This paper examines the importance of artist names and artistic identity, especially as expressed in artist signatures, to the interpretation of ancient Greek pottery. Attention is focused on a calyx krater signed ΣϒPIΣKOΣ EΓPΦΣEN [sic], and it is argued that the non-Greek ethnikon used as artist name encourages a non-Athenian reading of the iconography. The painted labels for all six figures on this vase, together with parallels from other Athenian red-figure vases—including others from the Syriskos workshop—all suggest the presentation of an alternative, un-Athenian world view. Okeanos, Dionysos, and Epaphos are read as representing faraway lands at the edges of the Ge Panteleia, or “entire earth,” while the central figure of Themis, Greek personification of divine right, is depicted pouring a libation to Balos, the Hellenized form of the Syrian supreme god Baal, thereby recognizing his status as a supreme deity. Other overtly political messages have been read elsewhere in the oeuvre of the Syriskos Workshop, where it seems that at least two distinct artistic identities were at play—the explicitly foreign “little Syrian,” and the more conventional Pistoxenos, or “trustworthy foreigner.” When explicitly signed on vessels, these artistic identities necessarily sway interpretation, whereas on the many unsigned pieces, the viewer is left to consider which identity is at play.
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