The God of Wine at Sea
The drinking vessel that the potter and vase-painter Exekias created around 530 BC is one of the best known antique vessels of all - and without doubt one of the finest and most significant.
The interior shows a depiction of Dionysus, the god of wine, reclining on a ship with a billowing white sail. Vines are climbing up the mast and dolphins are swimming around the ship. This painting is meant to remind the beholder of a well-known myth told of the god: Dionysus had been captured by pirates and carried off to their ship. At sea, however, the god appeared to the men in his true guise, whereupon the men, seized with panic, jumped into the sea and were transformed by Dionysus into dolphins.
Whoever drank from this vessel had an unusual experience: the god emerged from the sea of red wine, swam on the top of the waves for a brief moment and then travelled with his ship into the open mouth of the person drinking. The reveller imbibed the god directly and was able to directly feel the effect of the wine and the god at the same time. So the bowl was more than just an elaborate drinking vessel. Every time you used it, you came one bit closer to the god Dionysus.
Exekias was doubtless well aware of the outstanding quality of the vessel that he had created. He proudly signed the work on the outer edge of the vessel base. Exekias epoese - Exekias made it.