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Ancient texts are silent about the pyres at Eleusis,
which have been revealed by the excavations of the
Greek Archaeological Society at Athens. Three pyres,
the oldest dating back to the eighth century B.C.E.,
provide evidence of ritual burning of pottery, figu-
rines, plaques, and other offerings just outside the
walls of the sacred center of this sanctuary. In her
1999 publication of the material associated with these
pyres (Ελευσίσ: Πρώιμεσ πυρέσ θυσιών στο Τελεστήριο
τησ Ελευσίνοσ [Athens]), Kokkou-Vyridi reserved four
wedding vases for separate study. These four fragmen-
tary black-figure vases, one loutrophoros amphora and
three lebetes gamikoi, are her focus in this study of the
black-figure wedding pottery from the sacrificial pyres
at Eleusis. She begins by fitting together what can be
gleaned from excavation records to demonstrate that
the four vases belong to the material from Pyre Γ,
located outside the peribolos wall north of the archaic
Telesterion, with material dating from 560–480 B.C.E.
In the second chapter, she provides a full description
of the fragments; in the third, she identifies the date
and maker of each vase. The final chapter discusses
the significance of the presence of wedding pottery
in the context of the Eleusinian pyres. At the end is
an English summary of the book’s contents and an
index. It would have been helpful to have also a list
of the many illustrations found throughout the book.
Of the loutrophoros amphora, we have three frag-
ments from the neck, inscribed with the potter’s name,
Kleimachos, the sole pieces known by this maker.
Beazley includes it in his list of vases (ABV, 85) but
hesitates as to its shape. Kokkou-Vyridi compares
its arrangement of figures in conversational groups
with those of other loutrophoroi and establishes
that these fragments must belong to a loutrophoros
amphora (47–8). This is of interest because the pot-
ter’s inscription identifies the vase as belonging to
the potter himself (ΚΕΜI ΚΕΝΟY). Here we have,
as the author points out, more evidence associating
the amphora shape with the bridegroom’s wedding
baths, what Kleimachos must have intended for this
ritual shape (51).
The three lebetes gamikoi are here attributed to
the Swing Painter, the E Group, and the Kleophrades
Painter (his workshop and probably the Kleophrades
Painter himself [157]). The Swing Painter lebes fea-
tures a wedding procession on one side (including
Dionysos, Hermes, and Apollo), a frontal chariot and
horses on the other. What remains of the base depicts
Artemis, Apollo, Leto, Hermes, and another female
figure, with an animal frieze below. The E Group vase
on one side depicts a wedding procession accompa-
nied by, on a piece now lost, a man hauling on his
back a large krater; on the other side are standing male
and female figures, apparently in conversation. This
vase was repaired in antiquity. Of the Kleophrades
Painter’s lebes gamikos, only two fragments remain,
from the base. It features an abduction, here identified
as Peleus’ abduction of Thetis, with an animal frieze
below. All three attributions are based on scrupulous
attention to the range of possible evidence, from
details of figural drawing to shape, ornament, and
subject. Each vase is drawn as is and with supplements
to clarify the scene; there are ample photographs and
close-ups of these vases and those with which they are
compared to illustrate and justify the author’s claims.
The final chapter grapples with the difficult topic
of the meaning of wedding pottery in the context of
the Eleusinian pyres. The author isolated these vases
from the rest of the material from the pyres in order
to take up this question, and although her conclusions
on such a subject will be controversial, there is much
to gain from her discussion.
Here, the previously published black-figure wed-
ding pottery found at Eleusis, some indeed in the
Eleusinian pyres, enters the picture. Six loutrophoroi,
Μελανόμορφα γαμήλια αγγεία από τισ πυρέσ
θυσιών στο ιερό τησ Ελευσίνασ
By Konstantina Kokkou-Vyridi (Βιβλιοθήκη τησ εν Αθήναισ Αρχαιολογικήσ Εταιρείασ 267).
Pp. 241, figs. 68. The Archaeological Society at Athens, Athens 2010. Price not available.
ISBN 978-690-8145-81-8 (paper).
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another in red-figure, and three lebetes gamikoi supple-
ment the vases published here to complete the picture.
All are illustrated, but without a systematic list it takes
determination on the part of the reader to assemble the
scenes. Discussion of their meaning begins with a survey
of evidence for the use of these wedding shapes, the
range of shapes on which scenes such as those shown
on these vases occur, the contexts in which they occur,
and also, perhaps most interesting, the contexts in which
they do not occur. The Nymphe shrine south of the Athe-
nian Acropolis is an important point of reference. We
learn, for example, that the warrior’s departure appears
on lekythoi and other pots intended for the tomb; it does
not occur on the loutrophoroi at the Nymphe shrine,
indicating that it represents a subject inappropriate for
the pottery at this shrine, the warrior’s death (183–95).
Thus, when paired with a wedding procession, as on
our lebes, it indicates a young man killed in battle before
his wedding (178–84).
Many scenes are appropriate both to weddings and
to the dead. At Eleusis, and particularly on these pyres,
the connection to death comes to the fore (196–97); un-
derlying the discussion is the assumption that the pyres
are essentially funerary. The scenes on these vases, the
author’s analysis suggests, support that interpretation.
Since chthonic powers, linked to fertility, are powerful
forces here on earth, too, wedding pots may attain a
second meaning when “sacrificed” (217) in pyres as part
of a ceremonial connection of mortals with death and
the underworld. The author envisions these offerings
accompanied by prayers seeking both protection for the
dead and to bring well-being and fertility to the living, a
combination comparable to prayers in Greek Orthodox
churches today “for the living and the dead” (217–19).
At times, this seems a circular argument. What if
we don’t assume that the pyres have a funerary na-
ture? And even in the case of vases found in tombs, do
they necessarily convey the imagery of death? I found
myself wishing that the author could have considered
Patera’s essay, probably too recent to be taken into ac-
count here (“Vestiges sacrificiels et vestiges d’offrandes
dans les purai d’Eleusis,” in V. Mehl and P. Brulé, eds.,
Le sacrifice antique [Rennes 2008]), with the suggestion
that the pyres belong more directly to the ceremonies
of initiation.
We have here a dense and richly imaginative discus-
sion with valuable information throughout, including
precious comments on unpublished material from the
Nymphe shrine in Athens. Its discussion of iconography
will be of interest not only to specialists in the field of
vase painting but to the ever-growing number of schol-
ars who make use of these images to gain insight into
ancient Greek life and ideology. In the end, though, these
enigmatic offerings seem destined to remain among the
mysteries of Eleusis.
REBECCA H. SINOS
DEPARTMENT OF CLASSICS
AMHERST COLLEGE
AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS 01002
RHSINOS@AMHERST.EDU

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