They said it couldn't be done but done it was. They put a hydra on a hydria. No, you aren't hearing double. The Etruscans put a hydra, a mythical monster, on a hydria, a jar used to carry water. Probably to confuse future students.

Let's zoom in on the hydria. Notice this freize, a horizontal pattern of ivy decorating the hydria's shoulder. Also, the hydra has three handles. Before you think it, no, the Etruscans did not have three hands. The third handle made pouring water easier.

Athenian hydriai were simple with a less vivid range of colors, but this one was reinterpreted for the Etruscan market. Of course, it kept the iconic motif of Herakles, a figure often depicted in Greek art. Starting as a baby, Herakles performed incredible feats and as an adult, the adventures continued, even slaying a nine-headed hydra.

The hydra was so fearsome as every time a head was cut off, two more grew back in its place. Quite the pickle. Let's see how Herakles conquered this beast. Personally, I would have just gone for its heart rather than slice off every head.

Perhaps there's a life lesson in the hydra's story. The solution to the problem is often about shifting your point of view. Or maybe we are just supposed to appreciate the hydra, a cool monster that looks pretty good on a hydria.

What story would you put on a modern day hydria?

Caeretan Hydria

520–510 BCE
Name unknown, but nicknamed “Eagle Painter,” active 530–500 BCE
Go To Object Page

Learning Guide

Download the Learning Guide related to this object below.

Related Media

Click below to go to multimedia player.

Learning Guide

Download the Learning Guide related to this object below.