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For the philosopher, see Epictetus.
Palaistra scene on a plate, about 520/10 BC. Louvre.
Details of a head in the scene above
Scythian archer, running while looking backwards and pulling an arrow from his quiver, cup, circa 520/500 BC. British Museum.

Epiktetos was an Attic vase painter in the early red-figure style. Besides Oltos, he is the most important painter of the Pioneer Group. He was active between 520 and 490 BC. His name translates as "newly acquired" which is most probably a reference to his slave status.[1]

At the beginning of his career, Epiktetos painted a chalice krater made by the potter Andokides, but later he turned to smaller vessels, such as cups and plates. He worked for a variety of potters, including Andokides, Hischylos and the Nikosthenes-Pamphaios workshop. Since he signed one plate as painter and potter, he must have worked in both functions at least for some time. That plate was avotive offering, dedicated on the Athenian Acropolis. On one kylix, he collaborated with the Euergides Painter. He appears to have been aware of his talent, as he signed more than half of the works ascribed to him.

His first vases are bilingual eye-cups. Already at this stage, he is technically superior to the early works of Oltos, and omits out-of-date features such as palmette-hearts. He also uses the relief-line technique. Epiktetos is considered a master of the tondo (circular image inside a cup). Often, his vases are only painted on the inside. His miniature drawings are very accurate. His use of colour and ornament is careful and restricted. His lines and details are very balanced, heads and limbs well-proportioned. His use of perspective on figures is very convincing. John Beazley praises Epiktetos: „it is not possible to draw better, only to draw differently “. John Boardman also lauds him as the „greatest drughtsman in early red-figure vase painting “.[2]

His motifs are interesting, not least from a point of view of modern scholarship. While he rarely depicts mythological scenes, which are usually not very original, his everyday scenes are all the more important. He shows Athenian citizens at play, at the symposion and in erotic scenes, where he develops new aspects and motifs. He played an important role in the development of the satyr as a figure expression beastlike masculinity. His tondi cease to depict the kneeling runner characteristic of black-figure vase painting; instead his figures squat, kneel or are seated. In some cases, the posture of figures depicted on his vases is nearly identical, while tha action varies greatly. For example, a bent and twisted figure is in once case the Minotaur, in another a man masturbating into a pot, in a third a girl pleasuring herself with a dildo.

Komast with a skyphos, a staff and pipes case, tondo from a red-figure plate by Epiktetos, ca. 520s BCE500s BCE, from Vulci, Cabinet des Médailles (n.510).

The end of his career remains unclear. One of his latest works is on a cup by the potter Python – here he appears stylistically influenced by Python's main painter, Douris – another on a vase by Pistoxenos. Epiktetos's work must have received considerable appreciation at the time, as indicated by a pelike by the Kleophrades Painter which is twice falsely signed Epiktetos egraphsen (Epiktetos painted it). The signature is a falsification, suggesting that the vessel was considered more marketable if considered to be by Epiktetos.


  • John Beazley: Attic red-figure vase-painters, 2nd ed. Oxford 1963, p. 70-79
  • John Boardman: Rotfigurige Vasen aus Athen. Die archaische Zeit, von Zabern, 4. Ed., Mainz 1994 (Kulturgeschichte der Antiken Welt, Vol 4), esp. S. 64-66, ISBN 3-8053-0234-7


  1. ^ The Getty Museum - Biography of Epiktetos Epiktetos painted vases in Athens in the period from about 520 to 490 B.C. He worked in red-figure in the early days of the technique, but he also produced several bilingual cups with red-figure decoration on the exterior and black-figure on the interior, a type that was popular in this period. Epiktetos specialized in the decoration of cups, but he produced a range of other shapes as well. Scholars have attributed over a hundred surviving vases to him. He signed his name to almost half of these, often misspelling the accompanying verb. Throughout his long career, Epiktetos worked for several different potters, including Hischylos and the workshop of Nikosthenes and Pamphaios. Epiktetos produced delicate, precise work as a painter, and preferred scenes of daily life and Dionysiac revelry to mythological scenes. The name Epiktetos translates as "newly acquired." Epiktetos was probably a slave, or at least he was when he began his career. Many of the artists working in Athens at this period would have been slaves or metics, the ancient Greek term for "resident aliens."
  2. ^ Boardman: Rotfigurige Vasen aus Athen. Die archaische Zeit, p. 67.

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This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.