Achilles and Patroclus

Achilles and Patroclus Kylix

Brief Identification: Edit

This red-figured kylix, or drinking cup, was found in Vulci, Italy and is from 500 BCE. It was found in the region of Etruria and is from the Late Archaic period. It was made by the potter Sosias and painted by an unknown painter, referred to as the Sosias painter. The inside of the cup depicts Greek warrior, Achilles, banding the wounds of his friend and fellow Greek warrior, Patroclus. The outside of the cup depicts Herakles entering Olympus. It is currently located in the Altes Museum of the State Museums of Berlin. 

Technical Evaluation: Edit

The inside of the kylix depicts Achilles bandaging the wound in Patroclus’ arm, while Patrolcus sits on his shield with his quiver on his back, and his head turned away from the wound. An arrow sits on the far left of the painting and could possibly be what caused Patroclus’ wound [8]. The outside of the kylix depicts Herakles entering Olympus, accompanied by Greek gods and goddesses (two of which are Athena and Selene), all walking towards Zeus and Hera. Poseidon, Ares, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Hermes, Amphitrite, and Artemis are also present [8]


Achilles bandage the wound of Patroclus

The kylix is signed by the potter Sosias and is made of ceramic, sculpted with clay. Its height is 10 centimeters and its diameter is 32 centimeters. It is painted in Red-figure style by a person known today as the Sosias painter due to the lack of a known name. Red figure style painting is the opposite of black figure style. Red figure is painted in a way in which the red clay is left exposed and the area surrounding the scene is painted black. After being painted, the pottery would go through the triple-phase firing technique, during which the pottery was fired three time, finalizing the process.  

The kylix was excavated in Vulci, Italy in 1828. It came to Berlin in 1829 and is now part of the Antikenmuseen Collection in the Altes Museum of the State Museums of Berlin.  

Local Historical Context Edit

This object was created in the Late Archaic Period in Vulci in the region of Etruria. The Etruscans were an ancient Italic culture that developed from a prehistoric civilization known as Villanovan, which lasted from 900 BCE to 500 BCE [3]. At the start of the 7th century BCE, the Etruscans settled in the central region of Italy. Etruria was ruled by The Federation of the Twelve People, which was the confederation of the Etruscan city-states. These city-states were similar to the Greek city-states in that they were a loose confederation tied together economically and politically [7]. Etruria survived until the end of the 2nd century BCE, when its people were absorbed into Roman culture due to the lack of unification among Etruscan city-states [Grant 1979, 723]. Much of what is known about the Etruscans comes from their art and the archaeological findings [3].

Greek Red-figure, Attic (so named after Attica), pottery had been exported to Etruria from Greece in the 5th century BCE. It gained popularity in Etruria, leading to schools and workshops for predominately red figured pottery, heavily influenced by Attic style. Etruria eventually became a lead market for exporting Attic vases and other Attic pottery. Vulci, in particular, had a large industry for the growing demand of Attic red figure pottery. While the red figure painting style was in imitation of Greek Red-figure pottery, a Southern Italian influence did effect the painting of the pottery [1]. Achilles and Herakles were common topics of Red-Figure Etruscan pottery, which closely resembled Athenian pottery [Osborne 2001, 284].

The subject of the Red-figure pottery was also heavily influenced by the Greeks. The kylix depicts great Greek influence. Achilles and Patroclus were both on the Greek side during the Trojan War. Herakles is also originally a Greek myth. This is due to the fact that Romans admired Greek art and mythology. Although, for Romans, mythology was more decorative than it was religious due to the fact that Etruscans had their own gods [4]. Etruscans participated in the exotic Greek culture through the representation of mythology in their art [Osborne 2001, 290].

World-Historical Significance Edit

The Achilles and Patroclus Kylix displays the great influence of Hellenistic culture. Etruscan culture is heavily tied to Greek culture. Greeks were interested in Etruria due to its abundance of metals, specifically copper and iron [Grant 1979, 717]. They shared the same alphabet and had a similar confederation of city-states. Etruscan art was based off of Greek art and were similar in pattern and technique. The heavily effect the Greeks had on Etruscan art and culture shows the influence and significance of Hellenism in the ancient world.

Etruscan civilization greatly impacted the formation of Rome. The name, Rome, has Etruscan origins, as do the names of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Etruscan elites actually started the formation of Rome by giving the small farming settlements that made up Rome a basis political structure through a monarchy and army, and also by giving them urban advances, such as walls and a drainage system. Etruscans taught the Romans how to make tools from metal, and build buildings and homes. These structures featured arches, which later evolved into domes that Rome became famous for. Etruscans also built a forum in Rome [Mehta-Jone 2005]. Overall, it was the Etruscans that sparked the formation of Rome [9]. Etruscan art later went on the influence the art of early Rome. Etruria sparked the beginnings of Rome and Roman art. Obviously, Greek influence was heavy in both Etruscan art and Roman Art. Because Etruscans had such an influence in shaping Roman civilization, they had a lasting influence on later Western culture [9].

Bibliography Edit

[1] Mauro Cristofani, et al. "Etruscan." Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 18, 2015,

[2] Grant, Michael. "The Expansion of the Etruscan City States." History Today 29, no. 11 (November 1979): 715. History Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 20, 2015).

[3] Hemingway, Colette, and Seán Hemingway. "Etruscan Art". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)

[4] Willem F. Lash. "Mythological painting and sculpture." Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 18, 2015,

[5] Mehta-Jones, Shilpa. "Rise of Roman Rule." Life In Ancient Rome (January 2005): 8-11. History Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 20, 2015).

[6] Osborne, Robin. "Why did Athenian pots appeal to the Etruscans?." World Archaeology 33, no. 2 (October 2001): 277-295. History Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 20, 2015).

[7] The Etruscans. Films On Demand. 1980. Accessed April 20, 2015.

[8] Perseus Digital Library, "Berlin F 2278 (Vase)",

[9] TimeMaps, "Civilization: The Etruscans",