Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Ship stern with helmsman

Cat. No.





Athens acropolis



fragment from a krater

Accession Number

Athens National Museum


Basch 1987: 203, no. 424; Cook 1934-1935:191-92, pl. 55c; Morrison-Williams 1968: 74, Arch. 4; Wedde 1999a: 511-12, fig. 9

Stern of a ship to the left. The aftercastle consists of a low cross-hatched bulwark that hugs the sloping hull, with a rail above it supported by four stanchions. To the right and above the rail is a triangular area painted black, probably functioning as support of the sternpost. Incurving sternpost of which only the tip is preserved, with a single short oblique stroke on its lower side, giving it the resemblance of a hook. A helmsman with both arms extended sits behind the rail, the lower part of his torso disappearing behind it. He has an exaggeratedly large eye, a beard, and a tunic decorated with white dots. There are two thick verticals slightly higher than the rail in front of it. An oblique line extending from the right hand one could be part of the steering oar. Attached to the left hand one are stumps of two horizontals, representing the hull and a rail above it. That the space between them was open is indicated by the diminutive standing figure in front on the helmsman, whose legs cross the upper horizontal. The figure faces left and has an outstretched arm, with its preserved foot slightly floating above the hull.

This depiction is very similar to the Sounion plaque, both in terms of the details of the stern such as the latticed bulwark, and the rendering of the helmsman (garment, beard, oversized proportion).

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

Cook, J. M. 1934-1935. “Protoattic Pottery.” BSA 35: 165-219.

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

Wedde, M. 1999a. “Decked Vessels in Early Greek Ship Architecture,” in H.E. Tzalas (ed.) Tropis V: 5th International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity. Nauplia, 26, 27, 28 August 1993. (Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition). Athens: Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition, pp. 505-526.

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