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Death at sea: The crater of the shipwreck


Death at sea: The crater of the shipwreck is part of Masterpiece, an Italian podcast by Archeostorie® that describes some of the most beautiful and famous artworks from antiquity.

Fig. 1. The crater of the shipwreck.

They wanted to cross the sea, and instead the sea swallowed they. It was happening yesterday, it still happens today, all too often, in the Mediterranean.

Above. Below.

Concepts now abstract, and remote. Laws that applied on the solid earth of the living.

I have crossed the thresholds of Poseidon, a clay doll in the hands of that god. I will not feel anymore the weight of my tired, sweating body, the sting of rocks under my worn-out shoes, the fatigue of walking on a sunbaked road. The song of the oarsmen has faded away, the birds are silent under the immense sky.  I do not taste the salty wind or smell the pungent aroma of the pine grove.  I will never again taste, with closed eyes, the aroma of bread.

Friends, please, do not forget my name!

In my throat I have the salt of all the oceans, it burns my eyes, my tongue, my heart. I float in a dark blue world that swallows up every light.

Who dances in these abysses of death? Lithe bodies brush against me with an icy touch, they tighten their circle around me.

Are they fish? Monsters of Styx? Specters of voyagers drowned in this shimmering and cruel sea, alone with their hopes, invoking with stifled cries the names of their lands and their native gods?

Friends, please, do not forget my name!

The waves will toss my bones, far from the flowers and cries of my loved ones. [can we get “peace” in here? Because it’s about burial rights.]

If I could only rest below the fig tree in the courtyard, cradled by the voices of the people of the house…

There is not a man more courageous under the sun than he who abandons a safe harbor to chase a dream.

Friends, please, do not forget my name!

The Crater of the Shipwreck is a vase of the late geometric style dated to the end of the 8th century B.C.., which comes from the island of Pithecusa (“monkey island”), modern Ischia. It was used to mix wine and water during banquets and symposia. Found in the necropolis of San Montano, it is the most famous artifact of the Pithecusa Archaeological Museum, together with the celebrated Cup of Nestor. It is famous for two reasons: because it is the most ancient vase, of all those found in Italy, painted with figures and not only with geometric motifs, and for the scene of a shipwreck that is among the few that have reached us from the Greek world. It is a spectacular scene: their ship upside down, the sailors seek safety by swimming and floundering among the fish, while one of them is already about to be devoured by an enormous fish. 

Pithecusa was the first Greek colony in the West. It was a place that the Greeks had reached with difficulty after many shipwrecks, and it was a base for trading with the Etruscans, which again entailed facing other dangers and risking other shipwrecks. The Crater tells all about these great sailors: all their daring, and all their fears.

Volume 3 - 2019

Museum Archaeology

CC BY 4.0

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

How to cite

Cappelletti, G. 2019. Death at sea: the crater of the shipwreck. 3: pp. 107-108. DOI: https://doi.org/10.23821/2019_5d/