Amphora with Athena fighting a Giant (A) and two warriors fighting (B).
Greek, 500 BC-490 BC
Fired clay, black-figure technique. 23,2 cm
Inventory number: H536
This ancient wine vessel (amphora) from Thorvaldsen’s collection of antiquities is decorated with a scene where the goddess Athene battles with a Giant.
To explain how the gods had gained their power, the ancients recounted the myth of the struggle of the gods with their predecessors, the Giants and the Titans. First the gods conquered the mighty Titans, who were the children of Uranus (the Sky) and Gaia (the Earth). But Gaia wanted to avenge her child¬ren and allied herself with the monstrous Giants, who went to war with the gods. For a long time the battle raged back and forth, and only with the aid of the hero Hercules did the gods finally succeed in vanquishing the Giants. This definitively established their supremacy.
The myth of the struggle of the gods with the turbulent, monstrous mass of Giants is a story of how Cosmos, the ordered universe, triumphed over Chaos, the chaotic primeval state. For the Greeks the struggle also symbolized the battle of civilization against barbarism, and the myth was used as a symbol of the Greek conquest of other peoples.