The Reception of the Trojan Cycle in Greek Vase-Painting: The Case of Sosias’ Cup

Isabella Nova, Università Cattolica di Milano*

1. Introduction

This paper will focus on the depiction by the Sosias Painter portraying Achilles healing the wounded Patroclus. This representation was chosen as a case-study in order to show how epic characters and situations were reproduced in iconography. The aim of this research will be to assess if a specific narrative was the necessary point of reference for painters and how they dealt with different mythical traditions about the same characters or episodes.
Any topic dealing with the reception of episodes from the Trojan cycle in vase-paintings requires some preliminary remarks. Firstly, in the fifth century BC the epic tradition was still relatively fluid and single episodes were not perceived as unmodifiable. Although perhaps written forms of the poems (especially the Iliad and the Odyssey) were available, they were known to the public primarily in performance and oral tradition also preserved variants of legends that have no written record. Painters, thus, draw on a wide traditional material, without necessarily referring to a single poetic composition. [1]

Moreover, the comparison between written sources and visual representations demands further examination, since discrepancies are always likely to occur when comparing sources from different media (in this case, literature and visual arts). This topic has been thoroughly investigated by Lowenstam who enumerated a list of reasons why occasionally an image may ‘deviate’ from a known narrative: [2]

  1. the very difference of media may have caused difficulties in reproducing a narrative
  2. painters may have not known a traditional story
  3. the use of a traditional iconography led to departures from a known narrative
  4. the addition of labels (with names of epic characters) to a genre scene originated a composition where new details clashed with the older ones
  5. artists presented their own versions of myths
  6. artists combined different moments of a story in a single scene
  7. a different version of a story was followed or a combination of different sources

Even though these considerations are undoubtedly decisive in most cases, it has long been acknowledged that they have a major flaw in the assumption that paintings are necessarily related (and subjected) to a narrative, thereby excluding the option that a painter may introduce a new theme himself. [3] In this sense, the scene depicted by the Sosias Painter does not seem to fall into these categories or to cross some of them and consequently it proves to be a good example of issues that arise when approaching the topic of reception of the epic cycle in vase-paintings.

2. The Sosias’ cup [4]

The famous scene of Achilles healing the wounded Patroclus was depicted by the Sosias Painter on the tondo of the cup now in Berlin (Antikensamm. F2278, BAPD 200108) around 500 B.C. (Figure 1). The figures are identified by labels and further characterised by iconographic details. The wounded man, Patroclus, turns his head aside in a clear expression of pain, his body lies on the ground in a dismantled and unsymmetrical position (one leg is close to the body, the other one is stretched out, reaching the border of the tondo with his foot). An arrow is placed close to his knee, probably to signal that it has been just extracted from the wound or as a further hint to the characterisation of Patroclus as an archer (he carries a quiver on his shoulder). Achilles’ figure is painted in sharp contrast to Patroclus’. He is presented as his friend’s healer and at the same time as a warrior who has just taken a brief break from the battlefield (he still has his helmet on his head). His position, then, is harmoniously designed to fit in the composition: his arcuated back follows the tondo line and his hands right at the centre of the scene execute the bandage (highlighted by the white colour). Such attention to details, proved also by the carefully delineated carvings on the cuirasses of the two characters, suggests a very sophisticated artist who decorated a luxury object. It is unlikely, then, that the scene did not also have a specific meaning in reference to the epic tradition.

However, difficulties arise because the episode represented on the cup, involving two main epic heroes, is not narrated in any extant literature.

Two interpretations have been proposed so far to tackle this issue. The most recent one, [5] argues that the painting alludes to the future events awaiting both heroes, by means of a tragic contrast with what is represented. Thus, the viewers would associate the scene where Patroclus is healed by Achilles to the fatal doom he is bound to, namely his death caused by Hector. Achilles’ attitude too would carry a tragic meaning: he is represented as capable of taking care of his friend, but will be absent when Patroclus is killed and, later on, he will be himself overcome by the fate and he will never come back from the battlefield. Though fascinating, this interpretation remains largely unprovable, since it relies on allusive processes that are very difficult to assess (especially in the case of episodes unknown to us, i.e. Achilles taking care of his wounded friend). It seems unlikely, then, that a painter created a scene ex nihilo, with the only purpose of alluding to a very different episode.

A more grounded and convincing hypothesis is that the artist took inspiration from an episode perhaps narrated in the Cypria, namely the Mysian expedition of the Achaean leaders before arriving to Troy. [6] Proclus’ summary of the lost poem mentions this episode, but Patroclus is not named in that respect.

However, Patroclus’ participation in the Mysian campaign together with Achilles is attested by Pindar. In Olympian 9.70–75 Patroclus’ strength and courage are emphasised since he was the only one able to resist together with Achilles against Telephus’ attack. Shortly after, despite this achievement, Achilles warns Patroclus never to fight in a battle without him:

76 ἐξ οὗ Θέτιος γόνος οὐλίῳ μιν ἐν Ἄρει
77 παραγορεῖτο μή ποτε
78 σφετέρας ἄτερθε ταξιοῦσθαι
79 δαμασιμβρότου αἰχμᾶς

(Pindar Olympian 9.76–79) [7]
From that time forward, the son of Thetis exhorted him never to engage in deadly war far from his own man-subduing spear.

It seems highly likely, thus, that the scene painted by the Sosias Painter must be considered in relation to the adventures of the two heroes narrated in the Cypria (or in a poem about the Mysian expedition) and that it stems out from episodes similar to what Pindar recalls.

However, since there are no signs of Patroclus being wounded or defeated in this part of the epic legend, it may well be possible that the painter introduced some innovations. As it will be shown below, such an innovation is perfectly coherent with the mythological tradition, because it involves a theme much celebrated in the fifth century (the deep friendship between Achilles and Patroclus), that is further developed through a recurrent pattern in Greek epic legends (the healing of a wounded friend).
This paper will first examine the motif of healing in the Greek epic cycle, and then focus on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus as presented by Greek authors and iconography in the fifth century.

3. Healing heroes in Greek mythological tradition

Several heroes were worshipped as healers in ancient Greece, even those who are not renowned for their medical activity in legends. [8]
Occasionally, however, heroes are noted for having healing abilities during their lifetime, and even though this aspect is not frequently emphasised in the extant narratives, the medical art was part of the training of some of them, especially those who were raised by the centaur Chiron. In contrast to the other centaurs, generally portrayed as uneducated and violent, Chiron is mild and wise and, moreover, he is a healer himself [9] and was venerated in cult as such. [10] His teachings included archery, hunting and healing and all his most noteworthy pupils (Asclepius, Actaeon, Jason and Achilles) [11] excelled in one of these skills. Asclepius’ proficiency in medicine, thanks to Chiron’s training, is well renown and consistently celebrated, just like Actaeon’s success as a hunter. [12]

Jason and Achilles had a close relationship with Chiron and they both learned how to cure injuries, even though only sporadic references to their medical knowledge survive. As for Jason, the most ancient reference to his training by Chiron is attributed to Hesiod:

ὅτι δὲ ἐτράφη παρὰ τῷ Χείρωνι ὁ Ἰάσων, Ἡσίοδός φησιν·
Αἴσων, ὃς τέκεθ᾽ὑιὸν Ἰήσονα ποιμένα λαῶν,
ὃν Χείρων ἔθρεψ᾽ἐνὶ Πηλίῳ ὑλήεντι.
(Hesiod fr. 40 M-W = scholia vetera ad Pindar Nemean 3.92 Drachmann)
Hesiod says that Jason was bred by Chiron: Aeson, who had a son Jason, shepherd of people, whom Chiron raised in Pelion rich in woods.

Accordingly, Pindar groups Achilles, Jason and Asklepios together for having been raised by Chiron in Nemean 3.43–55 and the most detailed account about his youth is given in Pythian 4, in the words of Jason himself. When he comes in front of Pelias, he states that he aims at bringing there the ‘teachings of Chiron’ (φαμὶ διδασκαλίαν Χείρωνος οἴσειν, Pindar Pythian 4.102) and recalls that he was given to the centaur when he was a baby, he stayed at his cave for twenty years and apparently even his name, Jason, was bestowed to him by the centaur (Φὴρ δέ με θεῖος Ἰάσονα κικλήσκων προσηύδα, Pindar Pythian 4.119). This remark is generally interpreted as a pun on the etymology of Ἰάσων, deriving from ἰάομαι ‘to heal’, maybe implied also at Pythian 4.270 by the term ἰατήρ. [13]

The word-game on Jason’s name appears to have been quite transparent in antiquity, as the ancient comments to this passage suggest:

παρὸ ἰατρὸς ἦν, τὸν ἐκτραφέντα ὑπ᾽ἀυτοῦ φερωνύμως Ἰάσονα ἐκάλεσε παρὰ τὴν ἴασιν
(scholia vetera ad Pindar Pythian 4.211a Drachmann)
wherefore he was a healer, [Chiron] called the one who was bred by him accurately Jason, from ‘healing’.

Other late accounts about the education of Jason report that he was taught medicine by Chiron:

ὁ αὐτὸς δὲ Πελίας καὶ Ἰάσονα τῷ ἱπποκενταύρῳ Χείρωνι παραδέδωκε παιδεύειν αὐτὸν τὴν ἰατρικήν
(scholia vetera ad Hesiod Theogony 993a Di Gregorio)
Pelias himself entrusted Jason to the centaur Chiron so that he could teach him the medical art.
εἰκότως δὲ παρεισήνεγκεν εἰκόνα τοῦ Χείρωνος, καὶ ὅτι φιλάνθρωπος δικαιότατός τε Χενταύρων, καὶ διὰ τὴν οἰκειότητα τὴν πρὸς τὸν Ἰάσονα. παρ᾽ἀυτοῦ γὰρ ἔμαθε τὴν ἰατρικήν, ὅθεν καὶ Ἰάσων ἐκλήθη, παρὰ τὴν ἴασιν
(scholia vetera ad Apollonius Rhodius 1.554 Wendel).
Appropriately he (scil. Apollonius) introduced the portrayal of Chiron because he was a philanthrope and the most righteous of the Centaurs and because of the familiarity with Jason. In fact, he learned medicine from him, wherefore he was called ‘Jason’, from ‘healing’.

Jason’s healing skills are not explicitly mentioned in any other literary account, but they were portrayed on a Corinthian crater, now in fragments (Figure 2): [14] the decoration shows Jason (iscr. Ειασον) laying his hands on Phineus’ eyes (iscr. Φινευς). Besides him there are Poludeukes (iscr. Πολυδ(ε)υκ(ε)ς), a woman perhaps labelled as Timandra (iscr. Τι.α.δρα) and a third figure interpreted as Kalais (iscr. [Κ]αλ[αις]). This scene does not recall any known narrative about the Argonauts, but, thanks to the inscriptions, it has been convincingly interpreted by M. Vojatzi as a depiction of a healing episode: Jason is curing Phineus’ blindness by laying hands on his eyes. [15] The story of Phineus regaining his sight is not preserved in any literary account, while the healing of his sons’ blindness was treated in the lost Phineus by Sophocles, where they were cured by Asclepius. [16] Even without a confirmation by literary sources, it may well be possible that in an ancient version of the myth Phineus himself was cured and that the healer was Jason (after all, the encounter of the Argonauts with the blind Phineus was a well-established part of the Argonauts’ journey).

As a healing hero, Jason may serve as a good parallel for Achilles. According to one legend concerning his youth, Achilles too had been raised by Chiron and his training consisted in using the javelin, running, and hunting, as described by Pindar (Nemean 3.44–49). [17] Euripides’ brief remarks focus only on the teaching of a moral behaviour (Iphigenia in Aulis 706 and 926–927), while Philostratus adds also music to the list (Heroicus 5.4–7). [18]

However, his ability to use medical herbs is more rarely recalled. The only instance in the Iliad occurs when the wounded Eurypilus asks Patroclus to cure him with the remedies that he learnt from Achilles, in turn educated by Chiron:

830 …. ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἤπια φάρμακα πάσσε
831 ἐσθλά, τά σε προτί φασιν Ἀχιλλῆος δεδιδάχθαι,
832 ὃν Χείρων ἐδίδαξε δικαιότατος Κενταύρων

(Iliad 11.830–832)
Lay upon it soothing remedies, the ones that men say you have learned from Achilles, whom Chiron taught, the most righteous of the Centaurs

In the Telephus’ episode the hero is again portrayed as a healer, even though under very specific circumstances. According to the summary of the Cypria preserved by Proclus (Chrestomathy 132), Telephus, king of Mysia, was severely injured in battle by Achilles, but afterwards, following an oracle, Achilles himself was requested to heal him. According to later sources, the content of the prophecy was that Telephus was destined to be the leader of the Trojan expedition and that he had to be cured by the same person that injured him. Therefore, other versions of this legend developed. In Hyginus’ account, Achilles refused to heal Telephus stating that he was ignorant about medicine, so the response was interpreted with reference to Achilles’ spear (as the effective ‘injurer’) and Telephus was cured with the rust scraped from it (Hyginus Fabulae 101). [19] A third version, then, states that Achilles used the rust from his sword for the medication (Apollodorus Epitome 3.20). Pliny the Elder recounts the same story, insisting on Achilles’ medical skills, when describing a plant called achilleos millefolium:

invenisse et Achilles discipulus Chironis qua volneribus mederetur – quae ob id achilleos vocatur – ac sanasse Telephum dicitur. Alii primum aeruginem invenisse utilissimam emplastris – ideoque pingitur ex cuspide decutiens eam gladio in volnus Telephi -, alii utroque usum medicamento volunt.
(Plinius Natural History 25.19)
Achilles too, the pupil of Chiron, discovered a plant to heal wounds, which is therefore called ‘achilleos’. and by it he is said to have cured Telephus. Some have it that he was the first to find out that copper-rust is a most useful ingredient of plasters, for which reason he is represented in paintings as scraping it with his sword from his spear on to the wound of Telephus, while others hold that he used both remedies. (Translated by Jones 1956)

As in the case of Jason, it seems that Achilles’ healing knowledge was part of the mythological tradition, as a feature shared by heroes educated by Chiron, even though it is not much emphasised in the extant literary accounts.

One additional remark may help understand the depiction on the Sosias cup. Helping a friend wounded in fighting was not an uncommon feature in heroic narrations: medication scenes are described both in the Iliad and in the Odyssey [20] and a noteworthy example is offered by Sthenelus’ assistance to the wounded Diomedes, as narrated in the Iliad (5.95–113). Being struck by an arrow in his shoulder, Diomedes pauses briefly from the fighting and calls for Sthenelus’ help, but right after he pulls out the arrow, Diomedes comes back to the combat. The same two heroes are also depicted on a Chalcidian amphora showing them during a break from the battlefield (Figure 3), [21] and Sthenelus is shown bandaging Diomedes’ wounded finger. Besides them the other warriors, whose names are inscribed, are still fighting over the body of Achilles. The details of the depiction clearly refer to a different episode from the Iliadic one, even though the same two heroes are involved. Still, at least from a thematic point of view, both the narration in Book 5 of the Iliad and, mostly, the medication scene on the Chalcidian amphora are close parallels to the scene painted by Sosias.

Figure 3

It may be relevant to add that Diomedes and Sthenelus constitute a heroic duo that share many features with Achilles and Patroclus, namely that they participate together in heroic deeds and they develop a strong friendship bond, despite their different levels (because one is more prominent than the other—one is the main hero, the other one is his ‘assistant’, on which cf. infra). [22] A striking similarity between the two relationships was also underlined by Philostratus, active in the second century A.D., who mentions the special bond between Diomedes and Sthenelus, recalling that Homer did not value them equally and comparing them with Achilles and Patroclus:

Ὅμηρος δὲ οὐκ ἀξιοῖ σφᾶς τῶν ἴσων· τὸν μὲν γὰρ λέοντί τε εἰκάζει καὶ ποταμῷ γεφύρας ἀπάγοντι καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἔργα, καὶ γὰρ οὕτως ἐμάχετο, ὁ δ᾽ οἷον θεατὴς τοῦ Διομήδους ἕστηκε φυγῆς τε ξύμβουλος αὐτῷ γιγνόμενος καὶ ἄρχων φόβου· καίτοι φησὶν ὁ Πρωτεσίλεως μὴ ἐλάττω τοῦ Διομήδους ἔργα τὸν Σθένελον μηδὲ ἐκεῖ δρᾶσαι, φιλίαν μὲν γάρ σφισιν εἶναι οὐ μείω ἢ Ἀχιλλεῖ τε καὶ Πατρόκλῳ ἐγένετο, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι δὲ οὕτω πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὡς ξὺν ἀθυμίᾳ ἐπανήκειν ἐκ τῆς μάχης τὸν ἀπολειφθέντα τοῦ ἑτέρου.
(Philostratus Heroicus 27.3–4) [23]
But Homer does not value them equally, for he likens the former to a lion and to a river sweeping away its dikes and other human constructions (and so he fought), but the latter stood by like a spectator of Diomedes, advising and inciting fear. Yet Protesilaos says that even there Sthenelos performed deeds that were not inferior to Diomedes’. For their bond of friendship was not less than that between Achilles and Patroklos and their rivalry with each other was such that they returned from the battle despondent, each one thinking himself inferior to the other. (Translated by Berenson Maclean-Bradshaw Aitken 2001)

Thus far, it may be argued that the portrayal of Achilles on the Sosias cup, though unprecedented in Greek iconography, is not in contrast with the mythical details presented above. The Sosias Painter probably knew about Achilles’ healing skills, and he created a composition that highlights this feature while easily reminding the viewer of the close friendship bond between the two heroes.

4. The friendship between Patroclus and Achilles

In the Iliad, Patroclus is defined twice as ‘the dearest companion’ of Achilles (οἱ πολὺ φίλτατος … ἑταῖρος, Iliad 17.411 = 655) and, while talking to his mother Thetis after Patroclus’ death, Achilles laments his wretched situation, saying that he can feel no pleasure for what Zeus had accomplished for him since Patroclus died, “Patroclus, whom I honoured above all my comrades, even as mine own self” (Πάτροκλος, τὸν ἐγὼ περὶ πάντων τῖον ἑταίρων / ἶσον ἐμῇ κεφαλῇ Iliad 18.81–82). The deep bond between the two heroes is frequently recalled in the final books of the poem, as well as Achilles’ mourning for Patroclus’ death, conveyed by very intense expressions of grief. [24]

In the Homeric narrative, however, this relationship is not explicitly presented as an erotic one, [25] while later authors concentrated more on this point and by the fifth century the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was unanimously considered homoerotic. Aeschylus focused on the love between the two heroes in the Myrmidons [26] and almost a century later Plato celebrated this relationship in the Symposium, presenting it as an example of the purest form of love, the one that is also rewarded by the gods:

οὐχ ὥσπερ Ἀχιλλέα τὸν τῆς Θέτιδος ὑὸν ἐτίμησαν καὶ εἰς μακάρων νήσους ἀπέπεμψαν, ὅτι πεπυσμένος παρὰ τῆς μητρὸς ὡς ἀποθανοῖτο ἀποκτείνας Ἕκτορα, μὴ ποιήσας δὲ τοῦτο οἴκαδε ἐλθὼν γηραιὸς τελευτήσοι, ἐτόλμησεν ἑλέσθαι βοηθήσας τῷ ἐραστῇ Πατρόκλῳ καὶ τιμωρήσας οὐ μόνον ὑπεραποθανεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐπαποθανεῖν τετελευτηκότι: ὅθεν δὴ καὶ ὑπεραγασθέντες οἱ θεοὶ διαφερόντως αὐτὸν ἐτίμησαν, ὅτι τὸν ἐραστὴν οὕτω περὶ πολλοῦ ἐποιεῖτο
(Plato Symposium 179e–180a).
Whereas Achilles, son of Thetis, they honoured and sent to his place in the Isles of the Blest, because having learnt from his mother that he would die as surely as he slew Hector, but if he slew him not, would return home and end his days an aged man, he bravely chose to go and rescue his lover Patroclus, avenged him, and sought death not merely in his behalf but in haste to be joined with him whom death had taken. For this the gods so highly admired him that they gave him distinguished honour, since he set so great a value on his lover.

Still in the fourth century B.C., the orator Aeschines mentions the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus as well, arguing that Homer did not present their love explicitly because it was unnecessary, since this feeling was nevertheless evident to the audience:

λέξω δὲ πρῶτον μὲν περὶ Ὁμήρου, ὃν ἐν τοῖς πρεσβυτάτοις καὶ σοφωτάτοις τῶν ποιητῶν εἶναι τάττομεν. ἐκεῖνος γὰρ πολλαχοῦ μεμνημένος περὶ Πατρόκλου καὶ Ἀχιλλέως, τὸν μὲν ἔρωτα καὶ τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν αὐτῶν τῆς φιλίας ἀποκρύπτεται, ἡγούμενος τὰς τῆς εὐνοίας ὑπερβολὰς καταφανεῖς εἶναι τοῖς πεπαιδευμένοις τῶν ἀκροατῶν
(Aeschines 1.142).
I will speak first of Homer, whom we rank among the oldest and wisest of the poets. Although he speaks in many places of Patroclus and Achilles, he hides their love and avoids giving a name to their friendship, thinking that the exceeding greatness of their affection is manifest to the educated men among his listeners.

In Greek iconography the deep affection felt by Achilles for Patroclus is usually shown through his grief when his friend dies, but the two are very rarely represented together and both alive. [27] The Sosias Painter’s composition, thus, appears to be innovative not only because it focuses on a moment that is never represented (nor narrated in literature, as far as we know it), but also, from the iconographic point of view, because it is one of the few extant depictions of Achilles and Patroclus together.

Moreover, the painter stresses the age gap between the two heroes, by portraying Patroclus as bearded and thus older than Achilles, in contrast to other vase-paintings where the age difference is hardly noticeable, and the two heroes are idealised as two equally young boys. [28]

Apparently, the age gap between Achilles and Patroclus was a debated issue in the antiquity. According to the Homeric tradition, Achilles was younger and stronger than Patroclus, as his father Menoetius reminded him:

786 τέκνον ἐμὸν γενεῇ μὲν ὑπέρτερός ἐστιν Ἀχιλλεύς,
787 πρεσβύτερος δὲ σύ ἐσσι: βίῃ δ᾽ ὅ γε πολλὸν ἀμείνων

(Iliad 11.786–787)
My child, in birth Achilles is nobler than you, but you are the elder, though he is far better in strength

As for their social and military roles, consequently, their age is not considered and Achilles is the main hero, while Patroclus is his θεράπων. [29] In later times, however, their age was probably adapted to fit their social roles and thus Patroclus (inferior in strength and nobility to Achilles) was considered younger. Aeschylus, for example, considered Achilles as the older one and he was criticised by Plato (Symposium 179e–180b), for doing so.

5. Conclusion

In order to assess the relationship of this painting with the epic cycle, a comparison with the reasons proposed by Lowenstam for occasional differences between images and narratives proves to be inconclusive. The depiction on Sosias’ cup may be considered, on the one hand, ‘different’ from the literary sources because the episode it shows is not part of any known narrative (and thus it could fall into explanation nr. 5 or 7 of Lowenstam’s list). On the other hand, however, this composition is undoubtedly effective in picturing the deep friendship between the two heroes and it recalls some details (such as Achilles’ medical skills, or the age gap between the two) that actually belong to specific mythical traditions.
Therefore, the painting appears to be perfectly coherent with the epic tradition as it combines several known elements and its overall meaning is altogether clear, even without any reference to a specific narrative. I suggest that this is how the topic of reception in vase-paintings should be handled: rather than expecting perfect coherence between images and literary sources and focussing on the potential differences, it seems preferable to compare details in paintings with different narratives and consider how the painter engaged with the epic tradition as a whole.


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Nagy, G. 2020. “Achilles and Patroklos as Models for the Twinning of Identity.”
Pearson, A. C. 1917. The Fragments of Sophocles. Cambridge.
Robbins, E. 1975. “Jason and Cheiron: The Myth of Pindar’s Fourth Pythian.” Phoenix 29/3:205–213.
Robbins, E. 1993. “The Education of Achilles”, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 45/3:7–20.
Rumpf A. 1927. Chalkidische Vasen. Berlin. pl. 12.
Sforza, I. 2007. L’eroe e il suo doppio: uno studio linguistico e iconologico. Pisa.
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Touchefeu, O. 1997. “Patroklos.” In LIMC 7 Suppl.: 948–952.
Van Brock, N. 1959. “Substitution Rituelle.” Revue Hittite et Asianique 65:117–146.
Vojatzi, M. 1982. Frühe Argonautenbilder. Würzburg.
Wachter, R. 2001. Non-Attic Greek Vase Inscriptions. Oxford.
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[ back ] * My sincere thanks to Professor E. Karakantza and Professor J. Burgess for organising the Kyklos Project 2021 and giving me the opportunity to present my paper. I am also extremely grateful to Professor N. Yamagata for her support and encouragement during the conference and her helpful suggestions during the publication process.
[ back ] 1. Cp. Lowenstam 2008:5; Dué 2019:18–23. On the relationship between the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Cyclic poems, together with issues related to their composition and transmission, see Burgess 2001:1–35.
[ back ] 2. Lowenstam 1997:23.
[ back ] 3. Burgess 2001:58–59; Dué 2019:94.
[ back ] 4. The vase carries the signature of Sosias as the potter. The painter is usually referred to as the ‘Sosias Painter’ and he will be named accordingly in this contribution.
[ back ] 5. Lowenstam 2008:63–65, further developed by Junker 2012:1–12.
[ back ] 6. Touchefeu 1997:949; Woodford 1998:31–32.
[ back ] 7. A similar concern is expressed by Achilles in Iliad 16.89–90. For the Pindaric passage see Gerber 2002:52–55.
[ back ] 8. For healing heroes, both in mythology and cult, see Wicckiser 2008:42–61; Brelich 2010:99–101.
[ back ] 9. See Bremmer 2012 for the centaurs in Greek mythology (in particular, pp. 31–35 about Chiron). Chiron’s name, possibly derived from χείρ, may carry a hint to his healing skill (considering the possible ways of curing using hands, cf. Carnoy 1956:105; Beekes 2010 s.v. χείρ and, for a comparative approach, Massetti 2018 s.v. Χείρων). For literary occurrences where the use of hands seems to be particularly relevant for Chiron (or Achilles), see Robbins 1993:16–18. In literary texts, the centaur is more frequently recalled as a teacher of medicine, rather than as a healer himself (e.g. Pindar Pythian 3.1–8, 63–67); however, he was considered the inventor of medicine (Hyginus Fabulae 274.9: Chiron centaurus Saturni filius artem medicinam chirurgicam ex herbis primus instituit, “The centaur Chiron, son of Saturn, first discovered the use of herbs in the medical art of surgery”) and the mythological ancestor of a group of healers in the Pelion region (cp. Brelich 2010:129).
[ back ] 10. Plutarch mentions that the Magnesians used to bring offerings to Chiron (Convivial Questions 647a). For the possible references to the existence and significance of an ancient ‘Chironion’ and other traces of the veneration of Chiron in cult, see Aston 2006.
[ back ] 11. Xenophon (Cynegeticus 1) compiled a list of heroes educated by Chiron in hunting. Heracles is not commonly included among Chiron’s pupils (the only reference is scholia vetera ad Teocritus 13.9b Wendel), but according to some accounts he killed him unwillingly (Ovid fasti 5.379–414; Apollodorus 2.5; Diodorus 4.12.8).
[ back ] 12. Apollodorus 3.4: Αὐτονόης δὲ καὶ Ἀρισταίου παῖς Ἀκταίων ἐγένετο, ὃς τραφεὶς παρὰ Χείρωνι κυνηγὸς ἐδιδάχθη (“Autonoe and Aristaeus had a son Actaeon, who was bred by Chiron to be a hunter”). Chiron’s fame as a teacher was remarkable in the antiquity since the archaic period, as proved by ancient references to a collection of precepts, under the name of Χείρωνος Ὑποθῆκαι attributed to Hesiod (frr. 283–284 M.-W.). For Chiron’s role in the initiation of young heroes see Brelich 2010:110.
[ back ] 13. For the interpretation of the Pindaric lines involving Jason and Chiron and the popular etymology of Jason’s name see Robbins 1975; Mackie 2001:1–5; Braswell 1988:370; Robbins 1993:12–13, Gentili 2012:106–107. From a linguistic point of view, the formation and of the verb ἰάομαι and its derivatives have been fully investigated by García Ramón 1986. Other proper names are derived from the root -ῑᾱ, each of them carrying an allusion to healing (e.g., Ἰασώ, goddess of healing, Ἴασις, a nymph, cf. Carnoy 1956:105). In the case of ᾽Ῐάσων (as in᾽Ῐασώ) the quantity of the initial iota does not create serious difficulties (see in particular García Ramón 1986:511).
[ back ] 14. Crater, Panorama (Τhessaloniki), coll. Andreadis, c. 575 B.C. The inscriptions are given after Wachter 2001:53 (COR 24 b). For the spelling oddities (especially for Jason’s name), see Vojatzi 1982:77–79; Wachter 2001:53–54, Kefalidou 2008:618.
[ back ] 15. Vojatzi 1982:80–84. This interpretation is generally accepted, cf. Mackie 2001:7–9; Kefalidou 2008:623.
[ back ] 16. Cf. Pearson 1917:311–317.
[ back ] 17. For a commentary on this passage, see Cannatà Fera 2020:327–331. Pindar evokes Achilles’ education by Chiron also at Pythian 6.21–23.
[ back ] 18. Achilles is portrayed as a lyre-player in the Iliad (9.186–189) and on an Apulian vase (see infra, note 28). Later writers assumed that he played the lyre to soothe his anger (e.g. Aelianus Various History 14.23, cf. Hunter 2018:228–230).
[ back ] 19. This story was maybe narrated also in the lost Telephus by Euripides. Cp. Euripides fr. 724 Radt; Collard-Cropp 1995:18 and 51; Ditifeci 1984:219–220.
[ back ] 20. Patroclus treats Eurypilus’ wound (Iliad 11.844–848); Odysseus’ injury is medicated by Autolycus’ sons (Odyssey 19.452–458). Podalirius and Machaon, sons of Asclepius, were the two ‘professional’ healers in the Achaean army (Iliad 2.729–733) and the importance of experts in medicine is expressed by Idomeneus at Iliad 11.514–515.
[ back ] 21. Chalcidian Amphora, Deepdene, coll. Hope, now lost, c. 540 B.C.
[ back ] 22. For similar relationships between two heroes, see Brelich 2010:399, who points out that the most striking feature of these pairs is the difference between the two members (other examples are Theseus and Peirithoos, Orestes and Pylades, Herakles and Iolaos). Cp. also Sforza 2007:81–92.
[ back ] 23. Philostratus is broadly referring to the events narrated in book 5 of the Iliad (esp. 5.84–94 and 5.161–164 for the similes, and 5.239–250 for Sthenelus’ attitude).
[ back ] 24. Especially Iliad 24.3–11.
[ back ] 25. Conversely, some scholars attempted to show that the author of the Iliad effectively considered Achilles and Patroclus as lovers, even without openly mentioning it (Clarke 1978; Davidson 2007:256–250).
[ back ] 26. Frr. 134a–139 Radt. Cp. Garzya 1995; Michelakis 2002:41–57.
[ back ] 27. Achilles is often portrayed in the fifth century with his head and figure completely covered by a cloak, his hand holding his forehead. Cp. Kossatz-Deissmann 1981:117–118.
[ back ] 28. See for instance the painting on the chalice Crater (fragments), Heidelberg Univ. 26/87, c. 390–380 B.C., attributed to the Sarpedon Painter, where Achilles is playing the lyre while Patroclus is listening and the scene of mourning on the lekythos, New York, Metr. Mus. 31.11.13, c. 420 B.C., attributed to the Eretria Painter, where Achilles is seated in front of the dead body of Patroclus. Cp. Kossatz-Deissmann 1981:111 and 115; Lowenstam 1992:181–182.
[ back ] 29. This is evident also from Patroclus’ biography recalled in Iliad 23.82–92. θεράπων means generally ‘attendant’, but its etymology has been extensively investigated, from a comparative point of view, from Van Brock 1959, who argued that the Greek word is a loan from the Hittite tarpalli, meaning ‘ritual substitute’. For the use of this term in relation to Patroclus, see Nagy 1999:114 and 817–819 and most recently Nagy 2020. Cp. also Sinos 1980:29–38.

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