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The cup of legendary Athenian general Pericles has been found

06 August 2014 / 14:08:00  GRReporter
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A simple wine-cup that dates back to the 5th century BC, a skyphos with black figures on it, found in a poor tomb in Kifissia, has caused a commotion among archaeologists, since it is considered not only almost certain that it was used by Pericles, but also that his handwritten signature probably lies on it. This fact turns the simple container into the first material evidence of the life of one of the most famous figures in history.

"This is a rare find. An authentic, living proof of a very personal moment", says archaeologist Galini Daskalaki from the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Monuments.

The container with a height of only 8 cm was discovered in the foundations of a newly constructed building at 18 Spartis Street in the Athens district of Kifissia. Only two metres below the surface, in a tomb where no bones had been found, archaeologist Galini Daskalaki discovered the ancient vessel broken into 12 pieces. Once put together, the surprise was great. There were six names in the genitive case carved on one side, under the handle, as follows: Aristidou, Diodotou, Desimou, Arifronos, Pericleus and Evkritou, and they were placed in a box.

The key name

How do the archaeologists know that the name Pericles, written on the cup, belonged to the famous Athenian general who was associated with the construction of the Parthenon? "The name Arifron was very rare and it belonged to Pericles’ grandfather and elder brother. The fact that this name was written above the name of Pericles on the cup we have found makes us believe almost 99% that it comes to the two brothers and that Pericles was precisely the man who ruled the fate of Athens in the period of its greatest flourishing", explains Angelos Mateou, secretary of the Greek Epigraphic Society and co-publisher of the specialised journal of archaeology "Ioros". The study of the significant finding was published in the anniversary issue of the magazine.

"We found for the first time the name of Pericles entirely written in an inscription, as up to this day, we have seen it only in the form of partially preserved inscriptions", continues Mateou, emphasizing the importance of the find.

"Assuming that the names of Aristidis (a common name, but the famous politician who remained in history as the Just lived at the time we are talking about), Pericles and Arifron written on the cup are associated with the great Athenians, we will see that they were not on the political stage at the same time. Aristidis acted in the period 488-478 BC and Pericles in the period 460-429 BC. Nevertheless, there could have been some kind of social interaction between them. For example, in 470 BC Arifron was 25 years old, Pericles 24 and Aristidis about 50 years old", says archaeologist Galini Daskalaki, according to whom the unadorned container (a cup from a wine selling shop rather than from a rich home), based on its type, dates back to 480 and 465 BC.

It is possible that the six men had met at a feast or tavern. And as they drank from the same cup, which was common at the time, they had carved their names in the genitive case to show that the cup belonged to them. They put their names in a box to make it clear that they were a group of friends and wrote the name of the oldest one at the top.

The experts distinguish at least two handwritings but cannot determine whether one belonged to Pericles. "They surely felt dizzy because of the wine, as it is clear that the one who inscribed the name of Pericles had initially mistaken it, writing it in the nominative case first and correcting it afterwards," says Angelos Mateou.

The owner

Who owned the cup found in Kifissia? The answer is in its base, where there is another name, Drapetis, written in the nominative case and in the Ionian alphabet unlike the other six names that were written in the Attic alphabet.

Who could he be? "It is a proper male name, indicating a quality ("drapetis" means "fugitive"), i.e. it belonged to someone who had secretly fled, probably a slave", said Galini Daskalaki, not excluding the possibility of him being the man who served the six men during the feast, or the owner of the tavern, and of them giving the cup to him as a souvenir, a precious gift that had become an heirloom with which he had not parted even in his grave.


The specialised journal of archaeology "Ioros" is available in "Kardamitsa" bookshop (8 Ippokratous Street) and "Theodorou" bookshop (50 Mavromihali Street) in Athens, and its price is 120 euro.

The found cup will be showcased at the epigraphic museum this autumn, within the context of an exhibition entitled "The beginning of Athenians."


Tags: PericlesCupFindArchaeologistsDirectorate of Prehistoric and Classical Monuments
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