Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Sailing single-levelled galley

Cat. No.



Late Geometric I (c. 750-740 B.C.)


Dipylon, Athens


H: 14 cm; L: 30 cm


Fragments from a krater with parts of a double handle

Accession Number

Louvre MNE 1020; Louvre S 529


Basch 1987: 179, 200, no. 376; Kirk 1949: 110, nos. 35a-b; Morrison and Williams 1968: 33, Geom. 30, 31; Torr 1894.: 17, figs. 3-4

A150a: Ship to the left, with a low and completely straight hull, a vertical stempost with a very long bow projection and an incurving horn. The hull has two reserved lines. The lower one is empty, while the upper one has seventeen preserved oblique strokes. The stern is missing. There is a mast amidships, with an arrow-like masthead and a crescent-shaped sail with a checkerboard pattern made up of numerous verticals and a single horizontal line. There are two braces which cross each other and are attached to the deck. At mid-mast, two diagonal lines extend downwards to the deck which must be halyards. There are five figures on the ship: the two active ones are oversized, while three corpses are painted on a much smaller scale. The helmsman is depicted standing, holding the steering oar with his right hand. Another figure stands on the bow projection facing right, with his left hand holding on to the stempost device. Two of the corpses are shown floating below the halyards, with a third below the lower left corner of the sail.

A150b: The same pattern of crossed lines as on the previous sherd representing the middle of the mast with rigging. Considering how unusual such rendering is, it is nearly certain that this sherd belong to a vase that was decorated by the same hand.

This is a very schematic and unusual depiction which appears to completely ignore the Dipylon conventions, with the usual horizontals and verticals omitted. The bow projection is an overly long straight line which does not taper, nor is it well integrated to the bow. The stempost is furthermore straight rather than concave. Despite the minimalist treatment of the hull, the painter attempted to pay particular attention to the rigging, with many more elements visible than is often the norm. The sail, rather than being shown as a rectangle, appears to be billowing to the right. Basch notes the slight protrusion on the right of the upper and lower horizontals which delimit the sail (A and B on the drawing) and suggests that if these are indeed intentional, they would indicate the presence of a double yard.

Caution is warranted in light of the extreme artistic license of this depiction. For one, there is very little concern for scale, with the two standing figures being oversized, while the corpses are tiny and not even all of the same diminutive size. In addition to the latter, the helmsman also appears to be floating mid-air with his feet standing on one of the braces. The accommodations made by the painter to fit the scene below one of the loops of the double handle explains the odd dimensions and composition. Part of the space below the second loop of the handle preserves the upper body of a figure nearly identical to the one standing on the ship's bow projection. It is possible then that there were originally two ships under the handle, similar the Middle Geometric piece from the Louvre.

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

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.

Torr, C. 1894b. “Les navires sur les vases du Dipylon,” RA 25 : 14-27.

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