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Derveni krater in Thessaloniki archaeological museum in Greece

Our picture shows a detail of one of the most remarkable things we see in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki in Greece. The central galleries are devoted more or less entirely to "the Gold of Macedon", the treasures found in high-status cemeteries around the region. The earlier finds are reminiscent of the Archontiko material at Pella, which we described here in 2020. From the "Gold of Macedon" exhibit itself, we have posted a wreath from Pydna here many years ago.

Shown here, and also from Derveni, is a detail of the so-called Derveni Krater, one of the most precious metal vessels from all of ancient Greece. It may well deserve its very own blog post in the future, but here we'll describe it in a few words: it is a bronze vessel, 90 cm (36 in) tall and weighing 40 kilos (88lb); its purpose is the mixing of wine and water at a symposion (the ritualised drinking party that was central to male social life); it probably dates to about 350 BC and was perhaps made in Athens or at least by an Athenian-trained craftsman. Its owner was a man called Astion, son of Anaxagoras, from Larisa in Thessaly (as an inscription on the top tells us). Presumably, the grave it was found in was his.

The krater is incredibly ornate, with extraordinarily finely traced decoration depicting the marriage of Dionysos (God of wine and various kinds of ecstasy) and Ariadne, accompanied by Dionysos's entourage, satyrs and maenads, in wildly exuberant celebration. The detail of these dancing figures, their flowing and slipping garments, their expressions of ecstasy, their dynamism and their eroticism, is astonishing to behold. Fully three-dimensional figures, also of bronze, are sitting on the vessel's shoulder (not shown here), apparently nursing their hangovers or recovering from whatever else they debauched in!

The Derveni Krater is a must-see object for anyone interested in ancient art or craftsmanship. There is nearly nothing else like it preserved from antiquity and it was probably a rare kind of object at its time. Its atmosphere of partying would certainly have been very appropriate at a symposion. We also feel in a celebratory mood at the end of this new trip that was delayed in its inauguration, but our celebrations this evening remained somewhat tamer.

To see the Derveni Krater and many other archaeological wonders with expert guides, take a look at our Exploring Macedonia tour.

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