Athena’s Vase

Will David
Will David is a member of the Class of 2020.

Panathenaic Amphora, Greece, Early 5th century BCE, Ceramic, 53.3 x 32.1 cm, The Baltimore Museum of Art,Purchase with exchange funds from the Antioch Subscription, and Frank J. and Elizabeth L. Goodnow Collection, BMA 1960.55.3. This object is currently on loan to the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

Poet’s Statement

My poem, “Athena’s Vase,” is an ekphrastic poem in response to a Great Panathenaic amphora at the museum.  These amphorae were filled with olive oil and given to the winners of the Panathenaic Games (a precursor to the Olympics) every four years.  My goal for this poem was to focus on the great historical context in which the object existed rather than focusing on the beauty of the physical object itself.  While the physical object itself is intriguing, it is the historical context that brings this object to life.

Athena’s Vase

Come the eighth day of the contest,

Athens had tried their hardest.

The citizens are tired,

but celebration they desire.


To the winners belong the spoils,

a vase of sacred oils.

The Panathenaic amphora,

within the great agora.


The most remarkable musician,

destroyed the competition.

Rejoicing in the summer,

the swiftest of the runners.


In the sea of amphoras,

each a shining aura.

The eighth day ended in speculation,

who will win the next competition?