Volute-Krater with Story of Melanippe



Volute-Krater with Story of Melanippe


Ceramic, clay, krater, pottery, vessel


ca. 330 - 320 BC


Late Classical
Greek, Apulian


31 11/16 x 15 5/8 in. (80.5 x 39.7 cm)

Object Number



It is possible that performances of a tragedy by the Athenian dramatist Euripides inspired the picture on this krater. His play Melanippe the Wise survives today only in fragments, but from an ancient summary of the plot we are able to reconstruct the story. Here, the drama unfolds in the lower register, with the protagonists named by inscriptions, while the gods look down from Olympus above.

According to myth, Melanippe bore twin sons to Poseidon while her father Aiolos was in exile. On orders from Poseidon, and anticipating her father's return, she exposed the children in a cow shed, where they were discovered by a shepherd and brought to her father and grandfather, Hellen. Thinking these to be "cow born monsters", they ordered the infants to be burned and instructed Melanippe to prepare the funeral shrouds. Through her powers of persuasion, however, Melanippe was able to convince her father that the children were not monsters, and their lives were thus spared.

At center, an elderly man, Boter (shepherd), emerges from an orchard carrying two newborns (note the pointed heads) wrapped in a blanket, which he presents to Hellen. At right, an old woman, Trophos (nurse), comforts the distressed heroine Melanippe. On the other side stands Aiolos, her father, who carries a scepter to denote his kingship. Behind him is Kretheus (Melanippe's half brother) who crowns a mare, possibly a reference to Melanippe's mother, Hippe. In the upper register, Poseidon, above Melanippe at right, gestures angrily to Aphrodite and Eros. Athena stands at the center, with Apollo and Artemis beyond.

Credit Line

Carlos Collection of Ancient Art


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© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2005.
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“Volute-Krater with Story of Melanippe,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7864.

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