Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Bronze Krater of Vix

The Vix Krater, around 500 BCE

This huge krater was found near Chatillon-sur-Seine and is still in the little folkloric museum there. Somehow, the Louvre failed to get its paws around this thing, which may have been described by Herodotus himself.

It is a volute krater, identified by the volute (scrolled) handles. The decoration is especially rich. The elaborate volutes are decorated with snaky Gorgons, one of whom was peeping out of the ground in 1952, leading to the discovery of this magnificent vessel. Running around the top is an elegant frieze which caps a continuous band of warriors accompanying horses and chariots. The design of these is boldly stated and carefully patterned with especially fine horses.

Herodotus 1.70:
This was one reason why the Lacedaemonians were so willing to make the alliance: another was, because Croesus had chosen them for his friends in preference to all the other Greeks. They therefore held themselves in readiness to come at his summons, and not content with so doing, they further had a huge vase made in bronze, covered with figures of animals all round the outside of the rim, and large enough to contain three hundred amphorae, which they sent to Croesus as a return for his presents to them. The vase, however, never reached Sardis. Its miscarriage is accounted for in two quite different ways. The Lacedaemonian story is that when it reached Samos, on its way towards Sardis, the Samians having knowledge of it, put to sea in their ships of war and made it their prize. But the Samians declare that the Lacedaemonians who had the vase in charge, happening to arrive too late, and learning that Sardis had fallen and that Croesus was a prisoner, sold it in their island, and the purchasers (who were, they say, private persons) made an offering of it at the shrine of Juno: the sellers were very likely on their return to Sparta to have said that they had been robbed of it by the Samians. Such, then, was the fate of the vase.
Classics, MIT