It's All Greek on Walkabout

This black-figure lekythos shows a snapshot from Herakles' eleventh labour. He is shown shouldering the world and can be identified by his signature lion skin and club. Atlas is shown taunting Herakles with the golden apples of the Hesperides.

The original of this lekythos, dating to the first half of the 5th century BC, is attributed to the Athena Painter and is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

This labour was very popular in ancient Greek art. Herakles' eleventh labour was to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides who were the goddesses of the evening and their trees with golden apples were kept far away on the north western boundaries of the known world (Hesperia was the ancient Greek poetic name for Italy and means 'land of evening'). 

In order to achieve this task, Herakles requested help from the god Atlas, whose day job was to hold up the sky. Atlas took his chance to hand over that responsibility by offering to fetch the apples on Herakles' behalf. He succeeded. However, having had his taste of freedom, he refused to resume his duty, and instead taunted the hero with the golden apples (it is this point of the story that is shown on this lekythos.) Herakles outwitted Atlas by agreeing to continue to shoulder his burden but after a brief respite to adjust his lionskin, the gullible god agreed and the triumphant Herakles took the apples and returned to King Eurystheus. 

Hand-painted for us in Greece.

dimensions etc Height: 34cm

black figure lekythos - Herakles and Atlas

  • Code: VO-87
  • Status: In Stock
  • £125.00

  • excl tax: £104.17