ancient world. From Cornwall, in Britain, to Mediterranean ports, tin and copperto be smelted into bronze were transported to Etruscans and Greeks, saltexchanged for amphorae of wine and oil, furs and Baltic amber traded for prizedMediterranean coral.How and why, I wondered, did this immense Krater make its way from the southof Italy to a Celtic settlement near Châtillon-sur-Seine, a small town in easternBurgundy? When I read that the Krater was cast in Italy, in Taranto, a Spartan
, circa 510 B.C., it fired my imagination just as the story of the destruction,demise, and rediscovery of Sybaris had almost twenty years before. Of coursewe made a detour and drove straight to Châtillon. When we beheldthis wondrous object--a masterpiece--we were taken aback by its immensity, itsstance. In 1994 the Krater still stood in the center of a small room so we wereable to get close. And yes--I did reach over the stanchion to gently touch it,although I'm sure this was forbidden.The Krater of Vix is a vessel standing 5' 4" tall, weighing over 450 pounds, with acapacity of 1100 liters of wine. Kraters for mixing wine and water were commonin the Greek world, but they were usually made of clay.What makes this magnificent bronze vessel even more intriguing was itsdiscovery in the tomb of a woman, about thirty years old, laid to rest in herchariot, its wheels removed and propped against a wall. Among her treasures isa ceramic black-figure Attic kylix of Amazons battling Greek hoplites, dating thetomb precisely as late 6th century B.C.Eerily beautiful, the handles of the Krater depict tongue-gaping, sharp-toothed,snake-tailed gorgons, those horrid sisters whose bulging-eyed gaze could turnmen into stone, a familiar subject in archaic period Greek art and a motif oftenfound as the handles of vases. A frieze of helmeted hoplites and horses wrapsaround the rim of the vessel. Found lying nearby were the Krater's strainer andits cover, centered with a statuette of a Kore, the Maiden, wearing a Greekpeplos, a mantle draped over her head. How, I wondered, could I link these twodiscoveries together to tell a story, that of legendary Sybaris together with anobject contemporary to Sybaris, the Krater of Vix in Burgundy, the largest bronzevessel to come down to us from Antiquity. I asked my good friend, Dr AndrewStewart, renowned expert in Ancient Greek Art and Sculpture at Berkeley, if hethought I could describe the Krater as having been cast in Sybaris. SurelySybaris would make more vivid storytelling than Spartan Taranto. His reply,"Why not?” It's close enough to Taranto so you shouldn't have a problem-- goahead--set it in Sybaris." And so the back-story of my novel-to-be would takeplace before and after the fall of Sybaris in 510 B.C., around the time the Kraterwas cast. From Sybaris it would find its way across the Mediterranean, up themighty Rhone to the Seine, finally to arrive at Vix, eventually to the tomb of awoman, obviously someone of great importance.