At the finish line stands Athena, watching over who will reach victory. Her posture is relaxed, leaning on her spear, in an almost passive manner which stands in stark contrast to the other figures. She looks over the contestants, pensive and dispassionate.
The base for Athena was the 'Mourning Athena', a marble relief from the golden age of Athens. To fit the vessel painting aesthetics of the other figures, the relief shape was combined with depictions of Athena and other figures from painted pottery pieces.
In difference to the other figures a "white-ground" technique was used for Athena's depiction, to accentuate her immortality which is also the eternalness of wisdom itself. Clothing and Armaments were kept in a black-white style, to harmonize her with the other figures.
Cut-out of a pottery painting of Athena. Taken in the Archeological Museum of Brussels.
A woman depicted in "white-ground" technique.
Taken from the Archeological Museum in Brussels.
The "Mourning Athena", a marble relief from 460 BCE. The relief is 0.48 m high and made of Parian marble. It is displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Depiction of a Corinthian Helmet on a pottery shard, similar to helmets worn by Athena. Taken from the Archeological Museum in Brussels.
Vessel image of a man competing in a race. Image taken in the Brussels Archeological Museum
The 'Youth' forms the right-most figure of the runner trio. Full of vigor and energy, his gaze completely focused upon the laurel wreath and his hand stretched out, his fingers close to reaching it. While his body is hovering for a moment longer in the air, it takes only one more step to reach victory
Paintings of runners on vessels are a well liked motive in ancient greek art, the geometry of the configuration suiting the shape of the vessel as well. While the number of depicting runners can wary, the choice to depict three was made early on, so that each figure could be given the appropriate focus and space. All runners are depicted in a 'black-figure' pottery painting style, as the shape of the body can be depicted elegantly through the use of a few contrasting lines
A group of men competing in a race. From the Archaic Period. Image taken in the Brussels Archeological Museum
An image of a dancing satyr served as inspiration for Socrates' body.
The Satyr is drawn in an archaic style. The Satyr shares with Socrates a sense of mischief and is said to possess a special kind of knowledge, which he shares with only a few.
From the archeological collection in Brussels.
At the beginning of our philosophical traditions stands Socrates. As such it is he who commences the line of runners towards racing towards wisdom.
Socrates' body and head are turned towards the viewer, his arms wide open, eager to embrace the newcomer, while simultaneously taunting him playfully with a stretched out tongue. Socrates gazing outward instead of towards the goal of the race, could be interpreted as the Philosopher having gained a higher awareness and deeper understanding of the world around him.
Head bust of Socrates. Roman copy of
potentially a bronze original made by
Lysippus. Exhibited in the Louvre.
Running sports have been part of Greek culture since at least the very first Olympic games in 776 BCE and appear often as a beloved theme in artistic depiction. Pausanias tells us of one mythical origin of Olympia, in which the dactyl Heracles (not the hero!) and his four brothers race to entertain the newborn Zeus, who crowns the winner with an olive wreath.
Greek vase with runners at the panathenaic games, ca. 530 BCE
In the race, the 'Teacher' forms the connecting link between 'Socrates', the wisdom of the past, and the 'Youth', the young pupil who enthusiastically rushes forward. Even while his body is in a position of released tension, gaining much forward momentum, his head is turned backwards, his gaze on 'Socrates'.
A precious companion to and symbol of
Athena, owls are often connected with
her and have come to represent
Wisdom in general.
Here the owl is superimposed
with another companion of
Athena, which is "Nike" or Victory.
As a spirit it flutters between Athena
and the contestants, holding a wreath of
laurel in its' feet, promising glory to him who
can reach it first.
Depiction on a pottery vessel of Athena steering a chariot while accompanied by an owl holding a wreath of laurel.
Image taken from the Archeological Museum in Brussels.
Philosophy welcome home!
Dear friends and colleagues, welcome to the 31st IPO edition! We will be happy to host your teams at the International Olympic Academy in Ancient Olympia. The very name of our wonderful IPO formation refers to the place that is a synonym for fair competition, noble spirit, peace and wisdom. Same wisdom that makes the second composite part of the word philosophy.
Our thanks for your participation!
Read also the decision of the OC re-admission of the delegations of the Russian Federation and Belarus to the XXXI IPO 2023
University of Patras, 26500, Rio, Patras.