Clay red-figured pelike depicting the encounter between Herakles and Geras (Old Age). From Cerveteri. Ca 480 BC. Rome, National Etruscan Museum of the Villa Giulia 48238.
© Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia. Photograph: Mauro Benedetti.
Clay red-figure pelike from the Classical Period depicting Herakles and Geras.
The painter depicts the most important hero of Greek Mythology, Herakles, leaning on his club with a strong, robust physique.
Herakles is standing opposite the aging, hunched, and balding male figure leaning on a crooked stick, illustrating Geras (the personification of old age).
This scene clearly and unambiguously reflects the dominant thinking of a people who admire and celebrate physicality, strength, and youth, in contrast to the suffering, decay, and decline brought about by old age.
SEARCH & LEARN
• What do Herakles’ lion skin and club symbolize?
• What was the most important characteristic of the hero, ever since he was a baby?
• What were the labors of Herakles and what was the purpose of the feats he had to go through?
• How did they shape his character (moral fiber, knowledge, and prudence)?
• For the ancient Greeks to consider a human act a feat, it had to stand out for other values beyond its degree of difficulty. What do you think these might be?
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
• On the vase, the peak and the decline of beauty are depicted through the representations of the two bodies.
→ What elements make up the beauty of Herakles? Could we talk about beauty in the depiction of Geras as well? What elements would make up this beauty?
• What is considered a feat in our time?