One of the most iconic (and iconographic, for that matter) elements of the ancient Greek world is pottery. The ceramics themselves once upon a time served a specific functional use although they are more famously paired with beautifully rendered and intriguingly "ancient" figural and ornamental decorations. Scenes of gods, goddesses, heroes, and mythological creatures have captivated the attention of generation upon generation for the last 2,000+ years. What about the mortals? Death was, in fact, a very real and complex topic in the ancient world, often written about in literature and depicted in images. The tripartite relationship between images, archaeology, and literature provides a relatively well-rounded knowledge base regarding death in the ancient Greek world. Attic polychrome white ground lekythoi, ceramic vessels that were common graves goods in solely Athens from approximately 470-410 BCE, significantly strengthen that knowledge base.
Use this website as a resource not only for deepening your knowledge of mortuary practices in the Classical Greek world, but also for improving your ability to "read" an image on Greek pottery. Pay attention to common motifs seen on these images as well as unique intricacies and oddities.
Learn more about ancient Greek funerary rites, the emergence of the white ground and polychrome techniques, and iconographic image analysis by selecting from the tabs to the left. To search for specific items or attributes of them, use the search bar to the left-hand side of the page. Please be sure to spend time perusing the tab titled "White Ground Lekythoi: Iconographic Analysis."