Apollo, Dionysus, and Hermes at a banquet.  Apulian red-figure situla, by a painter of the Group of the Dublin Situla; ca. 350-330 BCE.  Now in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid.  Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.


The Sarcophagus of the Amazons, third quarter of the 4th century BC. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze.

The sarcophagus, found in Tarquinia in 1869, is one of the most significant and emblematic monuments for the study of Greek polychrome painting. The sarcophagus, that belonged to an etruscan noblewoman, was painted with various scenes of an Amazonomachia by an artist from Magna Graecia.

Two similar Etruscan inscriptions executed by different hands, one on the lid and one on the chest, which has damaged the paintings and must have been added later.


Both of the inscriptions can be translated as:  “Here lies Ramtha Huzcnai, deceased grandmother of Larthial Apaiatrus, “zii eteraia” (magistrate title).


A Masterpiece Tetradrachm from Rhegion, Bruttium, C. 415/0-387 BC

Obverse: Facing lion’s head. Reverse:  Laureate head of Apollo right; behind, olive spray.

Rhegion (map) was a city of Magna Graecia at the toe of Italy founded by colonists from Euboian Chalkis, Peloponnesian Messenia, and Sicilian Zankle in the eighth century BC. According to tradition, the Chalkidians provided the main impetus for the foundation, when, following a disastrous harvest they dedicated one tenth of their citizen body to Apollo at Delphi. Faced with this influx of starving people, the god reportedly advised the Chalkidians to seek their fortunes and found a new city in the rich farmlands of Italy. It is probably for this reason that Apollo appears so prominently on the coinage of Rhegion. The lion mask may refer to the Nemean lion slain by Herakles and therefore stands as a badge of the Messenian component of the Rhegian population.

The beauty of this coin is enhanced not only by the flawless execution of the types in a high classical style, but by the quality of preservation. This is especially noticeable with the ferocious facing lion’s head on the obverse, a compositional masterpiece that creates an illusion of extreme depth. On the reverse, Apollo’s expressive face gives the impression that he is just about to offer a cryptic message about the future through one of his several oracles.


The Temple of Hera II at Paestum, 460-450 BCE

The Temple of Hera II, also erroneously called the Temple of Neptune, is one of three well-preserved temple complexes constructed in the ancient Greek city of Paestum in Magnum Graecia (present-day Southern Italy). It was the second temple in the city to be dedicated to the goddess Hera, although archaeological evidence suggests that the god Zeus and a third unknown deity were also worshiped at the temple. 

The Temple of Hera II is one of the best preserved examples of the Doric order in the world. Ironically, it is also architecturally unorthodox. The temple has 6x14 columns instead of the 6x13 column proportion that was popular at this time in Classical period Greece. The capitals are also extremely squat and flared, and the column shafts have an extremely pronounced entasis. Similar architectural diversions from the canonical Doric order can be found in Greek temples throughout Magna Graecia, suggesting that the architects of this region had greater freedom to experiment than the architects in Greece. 

The centaur Chiron, accompanied by a satyr.  Side A of a red-figure bell-krater attributed to the painter Python; 350-325 BCE.  Produced at Paestum (Poseidonia), south Italy; now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Silver Didrachm from Neapolis, Campania, C. 350-325 BC

Obverse: Head of nymph facing to right, her hair bound with a broad band decorated with a meander pattern. Reverse: [NE]OΠOΛITH[Σ] (in the exergue), man-headed bull standing to right, Nike flies above to right to crown the bull.

Struck from dies of the finest style, excellent metal, attractively toned and good extremely fine, one of the finest known examples and a superb piece of ancient art.

(Map of ancient Neapolis)


Red-Figure Kylix Depicting Apollo and Hermes by the Iliupersis Painter

Magna Graecia

ca. 375–350 B.C.

These two drinking cups are superb examples of the graceful and refined vessels made in the region of Apulia during the height of this period. Their crisp and delicate shaping and slender handles owe much to silver or bronze examples, which must have been the prototypes for this form. The cups, clearly made as a pair, have been attributed to an artist within the workshop os the Iliuspersis Painter, who produced some of the most important Apulian vases of the 2nd quarter of the 4th century BC and introduced elements in vase decorations that had a profound influence on later painters. Delicately painted seated figures adorn the center of each cup. On one of the Olympian god Apollo sits between two boughs of laurel, tuning his kithara. On the other, the god Hermes feeds or playfully teases the hound reclining at his side.

Source: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Ancient Art Week!

Askos with a neck in the form of the head of a black man

Sicily/Selinous (Fifth to fourth century B.C.E.)

Terra-cotta, 18.5 cm high.

Museé Calvet, Avignon, France

An askos is a small bronze or terra-cotta vessel for enhancing the flavor of food in the ancient world, most often with a sprinkling of olive oil. Judging from the great numbers that survive, the askos must have been a staple of the ancient Mediterranean dining table. The earliest examples go back several thousand years before this one. The word askos in Greek means “leather bag,” referring to the animal skins used to store wine. The body of this askos does indeed resemble an inflated skin, with a small spout in the side to pour out its contents. The container is filled from the larger opening at the top of the head.
This intriguing vessel was produced in Selinous, a thriving coastal town in western Sicily. Like many of the large cities of South Italy and Sicily during this time, Selinous made up part of Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece, a major zone of expansion for cities on the Greek mainland and the eastern shore of Asia Minor. Founded in the seventh century B.C., Selinous soon became a major religious and commercial center, possessing some of the most magnificent temples of the ancient world.


Grecìa salentina, Puglia (Salentinian Greece, Apulia), Italy

Down there in Puglia (Apulia), the heel of Italy’s boot, there’s one of the last remainders (as far as I know, the other one is in Calabria region of Southern Italy) of the flourishing and powerful Greek colonies, once numerous everywhere in the Mediterranean Sea: just to figure you it out, the famous Archimedes (yes, that one of the Principle and the Burning Glasses) was born in Syracuse, Sicily, at his time a Greek colony.

Well, there’s this little area (some 50,000 inhabitants) where an ancient Greek language (Griko) is still currently spoken (anyway, Italian is even more replacing the ancient language), with a local lore that refers to the Greek traditions.

Italian laws recognize the Griko communities of Reggio Calabria and Salento as a Greek ethnic and linguistic minority.

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Very Rare Incuse Stater from Laos, Lucania, c. 510-500 BC

The obverse has the inscription ΛAFΣ with a man-headed bull standing to the right, its head turned back to face to left in an exergual line of a row of dots between two lines below. The reverse is a similar type, incuse, with the inscription NOM in retrograde above.

Laos (aka Laüs or Laus) was an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a colony of Sybaris at the mouth of the Lao River, which formed the boundary between Lucania and Bruttium in ancient times. The river and the city have the same name in Ancient Greek.

Little is known about its foundation or history. Herodotus states that the inhabitants of Sybaris, who had survived the destruction of their city in 510 BC, took refuge in Laos and Scidrus. Strabo (c. 64/63 BC - AD 24) describes the city as still being in existence in his time but. Pliny the Elder, whose Natural History was published in approximately 77–79 AD, states that the city no longer existed in his.

The city was downsized gradually and abandoned in the second half of the third century BC. This was probably caused by the Punic Wars, which had a profound impact on the economy of the Tyrrhenian coast. The only material evidence of the Archaic Greek city consists of some silver coins like this one with the legend LAFINON (ΛAFΣ) and symbols similar to those of the coins of Sybaris, dated between 500 and 440 BC.

Today the archaeological site of the city can be found at a short distance to the east of Marcellina, Calabria. The site near Marcellina was possibly a refoundation of the Greek city  by Lucanians on a previously unoccupied site. Here is a map of ancient region of Lucania. The city of Laos (spelled as Laus) is at the bottom center.