessed, but also on the “Bright” island in the Euxine (Nemean 4); likewise Plato (Symposium 179e) on the Islands of the Blessed; and Apollonius of Rhodes on the Elysium Plain (Argonautica 4.811). As Jonathon Burgess [49] has reiterated, following Gregory Nagy [50] , these afterlife paradisiacal locations as a complex of sites are a kind of continuum, functionally the same, beyond the known world. They suggest that the placing of Achilles in Hades in Odyssey Book 11 was the exception in the oral tradition. The many homes of Achilles’s afterlife speaks to both the multiformity and consistency of myth. Burgess additionally suggests that the color of the flowering asphodel which brightens the gloom of Hades may also relate to the White Island. [51]
3§7. Accompanying the psychē of Achilles in the meadow of asphodel are Patroclus, Antilochus and Ajax, his dearest comrades (Odyssey 24.15-8). It cannot be a coincidence that Pausanias (3.19.11-13) later places Patroclus, Ajax and Antilochus on the island of Leuke when he gives an account of the healing of Leōnymos of Croton, injured during a campaign against the Locrians [52] by the cult hero Ajax, son of Oïleus, whom the Locrians relied on for support. The Locrians always left a gap in their battle line for Ajax to fill. When Leōnymos attacked this spot, believing it to be a weak point, Ajax struck him in the chest. When he was slow to recover, the Delphi oracle advised Leōnymos to journey to the island of Leuke, by then located in the Euxine Sea, where he would find Ajax who, as the cause of his injury, would remedy it. There Leōnymos finds not only Ajax, son of Oïleus, who duly heals his wound, but also Achilles, Patroclus, Ajax, son of Telemon, and Antilochus.

3§8. On the other hand Strabo noted that in Homer’s day the Euxine Sea itself, which he called the Pontic Sea, was regarded as a second Oceanos, beyond the inhabited world:

ἁπλῶς δ᾿ οἱ τότε τὸ πέλαγος τὸ Ποντικὸν ὥσπερ ἄλλον τινὰ ὠκεανὸν ὑπελάμβανον, καὶ τοὺς πλέοντας ἐκεῖσε ὁμοίως ἐκτοπίζειν ἐδόκουν, ὥσπερ τοὺς ἔξω Στηλῶν ἐπὶ πολὺ προϊόντας· (Geography 1.2.10)
Generally then (in Homer’s day) they understood the Pontic sea as another Oceanos, and they believed those sailing there likewise went beyond (the known world), just like those sailing very far outside the pillars of Heracles.

Even had a Leuke Island in the Euxine Sea been known to the poet of the Aethiopis and the early oral tradition, regardless of when the poem was written down, it would have been considered a place apart beyond the inhabited world.

3§9. Milesian trading posts began to be established along the northwest coast of the Euxine around 600 BCE. [53] Both Ister, well south of the Ister River (now Danube) delta [54] and Olbia, [55] on the coast due north of Leuke date from this period. The island that became known as Leuke, northeast of the mouth of the Ister River, however was not likely encountered right away. During this period navigation usually followed coastlines closely. Leuke was far enough offshore, 35 miles, and moreover, on the east side of a stiff southernly current which flowed between it and the coast, to have been off the beaten path. [56] Encountering it would not have been smooth sailing. Being separated from the mainland by swift currents and the danger of being so far adrift from familiar visual coastal navigation routes would suggest that the first sailors encountered the island under some duress. If so, and had they found brief refuge, this would inspire the localization of Achilles’s cult function there as a rescuer of sailors.
3§10. To be sure, by the late 6th century, Leuke Island was a known and revered place in the Euxine Sea. It is not hard to imagine some early Milesian ship riding the current near the coast south from Olbia homeward being caught in a storm and blown off course near to the island, and finding temporary refuge there. Seeing its white quartzite conglomerate cliffs, and as Milesians familiar with the epic tradition that became textualized later as the Aethiopis, the sailors might naturally designate the island Leuke. [57] At some point in the mid to late 6th century a shrine was built and dedicated on the island to Achilles. [58] Sailors stopping there offered votives and sacrifices to Achilles. Once it had become associated with Achilles, it may have been sought out, and not simply a refuge from the storm. It likely then became something of a short respite or refuge for sailors navigating to and from Milesian trading posts along its northwestern shores, especially Olbia, a major Milesian fixture on the northwest coast. The island began to acquire its own mythology that merged with Achilles’s afterlife and hero cult which was also well established around Olbia. Later sources, Arrian (Periplus 21-3) and Philostratus (Heroicus 54.11), claim however that suppliants and visitors were not allowed to stay overnight on the island itself. Overnight visitors would have anchored on the leeward side of the island and returned to their ships at dusk.
3§11. After the island had been localized as Leuke and associated with Achilles’s hero cult, direct literary attestation of Achilles’s presence on Leuke island in the Euxine surfaces. Pindar in Nemean 4.49-50 (473? BCE) places Achilles ἐν δ᾿ Εὐξείνῳ πελάγει φαεννὰν Ἀχιλεύς νᾶσον, “on the shinning island in the Euxine Sea.” The first literary attestation of a temple to Achilles there comes from Euripides’s Andromache 1259-62 (425+/- BCE). Thetis addressing Peleus concerning his own destiny informs him that she will make him a god and that he will dwell with her in the house of Nereus, from which he will be able to visit his son Achilles on his island home δόμους ναίοντα νησιωτικοὺς/ Λευκὴν κατ᾿ ἀκτὴν ἐντὸς ἀξένου πόρου, “on the Leuke headland in the inhospitable sea.” Euripides also plays on the name of the Euxine Sea, calling it ἀξένου, “inhospitable”. [59] His ironic renaming subtly attests to Achilles’s hero cult serving endangered sailors in the vicinity. In the 5th century BCE Achilles’s cult presence had become well established on the island in the Euxine.
3§12. As noted, some scholars of B 240 have interpreted (albeit without full argumentation) this black and white curvilinear object as a sēma, and in so doing contend it is Achilles’s tomb at Sigeion (see 9§ Appendix). But as noted above, the iconography of a sēma has its own identifiable form (2§7). Almost all have a bee-hive or catenary arch shape, and are rendered entirely with a white slip. There are no examples of a sēma with a curvilinear form like that of islands. This example by the Priam Painter in the British Museum, 1899,0721.3, ( depicts a typical catenary shaped sēma partially cut off by the right edge of the image framing. Neither the color or shape of the object on B 240 formally fits the iconography of a sēma. In addition a sēma in the iconography is always associated with the funereal context of a hero as in the examples of the apobatic contests above. On B 240 the scene lacks any supporting funereal iconography or context.
3§13. Still, had the artist chosen to make the object entirely white, his audience might possibly have confused the object with a sēma. He intentionally left nearly half the object in the traditional black color of islands so as not to confuse his audience. If not Achilles’s sēma, scholars have generally read the curvilinear object as the headland of Sigeion itself (9§ Appendix). This too is an attractive option, but fails to account for the proportion of white glaze on the object. One would expect a headland to be not unlike an island, and in the case of Sigeion, there is no evidence it was ever identified as white in color. Significantly the location of Sigeion was not considered in the oral tradition to be located at the ends of the earth, an important characteristic of the islands represented in black-figure iconography. While these two other options are attractive, the iconography and the way the object is rendered tilts the reading in favor of Leuke. This does not mean that a metonymic connection should be discounted. All three, the Sigeion headland, his sēma, and Leuke island, were markers of Achilles’s hero cult.
3§14. The unique modification from the iconography created with white slip on the island object on B 240 functions to highlight two important points. It takes the generic iconographic form of an island beyond the known world and gives the island in the scene on B 240 a specific identity, Leuke, the White Island. Then from this identification it confirms the over-scaled winged warrior as Achilles in his afterlife home as told in the Aethiopis. And once the island itself in the Euxine Sea had come to be localized as Leuke, and it was associated with the trading posts of Miletus along the northwest coast of the Euxine Sea in the late 6th century, it suggests an interpretation for the action of the hero. The over-scaled winged warrior is there to protect the sailors. The sailors, and the ship itself, are a metonym for Miletus. Given the dating of the vase painting to around 500 BCE, the threat is likely coming from the east, from the Persian Empire.

4§. Achilles as Cult Hero of Sailors

4§1. In arguing that the vase painter intended the island on B 240 to signify Leuke, Achilles’s afterlife role as a cult hero for sailors comes into play. In the composition of the vase-painting on B 240 the super-sized winged warrior shares the center of the frame with the ship. Here they are inexorably connected. But the hero clearly is the primary agent in the action. Like the unique island iconography the ship functions in a primary synoptic role and provides clues for the hero’s engagement. It also contributes secondarily to the identification of the hero as Achilles. That Achilles was worshipped by sailors requires some unpacking. A cult hero’s efficacy is usually narrowly circumscribed around his sēma or some other shrine. In the case of Achilles his cult efficacy is more expansive. Traces of this cult worship is subtly referenced in Homer. Nagy argues [60] that Iliad 19.373-386 alludes to his cult status for sailors in the scene in which he puts on his new armor from Hephaestus:

αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα σάκος μέγα τε στιβαρόν τε
εἵλετο, τοῦ δ᾿ ἀπάνευθε σέλας γένετ᾿ ἠύτε μήνης.
ὡς δ᾿ ὅτ᾿ ἂν ἐκ πόντοιο σέλας ναύτῃσι φανήῃ
καιομένοιο πυρός, τότε καίεται ὑψόθ᾿ ὄρεσφι
σταθμῷ ἐν οἰοπόλῳ· τοὺς δ᾿ οὐκ ἐθέλοντας ἄελλαι
πόντον ἐπ᾿ ἰχθυόεντα φίλων ἀπάνευθε φέρουσιν·
ὣς ἀπ᾿ Ἀχιλλῆος σάκεος σέλας αἰθέρ᾿ ἵκανε
καλοῦ δαιδαλέου· περὶ δὲ τρυφάλειαν ἀείρας
κρατὶ θέτο βριαρήν· ἡ δ᾿ ἀστὴρ ὣς ἀπέλαμπεν
ἵππουρις τρυφάλεια, περισσείοντο δ᾿ ἔθειραι
χρύσεαι, ἃς Ἥφαιστος ἵει λόφον ἀμφὶ θαμειάς.
πειρήθη δ᾿ ἕο αὐτοῦ ἐν ἔντεσι δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
εἰ οἷ ἐφαρμόσσειε καὶ ἐντρέχοι ἀγλαὰ γυῖα.
τῷ δ᾿ εὖτε πτερὰ γίγνετ᾿, ἄειρε δὲ ποιμένα λαῶν.
Then he grabbed the shield, large and stout, from which a gleam of light went far, like the moon. As when from the sea a beacon appears to sailors, of burning fire, which burns high up on a mountain in a remote stead; and against their will storm winds carry them on the fish teeming sea away from friends; so from the shield of Achilles, beautifully wrought, the gleam reached the sky; and lifting the horse-hair crested helmet he placed it on his head; and the horse-hair crested helmet shone like a star, and the golden plumes shook, that Hephaestus placed densely around the crests. And godlike Achilles tested himself in the armor whether it fit well and his splendid limbs could move freely. For him it was like wings, and it lifted up the shepherd of the men.

In this rich passage Achilles’s new shield is compared to a bright moon and a beacon for sailors. Both the moon and burning fire on a hillside assist ships navigating at night or caught in the darkening clouds of a storm. The threats to the sailors are underscored by the phrase “on the fish-teeming sea,” πόντον ἐπ᾿ ἰχθυόεντα. In epic and in vase painting iconography fish are indicative of the dangers sailors face (see below §5.1-5). And suggestive of the eidōlon on B 240, Homer even sings that his re-arming so pleases Achilles that the arms “become like wings to him” (19.386), τῷ δ᾽ εὖτε πτερὰ γίγνετ᾽.

4§2. A more subtle reference occurs in the second Nekyia at the beginning of Odyssey 24. When Agamemnon arrives in Hades and is greeted by Achilles, his psychē enviously tells Achilles that he had been fortunate to die at Troy, so that he might have a hero’s death. He relates how his mother Thetis and her Nereid sisters mourned at his funeral (24.55 & 58). Then he describes “his huge and flawless tomb,” μέγαν καὶ ἀμύμονα τύμβον that the Argives built (24. 80-1), ὥς κεν τηλεφανὴς ἐκ ποντόφιν ἀνδράσιν εἴη / τοῖς οἳ νῦν γεγάασι καὶ οἳ μετόπισθεν ἔσονται, “so that it would be conspicuous from far over the sea both by men present and future” (24. 83-4), suggesting that his sēma too would be a navigational aid for sailors. Nagy cites this instance as indicative “as not so much a hero of epic as a hero of cult” and notes that the surviving Achaeans are “Achaeans in ships,” [61] anticipating the subsequent expanding Hellenic sea power.
4§3. Additional poetic evidence of his support of sailors comes by way of the suggestive fragment Proklos reports in the Chrestomathia (6.3) from the Nostoi, where Achilles appears as an eidōlon to the Achaean fleet about to depart Ilium for home: τῶν δὲ περὶ τὸν Ἀγαμέμνονα ἀποπλεόντων Ἀχιλλέως εἴδωλον ἐπιφανὲν πειρᾶται διακωλύειν προλέγον τὰ συμβησόμενα, “the eidōlon of Achilles appeared to Agamemnon when they were setting sail and tries to impede them by predicting what will happen.” In this form Achilles warns Agamemnon about the destruction awaiting him on his return home. Some who did not heed his warning were lost in a storm. Pindar follows this theme in Isthmian 8.52-3 when he sings that Achilles even “bridged [a metaphor for safe passage over the sea] the homecoming of the sons of Atreus,” γεφύρωσέ τ᾿ Ἀτρεΐδαισι νόστον. Pindar concludes this passage recounting Achilles’s victories over Hector and Memnon at Troy by identifying him as οὖρος Αἰακιδᾶν, “guardian”, but also “favorable wind,” of the Aiakidai (8.55). A favorable wind is a blessing for all sailors.
4§4. Achilles’s direct connection to the sea is through his mother Thetis, herself a Nereid. [62] Her power even the Persians recognized. Herodotus (7.191) reports that during the tempest at Magnesia that destroyed much of the Persian fleet, their Magoi sacrificed to Thetis and the Nereids to get the tempest to cease. He notes that this particular wind the local people called the Hellespontian (7.188), which Nagy connects to Achilles. [63] According to Philostratus, when the Thessalians, for whom Achilles was a cult hero, voyaged annually to Troy to make sacrifices at his sēma (Heroicus 53.8f), before they disembarked they sang a ritual hymn to Thetis (Heroicus 53.10). Philostratus further states that in his afterlife mother and son sometimes acted together. When later the Thessalians failed repeatedly to make proper sacrifices to him, together Achilles and Thetis brought ruin on them from the sea, not, as Philostratus’s narrator, the Vinedresser, says he had supposed, by a flood, but by causing them to lose their market for murex, the shell used for purple dye (Heroicus 53.19-3). One way or another the punishment he brings upon the Thessalians arrived by way of the sea. Achilles’s indirect connection to the sea is also through his grandfather, Aiakos, and the island of Aegina. Hesiod in the Catalogue of Women (West, Fr. 205) says that when the nymph Aegina became pregnant by Zeus, she bore Aiakos, and when he reached adolescence alone on the island, he was troubled. To provide company Zeus took all the ants there and turned them into men and women (Myrmidons)—and they were the first to fit together ships and make sails. [64]

4§5. Achilles’s cult hero status on the island of Leuke was a natural association for Milesian merchant sailors. As noted above, (3§9-10) the island served as a refuge for ships going to and from their trading posts along the northwest coast of the Euxine Sea. The later Hellenistic literary testimony is abundant in this regard. Arrian (Periplus 21-23) specifically identifies the island as a shelter from the storm overseen by Achilles. The Periplus (131 CE) was a report to Hadrian on the condition of ports around the Euxine Sea, and though he did not himself visit the island, he transmitted to Hadrian what he had learned from sailors familiar with Leuke. Some sailors, he reports, came to port there specifically to offer sacrifices to Achilles. Arrian adds that these brought sacrificial victims with them, but that those who arrived unwillingly, driven off course by a storm, negotiated with the oracle (χρησμοὺς) on the island the price of their rescue (22). He continues (23):

Φαίνεσθαι δὲ ἐνύπνιον τὸν Ἀχιλλέα τοῖς μὲν προσχοῦσι τῇ νήσῳ, τοῖς δὲ καὶ πλέουσιν, ἐπειδὰν οὐ πόρρω αὐτῆς ἀπόσχωσιν, καὶ φράζειν ὅπου προσχεῖν τῆς νήσου ἄμεινον καὶ ὅπου ὁρμίσασθαι. οἳ δὲ καὶ ὕπαρ λέγουσι φανῆναί σφισιν ἐπὶ τοῦ ἱσθοῦ ἣ ἐπ’ ἄκρου τοῦ κέρως τὸν Ἀχιλλέα, καθάπερ τοὺς Διοσκόρους· τοσόνδε μόνον τῶν Διοσκούρων μεῖον ἔχειν τὸν Ἀχιλλέα, ὅσον οἱ μὲν Διόσκουροι τοῖς πανταχοῦ πλωιζομένοις ἐναργεῖς φαίνονται, καὶ φανέντες σωτῆρες γίνονται, ὃ δὲ τοῖς πελάζουσιν ἤδη τῇ νὴσῳ.
Also (it is said) that Achilles appears in dreams to those coming to port at the island and to those sailing, when they stay away not far from there, and that he shows where on the island it is better to come to port and where to anchor. Others say too that Achilles appears to them awake, on the mast or on the end of the horn (prow), like the Dioscouri, and they say that Achilles is only less than the Dioscuri in that they appear in bodily shape to those sailing on the sea everywhere, and appearing to come as saviors, but he appears to those already sailing by the island.

Achilles’s benevolence to sailors is comparable to that of the Dioscuri. The twins and Achilles appear ἐναργεῖς “in bodily form” above masts. Sailors perceive his epiphany either asleep in a dream or awake, and benefit from his agency. On B 240 the over-scaled eidōlon of Achilles is darting above the prow of the ship. Both the ship and the hero are heading in the same direction. As noted above the threat is outside the frame. But in his role as cult hero he is apparently coming to their aid. Around the northwestern Euxine Achilles was identified as Pontarchos, ruler of the Pontus, that is, the Euxine Sea. [65]

4§6. Philostratus reports that the Thessalians, up until their branch of the Aiakidai (through Peleus) were succeeded by the tyrants (and then on and off thereafter), journeyed during a single night annually to Troy to sacrifice a black bull to Achilles the mortal, ὡς τεθνεῶτι “as one who has died,” and a white bull to him “as a god,” ὡς θεῷ (Heroicus 53.11 &13). On land they made sacrifices to him as a man at his sēma. When they sacrificed to him as to a god, that is, as a cult hero, they did so not at his sēma, but back at the shore of the Hellespont just before boarding their ship to depart at daybreak. Sacrifice as to a god at the shore is an indication that aspects of his cult for sailors in some way transcended a specific location.
4§7. Philostratus likewise depicts Achilles on Leuke as a savior of sailors, but with considerable more detail. He reports that Achilles would appear to sailors anchoring near the island to guide them to the leeward side to be screened from a coming storm. And those who came on shore celebrated, and kissed the earth, and offered sacrifices (Heroicus 56.3-4). Philostratus expands on the account in the Aethiopis about the circumstances of Thetis transporting Achilles there. He noted that the Euxine Sea was bereft of islands, and that when the mortal Achilles died, there were no other islands (of the blessed) available for him. Thetis asked Poseidon to form an island for Achilles on which he could dwell in his afterlife. So Poseidon fashioned Leuke dredging mud from the sediment of the adjacent rivers on the northwest Euxine. Philostratus explicitly adds that the island itself was also created ναύταις δὲ ἵστασθαι καὶ τῷ πελάγει ἐγκαθορμίζεσθαι, “for sailors to stop and on the sea to come into anchorage (Heroicus 54.5-7).
4§8. In Philostratus’s account Achilles’s everlasting afterlife on Leuke has another aspect important to his function on B 240. The backstory is fairly involved. He claims that in the year Leōnidas of Rhodes won his first race in the Olympic Games (164 BCE), the Amazons attacked Achilles on Leuke with fifty ships (Heroicus 57.13). According to Philostratus the Amazons had not been to Troy (56.11). They dwelled around the Phasis river (the modern day Fioni river in Georgia) on the eastern coast of the Euxine in a region thought by Herodotus (Histories 4.45) to be the boundary between Europe and Asia (Heroicus 57.3). When a vessel carrying shipbuilders was blown off course and landed in Amazon territory, the Amazons learned of the accumulated wealth on Achilles’s island, and opportunely secured shipbuilding expertise. Once ships were built, they transported their mares to Leuke and attacked Achilles’s shrine. Philostratus reports that Achilles counterattacked and so terrified the Amazons’ mares that they reverted to their wild natures, and threw their riders, trampled them, mauled them with their teeth, and then cast themselves into the sea (57.13-15). Meanwhile the Amazons’ ships were destroyed by a powerful wind which made them crash against one another, after which Achilles cleaned the island with a high tide (57.17). Jeffrey Rusten rightly notes that this story “illustrates the heroic function of guarding against invasion.” [66] Not only does Achilles protect sailors, he also defends the land which he serves. Like Memnon (below, 7§2), the invading Amazons represent an Asian incursion. Similarly, Athenian mythmaking identified the Amazons as metonymic Persians. Micon’s Amazonomachy mural in the Stoa Poikilē equates the Athenians’ victory over the Amazons with their defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon. [67]
4§9. Robert Parker notes that both Achilles and Diomedes in their respective afterlives functioned as saviors of sailors, in a manner similar to the Dioscuri. [68] Their two afterlife locations mirror one another: Achilles on Leuke and Diomedes on the archipelago, Isole de’ Tremiti, in the Adriatic Sea. The islands they occupied in their afterlives were deserted, and both were serviced by birds. Both heroes in fact shared a drinking song which placed them on the islands of the blessed. [69] Similar to the way that the Dioscuri manifest themselves, Achilles would appear at the top of the masts of ships in peril (Arrian Periplus 23). By functioning as a cult hero for sailors, Achilles’s remit transcends location, becoming de facto Panhellenic. Sailors are itinerant, they travel to many ports, and they carry their gods and heroes on board ship with them. Parker notes that onboard ships there were portable altars. The beacon for sailors that is Achilles at Iliad 19 and Odyssey 24 persists in the culture as late as the 3rd century CE. Along the way this beacon is manifest as the over-scaled eidōlon above the ship on B 240, protecting and guiding the sailors to safety, and aiding the ship of state.

5§. Contributing iconography

5§1. The contributing iconography of the fish and bird in the scene on B 240 are not idle generic elements. These are seemingly minor parts of the composition that have been overlooked by scholars, but they ought to be factored into any synoptic reading. Beneath the ship is a school of fish. Fish in both visual and verbal culture are markers of danger and terror (4§1). Here the fish foreshadow the threat the sailors are about to confront. In the composition they also provide a clue to the viewer that the warrior is likely there to support the ship. The dread of fish by sailors among Greeks was part of the tradition in both visual and verbal cultures before black-figure vase-painting.
5§2. Early in the development of figuration, fish entered the iconography to highlight the dangers of the sea. Assembled from fragments, a late-Geometric vase identified as the “Pithecusan Shipwreck” captures this fear in the late 8th century ( [70] All around the sinking ship fish of all sizes swarm among six drowned men. One of these men’s head is being eaten by a large fish. This vase is thought to have been locally made in Pithekoussai. Depicted on the neck of another Late Geometric vase, an oinochoe at the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Munich, (8696) fish swarm around the drowned sailors, while one apparent survivor sits upright on the overturned vessel. Jeffrey Hurwit argues that the scene might be of a shipwreck of Odysseus. [71] His argument is not uncontested, however, by scholars who interpret the vase as either depicting a local or generic (not necessarily heroic) scene. Whether this vase painting relates to Odysseus’s shipwreck or is generic, it reflects the terror Greeks associated with seafaring and fish in particular.
5§3. This fear is an instance in which visual and verbal culture align. Both the Iliad and Odyssey attest to the terror with which mortals regard fish for sailors at sea. The swineherd Eumaeus says to Odysseus, unrecognized in the guise of a forlorn beggar, that already his master’s flesh has been ripped from his bones by dogs and birds, or consumed by fish (Odyssey 14.133-6). What dogs and birds are to every warrior facing death in battle on land, fish are to every sailor at sea. Nagy notes that the epithet system for pontos (sea, crossing), which etymologically contains the implication of danger, includes the qualifier ikhthuoeis, (fish-swarming), which reflects the danger of the sea (Iliad 19.378 & 9.4): “The application of this epithet is motivated not so much by a fanciful striving for picturesque visualizations of the sea, but rather by the sinister implications of dangers lurking beneath a traveling ship.” [72]

5§4. When Odysseus finally returns and approaches his father, Laertes does not recognize him and he laments his son’s likely death to the apparent stranger. The underlying basis of this fear is visceral to the audience (Odyssey 24.287-96). It is not merely a fear of death, but the fear of the the loss of proper funeral rites for both the victim and his family:

ἀλλ᾿ ἄγε μοι τόδε εἰπὲ καὶ ἀτρεκέως κατάλεξον,
πόστον δὴ ἔτος ἐστίν, ὅτε ξείνισσας ἐκεῖνον
σὸν ξεῖνον δύστηνον, ἐμὸν παῖδ᾿, εἴ ποτ᾿ ἔην γε,
δύσμορον; ὅν που τῆλε φίλων καὶ πατρίδος αἴης
ἠέ που ἐν πόντῳ φάγον ἰχθύες, ἢ ἐπὶ χέρσου
θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖσιν ἕλωρ γένετ᾿· οὐδέ ἑ μήτηρ
κλαῦσε περιστείλασα πατήρ θ᾿, οἵ μιν τεκόμεσθα·
οὐδ᾿ ἄλοχος πολύδωρος, ἐχέφρων Πηνελόπεια,
κώκυσ᾿ ἐν λεχέεσσιν ἑὸν πόσιν, ὡς ἐπεῴκει,
ὀφθαλμοὺς καθελοῦσα· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων.
But come, and tell me this, and report it truly. How many years is it since you entertained that man, that unfortunate guest, my son, if he ever was my son, ill-fated, whom far from his friends and his fatherland the fish have surely eaten in the sea, or on dry land he has become the booty of wild beasts and birds? Nor did his mother lay him out him for his funeral and weep over him, nor his father, we who begot him, nor did his wife, at a large bride-price, sensible Penelope, lament her own husband upon the bier as was fitting, having closed his eyes; for that is the privilege of the dead.

Laertes’s lament highlights the true terror for those dying at sea. He directly links such a death , and the corresponding loss and mutilation of the corpse, to the loss of a proper burial, the γέρας of mortals which is due not only to the hero, but the hero’s family. A similar mutilation and loss of proper burial is also what Hector repeatedly tries to circumvent in his waning dialog and plea to Achilles, but which Achilles refuses to grant, telling Hector, ἐνταυθοῖ νῦν κεῖσο μετʼ ἰχθύσιν, οἵ σʼ ὠτειλὴν / αἷμʼ ἀπολιχμήσονται ἀκηδέες, “lie there among the fish who, uncaring, will lick the blood from your wound” (Iliad 21.122-3).

5§5. This intersection of the danger of seafaring and the terror of dismemberment by fish persists in the Greek Anthology. Quite a number of epigrams echo this fear of this fate: 7.274; 7.276; 7.278; 7.286; 7.288. That of Leōnidas is typical (7.273):

Εὔρου με τρηχεῖα καὶ αἰπήεσσα καταιγίς,
καὶ νύξ, καὶ δνοφερῆς κύματα πανδυσίης
ἔβλαψ᾿ Ὠρίωνος· ἀπώλισθον δὲ βίοιο
Κάλλαισχρος, Λιβυκοῦ μέσσα θέων πελάγευς.
κἀγὼ μὲν πόντῳ δινεύμενος, ἰχθύσι κῦρμα,
οἴχημαι· ψεύστης δ᾿ οὗτος ἔπεστι λίθος.
The jagged and sudden squall of the East wind, and night, and the waves at the murky setting of Orion crippled me;, and I, Callaeschrus, slipped away from life, sailing the middle of the Libyan deep. Whirled here and there on the deep I am gone, a prey to fishes. This stone is a liar.

The last two lines get to the point poignantly: at sea Leōnidas became prey for fish, and the epigram reminds the viewer visiting his tomb that the tomb marker itself is a falsehood, that he never had a proper burial.

5§6. The fish help an audience visualize every Greek warrior’s or sailor’s fear, that he might not have a proper burial. That on B 240 the ship sails over a sea filled with fish marks once again an imminent fear even though the fish are not the primary threat to the sailors. Their presence forecasts the sailors’s danger. Their threat is what distinguishes dolphin from fish. Dolphins were considered benevolent to men. A dolphin might rescue Arion (Herodotus, 1.24) or retrieve the body of someone lost at sea, as Pindar alludes to in Isthmian 9 where he compares Aiakos and citizens of Aegina, renowned for their seamanship, to dolphins in the sea. Such is the case of Hesiod in the Contest between Homer and Hesiod (14), where dolphins return him to shore for proper burial. [73] Accordingly, black-figure painters were diligent in making the iconography of dolphin distinct from that of fish. A dolphin’s conventionalized features include: an obvious bottle nose, a dorsal fin and/or hump a little behind the head, a bulbous head, a severe curvature of the back, a mezzaluna shaped tail-fin (sometimes on fish as well), they are often shown leaping playfully above the water line, and later, with wide open eyes (mostly on red-figure). So on the skyphos (3§3) on which Herakles is waiting for Helios, there are dolphins swimming in the sea, not fish. Fish, until much later in red figure, are rendered generically with much less detail, as on B 240. It is as if their lack of detail and characterization portends their hidden danger. As we’ve seen above, as far back as the Late Geometric, fish with ships forebode disaster.
5§7. Likewise from the very beginning of figuration in Greek vase-painting, large birds feature prominently. This is especially the case in sailing, departure, and funereal scenes. Birds are transitional creatures who move between spheres, between land, sea, and sky. In vase-painting iconography they visually mark imminent human transition scenes. These large birds often are present in funeral settings. They are not usually in flight, but perched adjacent to the action. On a monumental funereal krater, ca. 750 BCE, in the Metropolitan Museum (14.130.14) three birds cluster under a funeral pyre ( Ships on Geometric vases have birds sitting on a horn or mast (, in this instance at an on-board battle scene. While fish beneath a ship can mark an imminent threat, a bird warns of dangers more generally. On B 240 the bird perches on the island watching the ship and the winged warrior overtaking it. Like the hero, the bird’s scale effectively dwarfs the ship. The enormous size of the bird foreshadows the severity of the sailors’ risk. The bird motif can functions as a harbinger of death. After her son Polydorus’s eidōlon appears to Hecuba in a dream, notifies her of his own death, and alerts her to the imminence of Polyxena’s sacrifice, she calls the visions black-winged dreams, μελανοπτερύγων ὀνείρων, (Euripides, Hecuba 71). John Pollard identifies the bird on the B 240 as a raven, which he notes was a prophet of death. [74] This would certainly support the interpretation that like the fish, the bird forebodes a threat to those onboard ship.
5§8. In the scenography of B 240, the bird may also serve another function, to reinforce the identity of the island itself. The island of Leuke in late antiquity was noted for the presence of sea-birds. Arrian (Periplus Ponti Euxini 21) and Philostratus (Heroicus 54.9) both attest to sea-birds which after wetting their wings in the sea cleanse Achilles’s shrine. Once the shrine is wet they sweep it with their wings to clean it. Arrian lists gulls, shearwaters, and sea-crows (λάροι καὶ αἴθυιαι καὶ κορῶναι αἱ θαλάττιοι). (The sea-crow is a common name for a cormorant.) Identifying a bird species from ancient nomenclature is no less problematic [75] than from a vase-painting however. Philostratus simply says that the birds on Leuke are white (λευκοὺς ὄρνιθας), and that Achilles has made them his attendants (θεράποντας). Perched on the island, this bird also reinforces the island’s identification as Leuke.

5§9. The birds’ behavior on Leuke has a parallel on Islands of Diomedes (Isole de’ Tremiti) in the Adriatic Sea. D’Arcy Thompson, based on this same behavior of wetting their wings and cleaning a shrine identifies the species there as αἴθυιαι, shearwaters. [76] There they were said to be Diomedes’s companions who were killed by invaders from the mainland and whom Zeus transformed into birds. Recall Arrian included shearwaters on Leuke. Perched on an outcrop a shearwater and a cormorant have a similar silhouette. However, a shearwater has a light underside, while a cormorant’s is darker. The bird on B 240 is predominantly black, with only a few white accents at its wingtips. Neither are white as Philostratus describes, but from below a shearwater in flight might appear to be white. For the sailors, both the shearwater and the cormorant were, like Pollard’s raven, foreboding. Again an epigraph from the Greek Anthology, 7.285, shows how:

Οὐ κόνις οὐδ᾿ ὀλίγον πέτρης βάρος, ἀλλ᾿ Ἐρασίππου
ἣν ἐσορᾷς αὕτη πᾶσα θάλασσα τάφος·
ὤλετο γὰρ σὺν νηΐ· τὰ δ᾿ ὀστέα ποῦ ποτ᾿ ἐκείνου
πύθεται, αἰθυίαις γνωστὰ μόναις ἐνέπειν.
Neither the earth nor the slight weight of this stone, but the entire sea whereon you are looking is the tomb of Erasippos: For he was lost with his ship: and somewhere his bones are rotting, known to shearwaters alone to tell.

Like fish, the sea birds’ foreboding includes a loss of proper burial rites. From Artemidōros, Oneirocritica 2.17 we learn that “Gulls, cormorants, and other maritime species portend great peril for sailors but not their death, since these birds can submerse without drowning in the sea…They also indicate that things lost will not be recovered, since these birds gulp down whatever they get hold of.” [77] For sailors the final result is the same. Lost at sea, they will not receive a proper burial.

5§10. The fish and large sea bird together with the ship highlight that the danger the sailors face ahead. It is the winged warrior, the over-scaled Achilles, who will be sailors’ salvation. At the same time, the bird perched on the island may provide another clue to the island’s identity as Leuke. On Leuke birds also cleanse Achilles’s shrine, a function which they share with the birds of the islands of Diomedes (5§8-9). In support of his cult there is another parallel, which informs the reverse of B 240. Pausanias, in his description of the painting by Polygnōtos (mid 5th C BCE) in the Lesche of the Cnidians at Delphi, observed a flock of birds on the cloak which Memnon was depicted as wearing (10.31.5-7). These birds, he reports, were called Memnonides. On certain days of the year the birds wash the tomb of Memnon beside the Aisēpos River, where the birds first wet their wings. It is interesting that the three heroes shared in the motif of having their respective shrines cleaned by birds. Memnon as we shall see mirrors Achilles (6§4). (Note too that according to Pausanias Memnon’s tomb is just east of the Troad on the Aisēpos River, not in Ethiopia.)

6§. Single Combat over a Fallen Hero—Achilles and Memnon

6§1. On the reverse of B 240 is a single combat scene between two warriors over a fallen comrade. In black-figure alone there are hundreds of scenes of single combat, many of which are over a fallen hero. The scene would appear to be generic. The possible identity, if any, of the combatants and the fallen warrior can be problematic. A few include inscriptions identifying the heroes, but as in this case, most do not. Possible identifications must be based on other iconographic or synoptic evidence. For instance, a large number of these scenes feature Heracles as one of the combatants, and his identify is confirmed by his club or the skin of the Nemean lion. In the scene on the reverse of B 240, the iconographic element that most narrows the field of possibilities is the Boeotian shield held by the warrior on the left. Though the possibilities are relatively circumscribed, they are still numerous enough that the shield cannot be a basis of identification alone. Achilles is commonly shown with a Boeotian shield, though he is not the only hero depicted in black-figure with one. Nevertheless, that the over-scaled winged warrior on the obverse of B 240 also has a Boeotian shield encourages a synoptic reading and suggests that the warrior on the left is also Achilles.
6§2. More often than not the obverse of a vase-painting is not obviously thematically complemented by the reverse. Still, one image may inform another indirectly. In this case the use of a conventional single combat scene between heroes over a fallen comrade on the reverse can reinforce the identification of the hero on the obverse, when read in association with mythological motifs about that hero, such as the white island from which the over-scaled eidōlon flies. Only a few heroes are depicted as eidōlon. This itself limits the options further. In black-figure iconography, the hero on the left in single combat is conventionally the victor. On B 240 it is the hero on the left who is rendered in a manner almost identical to the over-scaled winged warrior, sans wings, on the obverse: the greaves, the helmet, the beard, and the Boeotian shield are the same. From this similarity, and the presence of the white island, identified as Leuke, I suggest the warrior on the left is likewise Achilles. But who is the hero whom he is fighting, and who is the fallen hero below? It is not likely Hector, for the single combat with Hector was not over a fallen hero. Moreover, the dual between Achilles and Hector is rare in the iconography. [78] However, depictions of the duel between Achilles and Memnon are abundant. Recall that it is in the Aethiopis that Achilles’s afterlife is sited on the island of Leuke. Single combat between Achilles and Memnon also is recorded in the Aethiopis where they duel over the fallen hero, Antilochus.
6§3. The death of Memnon at Achilles’s hands is reported by Proklos in the Chrestomathy in his summary of the Aethiopis, in a passage that is followed by the death of Achilles and of Thetis transporting Achilles from his pyre to Leuke. When Memnon arrives to aid the Trojans, Thetis foretells the battle against Memnon to her son. Once the battle begins, Memnon slays Antilochus, Achilles’s favorite after Patroclus. From Pindar, Pythian 6.28, we learn that Antilochus was killed rescuing his father Nestor. By slaying Memnon, Achilles precipitates his own death soon thereafter, foretold by his mother (as she had done in the context of his slaying Hector, Iliad 18.95-6). According to Proklos, Memnon’s mother Eōs, having requested permission from Zeus, confers immortality on Memnon. On an amphora at the Metropolitan Museum: 56.171.25 (, Eōs carries from the field Memnon’s body, with his own eidōlon, in this case a bird, hovering nearby. According to Proklos, soon thereafter Achilles was slain by Paris and Apollo.
6§4. Often in black-figure, the iconography of single combat between Achilles and Memnon includes their divine mothers, Thetis and Eōs, standing just behind the warriors. Alone as an independent image, the absence of Thetis and Eōs complicates the heroes’ identification. There is a typical example on an amphora in the Musées Royaux in Brussels A712 ( The warrior on the left here also carries a Boeotian Shield. Their presence framing the battle scene not only heightens the scene’s pathos, but anticipates the two heroes’ immortal afterlife. Scholars have long noted the mirroring of Achilles and Memnon. [79] Hesiod in the Theogony notes that their divine mothers, Thetis (1006-7) and Eōs (984-5), “bore children equal to the gods,” γείναντο θεοῖς ἐπείκελα τέκνα (968). In addition, Laura Slatkin argues that the mirroring of their sons is anticipated in their mothers: both divine mothers have mortal husbands (one Achaean, one Trojan) who cast a shadow of mortality over the sons, both mothers enter the theater of battle supporting their sons, both provide the armor from Hephaestus to their sons, both are witness to Hermes weighing of their sons’ souls, and so on. [80] Although only one of the heroes will die in the duel, the battle itself betokens the death of both, a point that Thetis already made to Achilles before their engagement, as noted above. Their presence in such a tableau makes a scene without inscriptions easier to identify.
6§5. Nevertheless as noted, iconographic elements of the obverse, the over-scaled armed and winged eidolon, its similarity to the hero on the left on the reverse, and the white island with which Achilles is associated, suggest that the similarly depicted warrior on the reverse is also Achilles. (It might seem a circular argument to suggest that the identification of a character on one side of vase is confirmed by the scene on the other, and vice-versa, but that back-and-forth is in some sense what would transpire for original viewers.) So the absence of Thetis and Eōs for the identification of Achilles and Memnon is compensated for by iconography on the obverse. Deborah Levine Gera argues that the many vase-paintings depicting Thetis and Eōs behind their respective sons are as concerned with the grief and pathos of the divine mothers’ over their sons’ imminent deaths as about the combat itself. [81] If this is the case, given the abundance of the single combat scenes where they are present, it is likely that the vase-painter deliberately did not include them. Their presence might dilute the emphasis on Achilles’s agency in the afterlife that I am suggesting B 240 invokes. Moreover, for an Athenian audience (concerned as I argue below with Persian escalation in Ionia), the vase-painter may have wanted to suppress the sympathy for Achilles’s enemy’s mother Eōs, that might be implied by the presence of their mothers. After the war, Athenian sympathy was not so taboo, witness the portrayal of the Persian queen, Atossa, and the late King Darius in Aeschylus’s Persians produced in 472 BCE.
6§6. In the mythology of their single combat, Achilles slays Memnon, who has just slain Antilochus. That Memnon slew Antilochus who was rescuing his father, Nestor (Pindar Pythian 6.28-42), son of Neleus, would have been important to the Milesians and Athenians. During the period in which this vase was produced, three aristocratic Athenian families claimed descent from Nestor: the Peisistratids from Nestor’s son Peisistratus, the Alcmaeonids from his son Thrasymedes, and the Paeonids from Antilochus. [82] Douglas Frame notes that the tyrant Peisistratus claimed descent from Nestor’s son in a bit of self-fashioning to rival a genuine claim by a rival clan, the Medontids of Athens and the Neleids of Miletus, both Kodrids. [83] It is a long metonymic chain, but I suggest that in the context of B 240, Antilochus as a descendent of Neleus might also represent Miletus. Athens of course was not disinterested in the Ionian revolt, and considered Miletus in particular more than a casual ally (8§1-3). The claims of mutual Neleid ancestry bolstered their shared identities. If B 240 were dated a few years later, Antilochus slain by Memnon, as a visual stand-in for Persia, could even allude to the defeat of Miletus in 494 BCE. The failure of the Ionian Revolt hit Athens hard. The Athenian reaction to the production of Phrynichus’s play The Fall of Miletus (Herodotus 6.21.10) indicates the Athenian sensitivity to Persian sympathy during this period. To depict Eōs’s pathos over the imminent loss of her son might have been provocative.

7§. North South East West

7§1. Read synoptically, in the single combat scene on B 240, Memnon would be a metonymy for the Persian threat, and his imminent death at Achilles’s hands, in turn, would signify the result that the Athenians invoking Achilles were seeking. But how would Memnon personify Persia, when he is more commonly associated with Africa and Ethiopia? It appears likely that Memnon’s association with (African) Ethiopia was a later or at least parallel tradition. (Later sources, Philostratus for instance, even claim there were two Memnons and that the one at Troy was Trojan (Heroicus 26.17)). Robert Drews argues that the Memnon of the Aethiopis is Asiatic not African. [84] Memnon is after all the son of Eōs, Dawn, who rises in the east. Albin Lesky distinguishes eastern Ethiopians, who are mythological, from African, who are historical. [85]
7§2. The multiformity of Memnon’s backstory is richer and more involved than is commonly assumed. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Aphrodite tells Anchises about the coupling of another goddess and hero, Eōs and Tithōnos, son of Priam. She says that after Eōs snatched Tithōnos away from Troy, they “dwelled beside the streams of Ocean at the ends of the earth,” ναῖε παρʼ Ὠκεανοῖο ῥοῇς ἐπὶ πείρασι γαίης (228). D. T. Potts emphasizes Memnon’s association with Susa. [86] Strabo (15.3.2) reports that Memnon’s father Tithōnos founded Susa. Susa dates back to 4400 BCE, and later served as the capital of Elam when Cyrus the Great captured it in 540 BCE, after which it became the Persian winter capital. Strabo also notes that Aeschylus in his play Memnon called Memnon’s mother Eōs by the epithet “Cissia.” In the Persians the chorus of Persian elders makes reference to the ancient Cissian walls of Susa (16-17). Later they sing of their dread that the “city of Cissians” will soon chant its lament for their dead (120). So Memnon’s connection to Susa and Persia was well established through both his mother and father. Nearly contemporary with B 240, Aeschylus represented Memnon as a “Persian by residence and partly by birth.” [87] Herodotus too provides strong evidence for the identification of Memnon with Persia. In the region of Cissia, the Persian kings’s palace at Susa was called the Memnonion (5.52-3; 7.151). With these considerations in mind, the Asian Memnon is a more than fitting graphic personification of Persia standing in opposition to the Greek hero Achilles.
7§3. With regard to the invocation of Achilles on B 240, it is the west-east opposition between Achilles and Memnon that is important. The geopolitical view accords with the proem of Herodotus’s Histories. In studying the cult of Achilles in the Euxine Sea, Guy Hedreen however delineated a north-south opposition between the two heroes. [88] As noted above (6§4), the heroes as mortal enemies mirrored one another. I would suggest, however, that their notional north-south opposition is overdetermined. First of all it is based on the two heroes’ presumed afterlife destinations. In his summary of the Aethiopis Proklos reports that Achilles was transported by Thetis from his pyre to Leuke island, as we’ve seen. But prior to localization in the Euxine, Leuke was part of a continuum of afterlife locations beyond the known world (3§6). Where Memnon was to spend his afterlife is not reported in the Aethiopis, nor do any surviving archaic or classical texts inform us. Hedreen however, while noting that Proklos does not report where Memnon spends his afterlife, claims that “it is known from other sources that Eōs brought her son back to Ethiopia.” [89] His sources are not clear however. Yet later antiquity had other locations at least for his burial site. Pausanias claims his tomb was beside the Aisēpos river near the Hellespont, where it is attended yearly by the Memnonides, birds who clean his tomb (10.31.5-7)(5§10). Quintus Smyrnaeus agrees, and notes that at Eōs’s bidding the Winds carried his body there, where he continued to be honored (2.585). Dictys of Crete contends that Memnon’s remains were carried by his sister Himera to Phoenicia and that she buried his urn there in Phalliotis (6.10). Be that as it may, I would suggest that the binary relationship between Achilles and Memnon has less to do with their geography of their afterlife than with their mythological roles in the Iliad and Epic Cycle as warriors across the geopolitical divide. Memnon’s latter day association with Susa and Persia, which Herodotus references (7§2), would have been important in contemporary thought.
7§4. Hedreen, as I do, thinks that Milesian sailors, when they eventually encountered an island offshore of the Ister river, localized it as the location of Achilles’s afterlife, based on their familiarity with performances of the Aethiopis. He acknowledges the importance of Achilles’s hero cult to sailors generally, but he does not think this alone is sufficient motivation for the appellation of the island. [90] Consequently he relies on a notional north-south structural opposition between the locations of Achilles’s and Memnon’s afterlife, and between the Ister and Nile rivers, (between Scythian territory on the north shore of the Euxine and Ethiopia in the extreme south). The sailors, apparently attuned to this north-south Achilles-Memnon opposition, thereby considered this island in the northwestern Euxine to be at the opposite end of the earth from Ethiopia in the south (not east). [91] Based on the notional north-south geographical opposition between the two heroes, the sailors established the cult of Achilles in the northwestern Euxine, first around Olbia, then at Leuke. I rather think the more relatable and powerful incentive for Milesian sailors, familiar with the Aethiopis, would have been that the island became a safe layover from storms and accordingly fit their disposition towards Achilles’s cult function as a savior of sailors. [92] In addition, the location of Memnon’s afterlife in African Ethiopia is unattested.
7§5. The two scenes on B 240 together address the west-east geopolitical axis present at the time of their production. As argued above, the reverse of B 240 portrays the single combat between Achilles and Memnon. The eventual victor with a Boeotian shield is on the left. Memnon, backfooted, is on the right. The obverse is asymmetrical. The opponent is out of the frame, but clearly the focus of the warrior. With the reverse the two panels comprise a montage, each synoptically informing the other. On the obverse, the over-scaled winged warrior is coming from the left, aloft above a ship. The ship is a synecdoche for either the Milesian or Athenian fleet. Outfitted in like manner (but with wings) as the warrior on the left on the reverse, the immortal Achilles flies towards an unseen enemy outside the frame on the right. The winged warrior’s absent opponent is provided by the reverse. The warrior on the right, Memnon, is a scion of the East.

§8. Invoking the Hero

8§1. Ionian Miletus, closely allied with Athens and itself a maritime power in the Euxine Sea, was at the time of the B 240 vase painting ( 500 BCE +/-) under threat from Persia. Around 560 BCE the Lydian king Croesus conquered the Greek Ionian cities, including Miletus. They operated under his rule until around 540 BCE when he made the ill-fated attempt against Persia. Cyrus the Great in turn conquered Lydia, and shortly thereafter, since the Ionians had refused to help him against Croesus, turned his attention westward. He sent the Median commander Harpagos to conquer the Ionian cities. Once subdued, the Ionians were difficult to incorporate into the burgeoning empire as each city also had its own internal strife. Eventually the Persians found an effective formula and chose a local tyrant in the individual cities to manage their affairs. But the tyrants often put their own interests ahead of the Persian king. Eventually a nascent democratic movement competed for local authority. In 499 BCE a faction from Naxos approached Aristagoras, the surrogate Milesian tyrant, for support in seizing power there (Histories 5.30). He contrived a plan to enlist the support of Artaphrenēs, the Persian governor of the Asian coastal cities. Artaphrenēs then secured the support of king Darius in Susa. The campaign that resulted failed and Aristagoras lost favor with the Persians.
8§2. Lacking further Persian support, Aristagoras decided to rouse the Milesians and the other Ionian cities to revolt against Persia. When in 499 BCE the Milesians began the revolt, Aristagoras switched sides and declared a democracy. He then went to the Greek mainland for support. The Spartans turned him down. Having recently overthrown their own tyranny for a democracy, the Athenians were more receptive. Their former tyrant, Hippias, Peisistratus’s son, in exile had earlier appealed to Artaphrenēs, who had told the Athenians to return him to power (Herodotus 5.96). For this reason the newly democratic Athens viewed Persia as an enemy. Aristagoras shrewdly cited the Athenians shared ancestry (Herodotus 5.97), along with other inducements. (Herodotus claims he had over-persuaded the Athenians and that it was easier to persuade 30,000 citizens than one man, the Spartan king Kleomenes.) Athens and Miletus had had a long association, even sharing common ancestors (6§6). At this point the Athenians decided to support Miletus, and sent twenty ships.
8§3 After initial success at Sardis, the Athenian support foundered in Asia after the battle at Ephesus, and they went home. Meanwhile, the Persians were engaged on three fronts and were slowed in recovering Ionia. By 494 BCE the Persians had regrouped and were preparing a counterattack. The Ionians met at Paniōnion and decided not to engage the Persians directly on the Ionian mainland, but to take their campaign for Miletus to sea (Herodotus 6.7). The Ionian alliance was anything but firm, and at the battle of Lade, the Persians destroyed its fleet, at least of those who had remained to fight. Shortly thereafter Miletus fell. The next year Phrynichus produced the Capture of Miletus and was fined and banned from the theater (Herodotus 6.21). Two years later Persia invaded mainland Greece, and in 490 BCE the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon. These events, I suggest, are the backdrop to the scenes on B 240.
8§4 Achilles would have been an appropriate hero to summon to assist the Athenian allies on behalf of Miletus. By this point in time he was associated with both cities. On several fronts the Athenians for most of the 6th century were engaged in appropriating Achilles for their own self-fashioning and political advantage. They contested with the Mytilenaeans from Lesbos for control of the Troad, and specifically for the notional tomb site and shrine of Achilles, respectively at Sigeion and Achilleion. [93] Although the appropriation of Achilles crossed the political divide in Athens, for the Peisistratidae he was a high priority, because it affirmed their own legitimacy. One of Peisistratus’s son, Hegesistratus had as his surname Thettalus, the Thessalian. When Peisistratus defeated the Mytilenaeans and secured Sigeion for Athens, he installed this son as its tyrant (Herodotus, Hist. 5.94). His surname was a politically convenient way to connect the Peisistratidae with Achilles, who had been born in Thessaly, as part of their larger effort to claim the legacy of Homer. Later Hippias, another tyrant son of Peisistratus went into exile at Sigeion when he was expelled from Athens.
8§5 The Athenians’ appropriation of Achilles in the Hellespont had a local parallel, too. The Athenians also incorporated the Aiakidai including Ajax into their sphere of influence. When the Athenians were fighting the Megarians for Salamis both parties eventually agreed to call on the Lacedaemonians as arbiters. The Athenians cited the Iliad for their claim. Plutarch (Solon 10) reports that most writers believed the Catalogue of Ships supported the Athenians’ claim (Iliad 2.557-58): “And Ajax led twelve ships from Salamis/ and bringing them he placed them where the ranks of Athenians stood.” Plutarch adds that Solon himself had inserted the second line into the Iliad. H. A. Shapiro observes that while the account of Solon may have been apocryphal, he allows that such a line may have been added during the Peisistratid recension. [94] In either scenario, in the process of establishing a territorial claim over Salamis, the Athenians staked part of their claim on the Iliad, through Ajax’s siting of his encampment.
8§6 The appropriation of the Aiakidai does not end there. In 506 BCE the Athenians defeated the Thebans in a battle. According to Herodotus the Thebans sent to the Pythia seeking vengeance against Athens (Herodotus 5.79). They were advised to “entreat their nearest.” When they puzzled out the oracle they understood that their “nearest” meant Aegina. Both Thebes and Aegina were nymph daughters of the river Asopus (Herodotus 5.80). Aegina’s notional founder was Aiakos, husband of Aegina, and father of Telamon and Peleus. So they sent to the Aeginetans and asked that they be sent the Aiakidai (presumably their agalmata). Upon their receipt they engaged the Athenians again, and once again were defeated (Herodotus 5.81). In defeat they sent the Aiakidai back to Aegina and requested men instead. By this time there had long been animosities between the Athens and Aegina, a so-called “ancient hatred”, ἔχθρη παλαιή. [95] After the Theban appeal the Aeginetans variously attacked the Attic coastline in what Herodotus called a “heraldless war,” πόλεμον ἀκήρυκτον (Herodotus 5.81). When the Athenians prepared to counterattack Aegina they received an oracle from Delphi advising them to wait thirty years, and in the thirty-first year to establish a precinct for Aiakos. Frustrated with the oracle’s reply, the Athenians delayed there war against Aegina, but built a sanctuary precinct (τέμενος) for Aiakos at the Athenian agora (Herodotus 5.89). Nagy suggests that this was to neutralize the Aeginetans’ power. [96] In this way they staked a claim to all the Aiakidai, Telamon and Peleus, the first generation, and Ajax and Achilles in the second, to the further chagrin of Aegina.
8§7. The invocation of heroes was commonplace even if not quite routine. John Gould describes the process by which the Greeks incorporated stories of miraculous events said to have been witnessed in battles into their collective memory, which Herodotus frequently draws upon, as mythologizing. [97] He cites the blinding of Epizēlos as an example. At the battle of Marathon he claimed to have been blinded by seeing a larger than life apparition of a warrior attacking him (Herodotus 6.117), but then it bypassed him and slew a comrade. This story not long afterward was memorialized in one of the wall paintings of the Stoa Poikilē. Plutarch notes also that Theseus appeared to many Athenians at the battle of Marathon and was honored as a hero (Theseus 35.5). Not many years later (475-6 BCE) Cimon, an Athenian stratēgos, prompted by an oracle, recovered the larger than life bones of Theseus and re-interred them in Athens to great fanfare (36.1-2). For such mythologizing to be successful, there had to be a predisposition in the culture for the intervention in contemporary events by heroes. That is, such an intervention was to be expected, and it was believed to have happened many times before. To claim a phenomenon was mythologized is to acknowledge that the society incorporated it into its ideological fabric with an eye to the future. It was part of the political synergy of hero cult. This predisposition was also fodder for political self-fashioning. W. Kendrick Pritchett catalogs forty-nine epiphanies by gods or heroes in military contexts. [98] Whether heroes who were summoned and/or appeared was a case of cynical manipulation or not doesn’t alter the underlying point: heroes were believed to have agency and efficacy in contemporary events. The population was predisposed to and even expected their intervention.
8§8. This predisposition is evident in Attic tragedies. In one capacity or another heroes intervene either on top of the skēnē or by way of the deus ex machina in a number of plays: the eidōlon of Clytemnestra appears to rouse the sleeping Furies when Orestes escapes in Aeschylus’s Eumenides (94f); Heracles appears in Sophocles’s Philoctetes to convince Philoctetes to proceed to Troy (1409); the ghosts of Polydorus and Achilles (as we’ve seen) in Euripides’s Hecuba intervene as the Achaean fleet is departing the Hellespont. Heroes were also invoked to intervene: in Aeschylus’s Persians (623-80) the chorus of Persian elders summon the psychē of Darius; in Euripides’s Heracles (490-6), Megara, Heracles’s wife, summons him to save their children; and again in his Electra (677-84) Orestes summons Agamemnon to protect his children. Each hero had already passed to Hades when summoned.
8§9. The absent presence of the Aiakidai at Salamis amplifies this predisposition. Not only were they seen in the midst of the battle, and Ajax subsequently honored, but the Aiakidai were summoned in advance (Histories, 8.64, 83-84). Once summoned the hero Ajax intervened in the events of the day and helped defeat the Persians, after which he was duly honored (8.121). I suggest that something not unlike that is what the vase-painting represents, a summoning of Achilles to assist the Greeks against the threatening Persians on a previous occasion involving Miletus. Not only does the vase-painting represent his summoning, it enacts it. The vase-painting itself has agency within the context of hero cult through the invocation of the hero. Like the Homeric eidōlon and the cult hero himself, the B 240 amphora functions as an intermediary between the two worlds of the living and the dead.
8§10. Why would the Athenians invoke Achilles instead of a more local hero? Would another hero have been appropriate? With few exceptions Greek hero cults were almost always local. The agency of any given hero was believed to be limited, within a short range of its center, usually the hero’s tomb. This limitation was also the case with Achilles on the island of Leuke, according to later sources. Philostratus tells us that to bring the last surviving member of Priam’s clan to Leuke (where he kills her), Achilles had to solicit a merchant to retrieve her (Heroicus 56.6f) from the Troad. His effective range from the island was circumscribed. But he also tells us that when the Thessalians failed to honor him at his tomb in the Troad, he destroyed their livelihood (Heroicus 53.22-3), all the way across the Aegean. Like Heracles (who in time joined the Olympians) and the Dioscuri, Achilles had some measure of Panhellenic status. Hedreen suggests that his cult status for sailors gave Leuke itself Panhellenic status. [99] As we’ve seen, the Athenians put considerable effort into appropriating the hero in the Troad (8§4). Parker suggests that even his extended range derived from his mother Thetis, a sea-nymph, in his capacity to aid sailors. [100] When he eventually crushed the Thessalians he was aided by his mother. Unexpectedly they were not visited by a flood or famine or plague, but rather Achilles wrecked their market for purple dye, derived from the shells of the murex snail, a sea creature.
8§11. Like Diomedes situated in his afterlife on the Isole de’ Tremiti, Achilles range was extended by the travels of sailors themselves who would erect portable altars on board ship. [101] This capacity would be attractive for a polis such as Athens with maritime aspirations. [102] As noted above Athens itself in the 6th century had a keen interest in being connected with Achilles. And with regard to Miletus, Athenaeus (Learned Banqueters 2.43d-e) quotes Aristobulus of Casandreia (375 BCE – 301 BCE)(FGrH 139 F 6), who claimed that there was a spring in Miletus known as the Achilleion and that the Milesians claim that the hero had purified himself with its water after he had killed his cousin Trambēlos. [103] However there is scant archaeological evidence that Achilles may have had a shrine or was a cult hero in Miletus itself, unlike in the Milesian trading posts in the northwest Euxine. At least through its trading posts in the northwest Euxine and the island of Leuke, which B 240 identifies, Miletus too participated in Achilles’s hero cult. Achilles would therefore have been conveniently associated with both Athens and Miletus, and with the sea (4§). As noted above both cities claimed a common heritage. And Achilles had been the best of the Achaeans against an eastern foe: he had killed both Hector and Memnon, and was the hero most feared by the Trojans.
8§12. I have argued that this vase is invoking Achilles in his capacity as a cult hero. The iconographic message of the vase-paintings on B 240 engages the binary geopolitics between West and East, Greece and Persia, at the level of hero cult. To summarize, the very unusually rendered curvilinear island object, nearly fifty per cent white, can be associated with no other hero. Islands (and headlands) in the black-figure iconography are consistently black. The artist has rendered a sufficient swath of his island white for a reason. Leuke, the White island, was widely considered the home of Achilles’s afterlife (3§6). From later literary sources we learn that Achilles often rescued sailors in peril in its vicinity (4§5f). Both the oversized sea-bird and the fish beneath the ship alert the viewer to the unseen danger facing the ship’s crew. Fish are a common motif for an imminent threat in both visual and verbal media. They signal not just the threat of death, but an even greater fear, death without proper burial (5§1-7). The enormous eidōlon, an immortalized Achilles, is accordingly coming to the aid of the sailors. Most scholars have associated the exceptional size of this eidōlon on B 240 with Achilles, the best of the Achaeans (see 9§ Appendix). It is fitting that this larger than life hero is also larger in his afterlife. The scale indicates his particular immortalization and semi-divine status (2§31), and perhaps the magnitude of his task.
8§13. The single combat scene on the reverse alludes metonymically to this west-east rivalry in my reading (7§1-2). That this rivalry underpinned a Hellenic ideology (in spite of the self-dealing and opportunism by all parties) is attested by Herodotus’s proem. To be sure, whether Herodotus held such a rigid cosmogonical binary view is still contested. But that he introduces his account of the Persian wars in such a fashion attests to an west-east opposition ideologically prevalent in the culture. The single combat scene can be read synoptically to contextualize the danger ahead (but outside the frame) for the ship on the obverse. By itself the scene could certainly be generic. But as noted, the warrior on the left side, traditionally the location of the victor, is rendered (sans wings) with the same attributes as the over-scaled eidōlon. If then he is also Achilles, the opponent would be either Hector, or Memnon. In the Iliad, the single combat between Achilles and Hector was not over a fallen comrade. But in the Aethiopis, Antilochus is the fallen hero over whom Achilles and Memnon duel. Memnon had just slain Antilochus who had come to the aid of his father Nestor, son of Neleus. Neleus himself was an important figure for both Athens and Miletus. Another son of Neleus, Codros, would become the notional founder of Athens and Miletus (8§3). Antilochus, one of the two sons of Nestor present in the Trojan War, may function in the vase painting as a metonym for Miletus. Achilles avenges Antilochus’s death at the hands of Memnon. As we’ve seen, Memnon, the son of Eōs, in the archaic period was still associated with the east, and specifically Persia (7§2). It is the Aethiopis, too, that places Achilles’s afterlife on Leuke, traditionally in the west beyond Ocean (3.6) The notional author of the Aethiopis, Arctinus, was Milesian. The island of Leuke was an uninhabited outpost and layover during storms for sailors venturing to and from the Milesian trading posts. Once localized it was closely identified as the home of Achilles’s afterlife.
8§14. Archaic vase painters worked within an iconographic tradition. Within their own medium they interacted indirectly with the multiform poetic and mythological tradition. [104] Hero cult was also a vibrant, even existential, part of that tradition. What might seem to be a departure, in this case a over-scaled eidōlon, is nevertheless defined by the ambient system within which the artist operates. Legibility is by necessity a requirement of the system. At the same time, through legibility the system reinforces itself and participates in the broader culture. There are no comparable surviving black-figure vase-paintings quite like the obverse of B 240, either in the scene depicted, or in the scale of the major iconographic elements. But in the wider cultural experience, particularly in the fluency of hero cult, these visual exaggerations make immediate sense. Heroes after all were thought to be larger than life. And in the absent presence after their death their agency continued. What for the modern viewer requires unpacking, is lived experience for the contemporary audience. The expectation for intervention by an immortal hero in daily life and in major contemporary events presupposes their super-heroic presence and agency. In reaching back to the mythological conflict in a present circumstance, the present participants in some measure reenact the prior confrontation between east and west when they summon a past champion. Ritual and hero cult are where the mythological past intersects and interacts with the daily present. Contemporary with the painting of B 240 was the Persian suppression of Ionia and the Ionian Revolt, in which Athens itself was engaged on behalf of Miletus, with whom it shared ancestry. Faced with the Persian threat, they invoked Achilles. B 240 enacts such an invocation of the hero Achilles.

9§. Appendix—Prior Scholarship

9§1. Attempts to interpret the vase-painting begin shortly after the British Museum acquired the neck amphora in 1848. The prominence of the over-scaled winged warrior has held center stage ever since. Most scholars have identified the winged warrior as the eidōlon of Achilles. Where they differ, to the limited extent they engage the rest of the scene, is over the location and action of the composition. Every reading assumes to a certain extent that the vase-painter was illustrating a scene from a text, either from an epic or a tragedy, or other verbal media, rather than hero cult. This assumption undoubtedly colors the interpretations. Moreover, with the exception of Susan Woodford’s explication, not one scholar contextualizes the primary figure of the vase-painting with the other elements in the scene or integrates the action within the broader system of iconography.
9§2. The first scholar to publish an interpretation was Eduard Gerhard in 1852. [105] He suggests that the scene represents the deceased Achilles overtaking the Achaean fleet departing from the Hellespont after sacking Troy in order to demand the sacrifice of Polyxena. He argues that the vase-painting illustrates a scene not unlike what Euripides presented in Hecuba (ll. 35-41 & 107-115 & 521-541). Carl Robert two decades later reiterated Gerhard’s interpretation. [106] This reading has been criticized by modern scholars based on the date of Euripides’s play when compared to the earlier date of B 240. [107] They make the assumption that there was a single narrative of the Greek homecoming and that Euripides must have invented his own version without other sources.
9§3. But the sacrifice of Polyxena in the archaic period was already a feature of Greek visual culture. Another black-figure neck amphora from the mid 6th C. BCE in the British Museum, 1897.0727.2 (, graphically represents her sacrifice at the hands of Neoptolemus, Achilles’s son. A similar scene occurs on the so called Polyxena sarcophagus found near the Troad in 1994 and dated to around the 530’s BCE, which itself is connected to the hero cult of Achilles. [108] To be sure, these do not depict the eidōlon of Achilles intervening, but they do indicate the intensity of the myth and practice of his (and her) cult and their interest for artists during the same time frame as that of B 240. In addition, Polyxena also appears on one panel of the Monteleone chariot found in Etruria, which the Metropolitan Museum dates from the 6th C. BCE. This scene is thought to represent Achilles’s apotheosis. He is rising from the ground in a chariot pulled by winged horses. Below the horses is a prone, though apparently not yet dead, Polyxena. (On the other two panels are Achilles and Memnon fighting over the body of Antilochus, not unlike the scene on the B side of B 240, and Thetis presenting Achilles with his new armor.) Her sacrifice was also alive in the epic tradition. Proklos, in his Chrestomathia, cites from the the Iliou Persis her sacrifice by Neoptolemus. [109] Just because Euripides is the earliest surviving reference to Achilles’s demand for the sacrifice of Polyxena is not a solid basis for rejecting an interpretation based on a terminus post quem in an oral culture, given the multiformity of oral culture and the sheer volume of lost literary texts. But even without earlier visual, oral, or literary antecedents, the vase-painter working within the the iconographic tradition would not have been stretching too far to visualize such a scene.
9§4. Nevertheless, even if one allows for a tradition earlier than Euripides’s Hecuba, or the artist’s own interpretive skill, problems with this reading remain. The primary evidence in the vase-painting weighing against Gerhard’s interpretation is the black and white object on the left of the scene. His reading, and that of some other scholars (see below), requires that to fit the funereal topography of Ilium, this object must be read as Achilles’s semā, or, as Egon Peifer allows, that the object could be the headland of Sigeion on the Hellespont. [110] Both options are attractive and metonymically related. Yet there is no other representation of a semā or tomb like the one on B 240 in black-figure iconography. Moreover, the headland of a mainland is absent in black-figure iconography. Rather, this black and white object belongs to the iconography of islands (see above 3§). In addition, in this reading of Achilles demanding the sacrifice of Polyxena, the foreboding fish and oversized bird would be superfluous to the story. Fish, as I’ve noted, were considered in archaic culture a threat to sailors. They have no role in Polyxena’s story. Likewise, sea-birds poised near or on departing ships were markers of imminent threats, relevant for a departing fleet, but not Polyxena.
9§5. In a similar vein several later scholars also locate the scene on the Hellespont. While sidestepping Achilles’s demand for the sacrifice of Polyxena, they cite the brief account from Proklos’s Chrestomathia of the epic Nostoi as a source. [111] Here Achilles’s eidōlon appears to Agamemnon and tries to prevent the fleet from sailing by alerting Agamemnon of the dangers of their return voyage. This is a more promising option for several reasons. Some of the other elements in the iconography would support the theme of the scene. Consistent with how their iconography functions in other vase-paintings, both the foreboding fish and oversized seabird reinforce the dangers ahead for the departing sailors. Moreover, by the date of the vase-painting, Achilles’s cult was widely associated with the safety of sailors. [112] By delaying their voyage he (momentarily) would be acting on their behalf. How much he would have been able to divert the gods’ anger, which ultimately dooms several heroes’ return, is questionable though. Even so, the issue of the iconography of the island remains. If the artist had at his disposal the powerful iconography and tradition of Achilles’s semā on the headland of Sigeion, and associated that semā, as was commonplace, with his hero cult, wouldn’t he have chosen it instead of a curvilinear form most commonly used to represent islands?
9§6. Jean Pouilloux and Georges Roux depart from other interpretations in that they contend that the figure of the winged warrior is the living Achilles, and not his eidolon. [113] In their account the over-scaled winged warrior is Achilles making his “Trojan Leap” from the ship upon arriving in the Troad. They suggest the wings represent Achilles’s renowned speed. Such a reading might seem to be supported by the precedence of a Middle Geometric skyphos (Eleusis 741) and a Middle Geometric krater (Metropolitan Museum 34.11.2)(, on both of which an oversized warrior (without wings) darts above the crew of his ship eager to engage opponents on shore. [114] But this scenography did not carry over into black-figure. Aside from the lack of precedence for a living hero, even swift-footed Achilles, having wings, a hero being many times life-sized did not carry over from the Geometric style. [115] Moreover, the orientation of the scene does not support such a reading. The ship and the winged warrior are moving away from what in this case would have to be the headland of Sigeion, not towards shore where he might alight.
9§7. A very few have argued that the eidōlon on B 240 belongs to someone other than Achilles. As noted above, within the iconography of archaic black-figure, there are only a few heroes whose afterlife is depicted in this way, albeit all in miniature. Besides Achilles, there are Patroclus, Hector, Sarpedon, and Memnon. Otto Ribbeck suggests that the figure is Patroclus. [116] He extrapolates from the few fragments of Accius’s tragedy The Battle at the Ships, that Patroclus’s eidōlon appears to demand purification for his death. This tragedy is thought to have been modeled on Aeschylus’s Myrmidons. His reading depends on the idea of a continuation of the battle of the ships after Patroclus has driven the Trojans from the Achaean camp and then been slain by Hector. Patroclus’s ghost then intervenes while Achilles waits for new armor. Not enough fragments survive from either the Myrmidons or the The Battle of the Ships to support this thematic multiform, however. Even if there was sufficient testimony for the multiformity of The Battle of the Ships, that the ship depicted on B 240 is on the sea under oar discounts the on-shore continuation of the conflict.
9§8. The scholars discussed so far agree in locating the scene for B 240 on the Hellespont. Dagmar Kemp-Lindemann, Karl Schefold, and Hildebrecht Hommel, who identify the eidōlon as that of Achilles are more equivocal about location. Under the influence of the Aethiopis they relate the scene to Achilles’s translation to the island of Leuke by Thetis, yet at the same time they ambiguously conflate the scene with Sigeion. If the scene depicts his departure from the Hellespont, the island iconography is no less problematic, as is the ship. If he is circulating aloft around the island of Leuke, the opportunity to acknowledge his cult activity there is overlooked. It seems that they are at a loss to explain Achilles’s action flying above the ship, if they actually locate him on Leuke.
9§9. Kemp-Lindemann seems to have initiated this interpretation. [117] His account is based on the scene from the Aethiopis. Rather than accept that the black and white object on the left of the scene represents the island of Leuke however, he suggests the object is a rock which could be Cape Sigeion, in which case the ship represents the Greek fleet there. He then allows that the eidōlon may be flying to its destination on the Isles of the Blest. Why the ship in the composition would be going the same direction as Achilles at the time of his death and funeral cannot on this reading be explained. He does note that the island of Leuke was associated with a cult of Achilles, but does not pursue this association in the narrative compression of the vase-painting.
9§10. A few years later Schefold reiterates this interpretation. [118] Rejecting earlier readings, he reaffirms Kemp-Lindemann’s interpretation based on the Aethiopis and claims that the vase-painting represents the soul of Achilles flying past the rocky crag of the Trojan shore and the (Achaean) fleet towards the island of Leuke. Like Kemp-Lindemann he does not explain why the ship is being rowed in the same direction as the winged warrior is flying. Achilles’s funeral and translation occur well before the sack of Troy and the fleets’ departure. As in most of the other readings the foreboding fish and oversized bird would be superfluous to the composition. Schefold also notes that the Aethiopis locates the island of Leuke in the Black Sea, but in fact the Aethiopis does not locate Leuke anywhere. As Erwin Rohde points out, “The poet himself can hardly have imagined Achilles’ Island to have been in the Euxine Sea, where, however, later Greek sailors located this purely mythical spot.” [119]
9§11. Hildebrecht Hommel also identifies the eidōlon flying above the ship as Achilles, and that he is departing the Troad after his burial bound for the island of Leuke. [120] Based on the vector of the winged warrior’s flight, the black and white object on the far left is once again either his semā or the headlands of Sigeion. As with similar interpretations, his reading also does not account for why a ship would be departing at the same time. Hommel’s work argues that Achilles prior to the epic tradition was a death divinity. And while he doesn’t connect the image in the vase-painting to the cult of Achilles per se, he extensively explores his cult around the Euxine coast and the island of Leuke. Nevertheless, he does not identify the black and white object as Leuke, or link the eidolon’s actions with those attributed to Achilles there by later writers.
9§12. Curiously, few of these scholars even note the size of the eidōlon at all. This is perhaps the most important and unusual element in the image. Moreover both the scale of the island and the ship contextualize its enormity. Gérard Siebert curiously claims it is a normal size, [121] noting it is shown alone (without other figures). This is a result of his approach that tends toward the extremes of medium specificity—its size is independent even of its context. What matters is the iconography in and of itself. Consequently he does not attempt to locate the scene or identify the action. Kemp-Lindemann does point out that it looks like an over-scaled eidolon, but does not offer a reason for its large size. Stähler suggests the enormity of the eidōlon, together with its wings, indicates a primeval spirit of the dead, [122] but he does not attempt to connect it with a particular hero or god. Hommel on the other hand stresses that its size and wings are indicative of the warrior’s divine status, [123] and as noted above, identifies the figure with Achilles, not for his heroic life or later hero cult, but as a primeval death spirit.
9§13. Egon Peifer too thinks the figure is clearly and significantly larger than life, and that it is Achilles. [124] He briefly surveys the most common options, that of the spirit of Achilles halting the fleet’s departure until the Achaean’s sacrifice Polyxena to him, or that of his departure from Sigeion for the islands of the blessed (or Leuke), but then considers (he does not quite endorse) a third option, that the scene enacts Achilles’s afterlife on the island of Leuke. In so doing he also links the scene tangentially to Achilles’s cult on Leuke based on the later texts of Arrian and Philostratus, and his importance to sailors. Peifer differs from previous scholars in that he brings more facets of the vase-painting into his readings. He suggests the large bird roosting on the island watching the ship is a raven and links it to Apollo and Achilles’s death. (This is unsupported.) He also explores the connection of the individual combat on the reverse with the scene on the obverse, but states that the fallen hero may be the eidōlon on the obverse. But this is not consistent with the iconography; Antilochus is never depicted as an eidōlon, much less as a hero of such proportions. Ultimately Peifer does not opt for one scenographic or narrative option, but allows that the figure’s character is “supernatural.” While I agree that the reverse informs the obverse, as I’ve discussed, in my reading it is not the fallen warrior who becomes the over-scaled winged warrior, but the eventual victor in the single combat on the left of the vase, who, sans wings, resembles the eidōlon in every way, and that is Achilles.
9§14. The interpretation of the vase-painting which departs the most from all the others is that of Susan Woodford. [125] She contends that the over-scaled winged warrior represents Palamēdēs flying homeward to insure that the Achaean fleet is destroyed on the Capherian rocks as it approaches the Greek mainland. Her interpretation, she claims, incorporates all the elements in the scene. The catalyst for her reading is a dissatisfaction with the accounts for how Nauplios, Palamēdēs’s father, could have known that his son had been killed and the time of the fleet’s arrival. She infers this dissatisfaction from the inconsistency of ancient versions. It was Nauplios who misdirected the fleet with beacons onto the rocks. The solution to this difficulty, she argues, is depicted on B 240. The ghost of Palamēdēs overtakes the Greek fleet to alert Nauplios. This interpretation is not persuasive on several accounts. First, the problem of how Nauplios could know of Palamēdēs’s death and the fleets’ imminent arrival is overstated. This is a reductionist problem perhaps, but not an artistic or mythological problem. Beacons managed to alert Clytaemnestra’s watchman of Agamemnon’s arrival. Philostratus later claims that Poseidon, Palamēdēs’s grandfather, had the beacons lit (Heroicus 33.47), and he importantly adds, even against Palamēdēs’s will. Multiformity of myth was not problematic for the Greeks, though it might trouble us. Second, the bow of the ship this Palamēdēs is overtaking is heading away from, not toward, what Woodford identifies as a “proleptic allusion the Capherian rocks” (p. 167). Third, while she acknowledges that there is very little surviving iconographic evidence of Palamēdēs, it is worth emphasizing that Palamēdēs is not on the list of heroes depicted as eidōlon. Given Palamēdēs’s status as culture hero, if anything is problematic, it is his absence in the visual culture that calls out for explanation. Lastly, and most importantly, such a Palamēdēs as Woodford constructs does not fit the prevailing view from antiquity of Palamēdēs’s character. There is no evidence suggesting he was vengeful. Quite the contrary, he is recognized a s a wronged hero. As Jeffrey Rusten notes, “by the fifth century, when the development of civilization was seen as a series of technological advances, Palamēdēs acquired the role of the archetypical inventor, who is as wise, high-minded, and magnanimous as Odysseus is crafty, malicious, and jealous.” [126] In Philostratus’s telling, he even opposed Poseidon’s efforts on his behalf.
9§15. In the fragments of Aeschylus (Fr. 181a, 182), Sophocles (Fr. 432, 429), and Euripides (Fr. 578), his is the role of a culture hero. Gorgias models a speech to demonstrate his own rhetorical skill as if he were Palamēdēs mounting his defense against the accusations of Odysseus that he had betrayed the Greeks. Once he discredits Odysseus, he praises his various inventions and achievements which substantially benefitted the Greeks (Defense of Palamēdēs 30). Socrates just before his death says that he hopes to converse with Palamēdēs in his afterlife, and other heroes who lost their lives by an unjust judgement (Plato, Apology 41B). Later Philostratus is effusive in his praise of Palamēdēs’s contributions to the Greek effort at Troy (Heroicus 33). His list of his beneficial deeds includes the discovery of seasons, currency, weights and measures, writing, and backgammon (33.1-3). At Ilium he arrayed the army, encouraged a diet to ward off plague (33.14-17), and when he fought heroically, he gave credit to others (33.30), and refused his share of booty (33.45). Philostratus says he pitied his accusers and executioners (33.37). This is not the character of a hero prone to seek revenge. The one account, that of Dares the Phrygian, that even remotely discredits Palamēdēs, reporting that he usurped Agamemnon’s leadership, hedges (26). He notes that Palamēdēs was wise, magnanimous, and charming (13). In his version though, Palamēdēs was not framed and prosecuted by Odysseus, but was killed by Alexander. At his death Dares says the loss of his wisdom, justice, mercy, and goodness was lamented. In Dares’s story, any reason for his revenge is moot. So while Woodford incorporates most of the iconography of the vase-painting into her interpretation, when she overdetermines Nauplios’s purported information deficit, she constructs a Palamēdēs out of character with all extent tradition.


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– Washington, DC


[ back ] 1. The British Museum acquired the neck amphora from Basseggio in 1848. There is minimal provenance information. It has been assumed that the vase was found in Italy. According to the Beazley Archive, the vase painting has variously been attributed to Antimenes (Kunze-Gotte), the Daybreak Painter (Pouilloux), or a member of the Leagros Group (Kossatz-Deissmann, Schefold).
[ back ] 2. In some ways the term eidōlon used in scholarship for a diminutive figure is misleading. In Homer the term is used for a full size figure. Gregory Nagy calls the figure in vase-paintings an “homunculus.” This highlights its diminutive nature in the visual arts (2§1f) and avoids its confusion with Homeric usage. Nagy 2013:180f.
[ back ] 3. Nagy 2011:175.
[ back ] 4. When I quote a verse from Homer, for instance, it is to reference how an idea or image or metaphor permeates the oral culture writ large, and not to suggest that the vase painter would have actually been quoting a source directly.
[ back ] 5. All translations are mine.
[ back ] 6. Ajax himself might be considered a candidate for the over-scaled winged warrior on B240, especially if the vase-painting were dated after the battle of Salamis. However there are no examples of his eidōlon in black-figure iconography, even in depictions of his death scene. Moreover, this style of this eidōlon seems to have dropped out of the iconography before Salamis.
[ back ] 7. I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Leonard Muellner for his critical comments and conversations concerning this study. I would additionally like to express my appreciation to Gregory Nagy for challenging me to explore this vase-painting and for his critical review of the work.
[ back ] 8. Peifer 1989:109-114. In his extensive catalog Peifer cites several other eidōla than that on B 240 that might be taken to be life size or larger. He duly notes that while there are a couple of winged warriors that fill the pictorial frame of the vessel, the compositions lack any contextual references by which to judge their scale. For instance, see the neck amphora in Brussels at the Musées Royaux (R390)
[ back ] 9. Siebert 1981:65-6.
[ back ] 10. Jones 2015:814-837.
[ back ] 11. Retained here for consistency, however.
[ back ] 12. Vernant 1991:167-68.
[ back ] 13. Nagy 2013:180-1. Nagy discusses both vases extensively in his exploration of apobatic races. See below, 2§9f.
[ back ] 14. Nagy 2013:169-234.
[ back ] 15. Stähler 1967:13.
[ back ] 16. Vermeule 1979:18.
[ back ] 17. Four-horse teams are present in the iconography of the funeral games of Patroclus as seen in the François vase, circa 570 BCE.
[ back ] 18. Nagy 2013:228 & 231.
[ back ] 19. Stähler 1967. Nagy: 2013: Ch. 7 & 8. Stähler lists 16 examples, one of which, in a private collection, he does not describe. Nagy examines 14 of these.
[ back ] 20. Nagy 2013:224-227.
[ back ] 21. Nagy 2013:271.
[ back ] 22. Stähler 1967:32.
[ back ] 23. Stähler 1967:15.
[ back ] 24. Nagy 2013:234.
[ back ] 25. Nagy 2013:271.
[ back ] 26. Nagy 2011b:174.
[ back ] 27. Nagy 2013:206.
[ back ] 28. On the shoulder, however, there is a chariot race.
[ back ] 29. McGowan 2016:163-79. Pl. 61, Fig. 9.
[ back ] 30. Dué 2019: 23 & 25, following Muellner 2012, notes that while variations in the way a story is presented between graphic and verbal media may be a result of media specificity and each mediums’s distinct tradition, they may also be a testament to the multiformity of the larger tradition.
[ back ] 31. In the Hellenistic period and beyond, versions of a love interest between the two thrived. Lycophrōn’s Alexandra alludes to Polyxena’s future cruel wedding and marriage sacrifices proclaimed by Cassandra (323f). In Hyginus’s Fabulae it is reported that Achilles’s voice rose from his tomb demanding her sacrifice. He had wanted to marry Polyxena, and it was for this reason that he had sought to meet with Priam when he was ambushed and killed by Alexander and Dēiphobos (110). Dictys of Crete claims that on one occasion Achilles had gone to observe the religious ceremonies of the Trojan women, noticed Polyxena, and next begged Automedōn to go to Hector and pursue his suit for her (3.2). This too precipitated his death (4.11), and her sacrifice (???). Darēs the Phrygian says Achilles first encountered her when she accompanied Priam to claim Hector’s body, and that then he fell in love with her (27). Again his ambush and murder followed (30). Once Troy was sacked, Agamemnon gave her to Neoptolemos who sacrificed her at Achilles’s grave (43). In Heroicus Philostratus too acknowledges their love interest (51.1), and that they met when Priam came to ransom Hector’s body (51.4). But his account of her death is distinct. Once Troy is sacked she soon went to his grave site alone, begged him to remain her lover and to take her as his wife. Then Polyxena falls on a sword in an act of self-sacrifice (51.6). This account is told to the Phoenician by the Vinedresser who in tending the sacred precinct of Prōtesilāos has been so informed by his phantom. In his Apollonius of Tyana a giant epiphany of Achilles tells Apollonius that Polyxena came to his sēma willingly and honored him greatly falling on an upturned sword (4.16.4). The most extensive version of all survives in Quintus Smyrnaeus’s Posthomerica (14.209-328).
[ back ] 32. Haspels, C. 1936:133 & 238.
[ back ] 33. Nagy 2018:142.
[ back ] 34. Nagy 2018:138.
[ back ] 35. Nagy 2012:.60f.
[ back ] 36. Lateiner 2002:58.
[ back ] 37. Hatzivassiliou 2010:141.
[ back ] 38. Drews 1969:191. Drews thinks the connection of the Memnon of epic to African Ethiopia was not made until the Hellenistic period. This lekythos at Gela would suggest otherwise.
[ back ] 39. Woodford and Loudon 1980:29-30 & 34. Woodford and Loudon identify several examples of unclothed youths running along the ground plane next to Ajax carrying Achilles as eidōla. They rightfully recognize these examples as a cross contamination with a scene in which Aeneas is carrying the aged Anchises (the youth would be Aeneas’s son), but fail to note that the youthful figure is not consistent with the eidōlon iconography.
[ back ] 40. Hommel 1980:24. His premise however is not based on the hero’s immortalization at death, but rather he argues that originally Achilles was a primordial god of death.
[ back ] 41. Peifer 1989:112.
[ back ] 42. Ekroth 2007:110.
[ back ] 43. Woodford 1994:166f.
[ back ] 44. There is much uncertainty about the scene, which was popular in Magna Graecia and among the Etruscans. P. Kerényi argued that the figure was Theseus with Skirōn, but his interpretation hasn’t received support. O. Touchefeu-Meynier contended that the figure is Heracles journeying to the Hesperides. Zancani Montuoro’s position has received the most attention, that the figure is Odysseus being picked up by a sea turtle when he dropped from the fig tree (note plant on the upper right) after his encounter with Charybdis. As Masseria and Torelli 1999: 242-44, point out, this reading would obviously suppose an alternative tradition to the Odyssey. But supporting the Odyssean reading of the hero riding the tortoise, the hero waves a lure in front of the tortoise to keep it moving forward. This clever device has been interpreted as a sign of Odysseus renowned metis.
[ back ] 45. Haspels 1936:57-8; Pl. 17.1a.
[ back ] 46. When I use the term “localize,” I am referring to the process by which a mythological place becomes attached to a specific locale.
[ back ] 47. Rohde 1950:65. This remains a viewpoint still contested by the Analysts, who use the relatively late range of dates when Milesian sailors might have stumbled across the island in the Euxine to argue for a late date for the Aethiopis, simultaneously rationalizing the mythology and ignoring the operations of oral culture. See Popova 2015:67-68. Popova provides s a summary of the debates concerning dating.
[ back ] 48. Davies 2016:76-77.
[ back ] 49. Burgess 2009:109f.
[ back ] 50. Nagy 1999:167.
[ back ] 51. Burgess: 2009:108.
[ back ] 52. According to W. Kendrick Pritchett the battle in which Leōnymos was injured was the Battle of the River Sagra (555-540 BCE). Pritchett 1979:22.
[ back ] 53. Popova 2015:67-72
[ back ] 54. Bivolaru, Giaime, Morhange, Andrieu-Ponel, Rossi, Marriner, & Vespremeanu-Stroe 2021:533–549.
[ back ] 55. Boardman 1980:250-1.
[ back ] 56. For modern observers Leuke is approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) off the coast. Like the Nile and the Mississippi, the river has had numerous outflows, and its primary channel and deltas have shifted over the centuries. The distance its delta has stretched into the Black Sea has increased. During the 7th C BCE the principal discharge was its southern channel. The city of Ister, a late 7th C BCE trading post of Miletus, was sited on the coast south of the mouth. It is 140 kilometers (90 miles) from Leuke to the NE. Because of the strong current on the Black Sea, sediment was carried SE once the Danube discharged it. Much of the ancient delta therefore was built south of the discharge zone, and not out to sea. When the course of the river shifted northward, the delta backfilled the north side of the ancient delta. The distance from the coast from land north of this outflow in ancient times would have been @ 64 kilometers (40 miles). A later primary channel was even further north and backfilled the land due west of Leuke, resulting in its closer modern distance from land. Ships sailing from Ister to Olbia would likely have navigated near this coast, the closet point of which in the 7th C BCE was @35 miles to Leuke. To have found Leuke island, the ships would have likely been driven eastward by storms, at least until such time as the island was more commonly known, and sought out, once Achilles’s hero-cult was established there, most likely by the Milesian colonists of Olbia approximately north-northeast of Leuke. (All distances are approximate and based on coastal geomorphological maps in Bony, Morhange, Marriner, Baralis, Kaniewski, Rossignol, & Lungu 2015:86-203.
[ back ] 57. Hedreen 1991:328. Rohde 1950:65 & 565f. Recently, Popova 2015:70.
[ back ] 58. Rusyaeva 2003:9-11. Finds from surveys by Okhotnikov and Ostroverkhov includes numerous fragments of polychrome terracotta symes and antefixes consistent with late archaic period Ionic temples. She concludes: “This similarity can serve as evidence that the temple of Achilles was constructed with the help of Milesians almost simultaneously with the temple of Apollo Ietros in Olbia, probably within the last quarter of the sixth century BC.”
[ back ] 59. Here and in Iphigenia among the Taurians (ll. 435-438) Euripides would appear to conflate Leuke with the site of Achilles’s Racecourse at the mouth of the Borysthenes River adjacent to Olbios.
[ back ] 60. Nagy 2013:668-670.
[ back ] 61. Nagy 1999:341-2.
[ back ] 62. Nagy 1999:343-4.
[ back ] 63. Nagy 1999:344.
[ back ] 64. Nagy 2011a:46-8.
[ back ] 65. Nagy 1999:343-4. Hedreen 1991:322-3.
[ back ] 66. Rusten, König, & Philostratus 2014:67.
[ back ] 67. Castriota 1992:76-89.
[ back ] 68. Parker 2011:244-46.
[ back ] 69. Φίλταθ’ Ἁρμόδι’, οὔ τί πω τέθνηκας,/ νήσοις δ’ ἐν μακάρων σέ φασιν εἶναι,/ ἴνα περ ποδώκης Ἀχιλεὺς/ Τυδείδην τέ φασι τὸν ἐσθλὸν Διομήδεα. PMG 894. “They say, most dearest Harmodius, that your are on the island of the blessed, where swift-footed Achilles and noble Diomedes are.” The song links the tyrant slayer to Achilles. Opportunely, the Peisistratidae and democrats claimed legitimacy through Achilles.
[ back ] 70. Buchner 1966:4-12.
[ back ] 71. Hurwit 2011:1-18.
[ back ] 72. Nagy 1999:340.
[ back ] 73. Beaulieu 2016:120-144.
[ back ] 74. Pollard 1977:127 & pl. 2.
[ back ] 75. Thompson 1918:92-6.
[ back ] 76. Thompson 1918:94, & Thompson 1936:27-29.
[ back ] 77. Quoted from Mynott 2018:286-7.
[ back ] 78. Burgess 2004:33.
[ back ] 79. Slatkin 2011:33.
[ back ] 80. Slatkin 2011:32f.
[ back ] 81. Gera 2020:69-70.
[ back ] 82. Frame 2009:586n155.
[ back ] 83. Frame 2009:587-8.
[ back ] 84. Drews 1969:191.
[ back ] 85. Lesky 1959:27-38.
[ back ] 86. Potts 2017:15-30.
[ back ] 87. Sommerstein 2008:130-1.
[ back ] 88. Hedreen 1991:324-330.
[ back ] 89. Hedreen 1991:324.
[ back ] 90. Hedreen 1991: 322.
[ back ] 91. But this doesn’t follow. In constructing the north-south opposition Hedreen makes much of the fact that Leuke is located near the mouth of the Ister River in the Euxine sea. Following Milesian cartography he compares this location to the sources of the Nile. But the locations of Leuke and Ethiopia in relation to their respective rivers are neither symmetrical nor homologous. The island of Leuke is at the outflow of the Ister in the northwestern Euxine, whereas Ethiopia is at the headwaters of the Nile. Leuke is offshore of the terminus of the its river, Aethiopa is at its river’s source.
[ back ] 92. There is another opposition between heroes besides that between Achilles and Memnon in the Aethiopis: the one between Achilles and the Amazon Queen Penthesilea, who, like Memnon, allied with Troy and was also slain by Achilles. There are various traditions for the Amazons’ homeland. Herodotus, schooled in Milesian geography though acknowledging his own geographical uncertainty of the matter, identifies the Phasis river as the place near which the Amazons dwelled, and claimed it was the boundary between Asia and Europe (4.45). The Phasis river flows into the southeastern Euxine Sea. Might not the Milesian sailors whom Hedreen references (if in fact they needed a geographical opposition for identifying the island near the coast of the western Euxine Sea as the afterlife home of Achilles) just as likely had the east-west symmetry of the Euxine itself in mind? In the visual culture in Athens Micon’s Amazonomachy mural in the Stoa Poikilē equated the Athenians’ victory over the Amazons with their defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon (4§8).
[ back ] 93. For an extensive account of this conflict see Nagy 2011b:148f.
[ back ] 94. Shapiro 1981:174.
[ back ] 95. Figueira 1985:49-74.
[ back ] 96. Nagy 1990:178.
[ back ] 97. Gould 1989:38.
[ back ] 98. Pritchett 1979:10-46.
[ back ] 99. Hedreen 1991:322.
[ back ] 100. Parker 2011:244-46.
[ back ] 101. Parker 2011:244-46.
[ back ] 102. Some Athenians recognized their disadvantage against the late 6th century thalassocracy of it local bête noire Aegina.
[ back ] 103. Olson 2006:244-247.
[ back ] 104. Nagy 2013:228 & 231.
[ back ] 105. Gerhard 1839-1858:101 & Pl. CXCVIII.
[ back ] 106. Robert 1881:136.
[ back ] 107. Peifer 1989:110-11.
[ back ] 108. Burgess 2009:114.
[ back ] 109. Davies 2001:73.
[ back ] 110. Peifer 1989:110-12.
[ back ] 111. Davies 2001:78.
[ back ] 112. Parker 2011:244-246.
[ back ] 113. Pouilloux & Roux 1963:117f .
[ back ] 114. Hurwit 1985:82 & 96.
[ back ] 115. Benson 1987:1-7.
[ back ] 116. Ribbeck 1875:356.
[ back ] 117. Kemp-Lindemann 1975:229.
[ back ] 118. Schefold 1992:278.
[ back ] 119. Rohde 1950:65.
[ back ] 120. Hommel 1980:24.
[ back ] 121. Siebert 1981:63-73.
[ back ] 122. Stähler 1967:36.
[ back ] 123. Hommel, H. 1980:24
[ back ] 124. Peifer 1989:109-112.
[ back ] 125. Woodford 1994:164-169.
[ back ] 126. Rusten, König, & Philostratus 2014:52

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