Achilles Kills Penthesilea Amphora (540 B.C.E)

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It was common in classical Greek civilization to depict myths through art. They were not just transmitted orally, but passed down in sculpture, painting, and amphora. This amphora is currently held in the British Museum. What it depicts is Achilles slaying Penthesilea Queen of the Amazons. Scholars believe it was made around 540 B.C.E. Both the warriors from the Greek myth are shown in attic black figure. This type of painting was a popular art style in classical Greek civilization. Amazons were depicted in Greek vase paintings as early as the sixth century B.C.E. Normally these women warriors of Greek myth would fight Greek heroes. Strong and independent, they were not glorified as role models as the male heroes. Modern day interpretation as theorized that having amazons in myth was a way to glorify men and disparage independent women. Athenians were in particular more strict in terms of women’s freedom and legal rights. Achilles killing Penthesilea in this amphora could be a subconscious warning or threat for women not to challenge the patriarchal status quo. As the myth goes, after Achilles  slays Penthesilea he falls in love with her. Sometimes it seems the amazons were not depicted as villains, but admired for their fighting spirit.

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