Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Single and double-levelled galleys

Cat. No.



Late Geometric I (750-725 B.C.)


Dipylon, Athens



Attic pedestalled krater

Accession Number

Louvre A 522


Basch 1987: 173-74, nos. 333, 362; Casson 1995: fig. 62; Kirk 1949: 98-99, no. 5; Morrison and Williams 1968: 18-19, 25, Geom. 3, 17, pl. 4d; Williams 1958: pl. 13c (left)"

A132a: A fragmentary ship to the left, in the conventional Dipylon style, with all the verticals and horizontal present, including tholepins. The stern and part of the bow are missing, including the bow projection and S-shaped part of the horn. The eye has an eight-spoked star is still visible, as well as nineteen rower's rooms. There are five warriors whose feet are on the same level as the tholepins, which indicates that the longitudinal deck did not extend from gunwale to gunwale. Their feet are in this case standing on the rowers' benches. The first four warriors are arranged in pair facing each other. From left to right, the second figure is equipped with a bow, while the third holds two spears upright. The last two figures have only their legs preserved.

A132b: Complete ship to the right. Low flat hull with a reserved line running along its length from the after- to the forecastle. Massive square bow with a concave post integrating the bow projection, with an incurving, very pronounced S-shaped horn that inclines sharply forward, then sharply backwards parallel to the hull. The forecastle is an open balustrade with two horizontal rails at different levels. The incurving sternpost is unusually thick and ends in the typical horn. The aftercastle is an open balustrade with conventional lattice railing. There are thirteen rowers and twelve oars. The attitude of the oarsmen is unique. These sit with their heads facing the stern, chests facing forward, grasping an oar held vertically with their right hand. The first and last rower at the bow and stern hold onto the railing with their free hand. The rest appear like there are holding hands, jointly grasping an oar on each side.

Monumental fragmentary pedestalled krater with naval battle scenes, as well as land processions of warriors on foot and on chariot. A two-levelled ship of the conventional Dipylon style occupies the main central zone between the handles, with five preserved warriors on board. There is a procession of warriors with Dipylon shields above, and a procession of chariots below. A second, single-levelled ship with thirteen rowers occupies the scape below one of the (missing) double handles.

This krater is interesting for its depiction of two different types of ships, ostensibly painted by different hands. Ship A is a two-levelled vessel neatly executed in the conventional Dipylon style. Ship B is not only single-levelled, but differs in the execution of several aspects. These include the shaping of the horn, the unusually thick stern, the reserved band along the hull with the absence of both stanchions and tholepins, and the unusual rendering of the forecastle's railing. The body posture of the rowers is also unique. The oar blades were also painted in varying shapes, ranging from oval, square ended, diamond shaped and triangular. The occurrence of these two ships on the same vase provides further support of the literal profile reading of Dipylon ships as two-levelled. The contrast between the two vessels furthermore provides a good example of the impact that placing and available space had on the decisions made by the painter. Since ship B was meant to fill the long and narrow space below the double handle, the artist opted for a single level, with no standing figures and a more minimalist rendering in terms of the hull's horizontals and verticals.

Basch, L. 1987. Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique. Athens: Institut Hellénique pour la preservation de la tradition nautique.

Casson, L. 1995. Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kirk, G.S. 1949. “Ships on Geometric Vases.” BSA 44: 93-153, pls. 38-40.

Morrison, J.S. and R.T. Williams. 1968. Greek Oared Ships: 900-322 B.C. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, R. T. 1958. “Early Greek Ships of two levels,” JHS 78: 121-130.

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