II. Brave Beginnings

II-1 Centaur from Lefkandi, ca. 900 BC (end 10th century)


The centaur from Lefkandi as made during a period when the Greeks could not write. The earliest surviving Greek literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are about 150-200 years later.

The Iliad 4: 217-219 mentions a wise, helpful centaur.The Odyssey 21: 295-304 mentions a centaur who gets into a fight with humans because he is drunk. Both passages are quoted, by permission of the copyright holders, in your text. Both the

helpful centaur and, more often, troublesome ones recur in later Greek literature. The wound in the knee of the Lefkandi centaur has reminded scholars of a much later story, found in the Bibliotheke of Apollodorus, not earlier than the second century BC, also discussed in your text.

II-2 Centaur and Man (Herakles?), end 8th century BC

Possibly found at Olympia, uncertain

II-3 Joined Warriors, end 8th century BC

A pitcher (oinochoe) in the Agora Museum, Athens. Brown paint on pale ground. Height of pitcher, 9 in. (22.8 cm).

The two figures who seem to share a single shield decorated with a checkerboard have seemed to some scholars odd enough to belong to the realm of myth. See readings for brief discussion

II-4 Fragment of scene possibly depicting the death of Astyanax.

Late 8th century BC

Large figure grabs smaller figure by the leg. Possibly referring to the sacking of Troy, as described in the Little Iliad (a mostly lost poem, shorter than Homer's Iliad). The scene seen here may illustrate the following passing, which describes how the Greek, Neoptolemos, killed the child Trojan prince, Astyanax: Neoptolemos seized Astyanax "from the bosom of the fair-haired nurse, and taking him by the foot, cast him from the tower."

II-5 Shipwreck (Odysseus?), end 8th century BC

This is a jug for pouring wine. It was made in Athens in the last quarter of the eighth century (725-710 BCE), and is now in a museum in Munich. It is 21.5 cm. high.

Right below the spout of the vase a man is sittingon the upturned keep of a boat. All around him are fish and other men, arms extended helplessly.

II-6 Man, Woman, Boat. end 8th century BC

Found in Thebes, but made in Athens c. 730 B.C.


At the time this picture was made, the Iliad and the Odyssey were being composed. Other stories about the Trojan War were also known, although they have not survived to the present day. The story of the beginning of the Trojan War, including the abduction of Helen by Paris, was told in a poem called the Cypria which later writers often quote or allude to.

comparative material:

boats: boats like this were familiar to the Greeks of the time, and are shown on numerous vases

sizes: two figures much larger than the others have no close parallels in Greek art (cf. dead person on contemporary vases, sometimes slightly larger than others).

gesture: man's hand grasping woman's wrist: found in later art in scenes of force, or scenes of marriage.

II-3 Man, Woman, Boat. detail

Persons and Events of interest:

  • Centaur

  • Helen

  • Herakles

  • Paris

  • Trojan War

Objects and Places:

  • Grave goods

  • Offerings at sanctuary (Olympia)

  • Pottery

Texts and Authors:

  • Homer

  • Iliad

  • Odyssey

  • Bibliotheke