Odysseus escapes from the cave

First | Previous Picture | Next Picture | Last

Odysseus escapes from the cave under the ram, a red figure painting on an Attic Kylix, dated to beginning of 5thC BC

To the right of the picture, Polyphemus lies in wait at the mouth of the cave, while three rams each with a man bound under the belly approaches hime. Tow of the men have their arms bound tightly round the ram's neck, but the third who leads the way has his hands free and brandishes a sword in his left hand while he clasps the neck of the ram with his right.

The arming of Odysseus is an addition to Homer's story but is common on vases. It has the artistic value of enabling us to distinguish the hero from his comrades. The ram, too, in this picture is distinguished by having dots suggesting a thick fleece. In the background is a spreading tree, perhaps suggesting the mouth of the cave.

Below is another vase showing this scene, with Odysseus in an even more improbable pose, his head apparently having twisted fully round to face his foe.