The pictured black-figured lekythos features Hermes (in his role as a psychopomp), weighing the souls of Achilles and a Trojan warrior (Memnon or Hector):

Pottery: black-figured lekythos: the Weighing of Souls.

What I find particularly interesting in the scene is the two winged male figures on the scales. According to the British Museum's description of the lekythos, they represent the souls of heroes:

Pottery: black-figured lekythos: the Weighing of Souls. Design black on drab ground, with purple accessories. On the shoulder, lotus-buds; on the body, above, an ivy-wreath. Contest of Achilles and Memnon (or Hector): On either side is a warrior, bearded and fully armed, thrusting with spear, each having a short chiton with purple spots; the one on the left has a Boeotian shield, the other has the device of a crab (?). In the centre Hermes Pyschopompos to right, bearded, with petasos, short chiton and chlamys, both with purple spots, and endromides, holds out a pair of scales in left hand, each scale containing a small winged male figure, representing the souls of the two heroes. In the field, imitation inscriptions.

From what I understand, Keres would be the more obvious choice to symbolize the souls of the warriors in such a scene. However, all sources I know describe them as female, not male.

What are these figures then? Do they have names, and do they appear elsewhere in Greek mythology?

1 Answer 1


You are correct in thinking they are the Keres. I clicked on the Wikipedia page you linked and found Kerostasia/Psychostasia. That means, "weighing of the souls," a method of divine determination of fate. It was a persistent theme(?) in the Iliad. It states that while Achilles and Hector were fighting, Zeus hung up golden scales, set twin Keres(two fateful portions of death) in them and weighted their lives rather then the fates of the two. Hector's Ker was more, and thus, destined to die.

Warning, opinion!

It might not have mattered if the Keres were used to represent male warriors as "two fateful portions of death." It is also stated in "Weighing of souls," ,"..."The Keres or φυχαί are represented as miniature men..."'

Because this is the only one I have found, I would say that this is the only instance in which they were used this way, but am hesitant to do so for a good chunk of mythology has been lost and/or diluted/changed over the millennia.

If they were in mythology lost, it would most likely be displayed in similar situations(major mortal wars). Possibly Seven Against Thebes, though I know the first two books(epics?) have been lost in trilogy.

  • Hm, you aren't addressing the fact that the figures in the lekythos are male, though. Which is the whole point of the question, really.
    – yannis
    Feb 24, 2018 at 16:35
  • I don't think that it's the fact that they are male, it's that they are represented as male. ' "The Keres or φυχαί are represented as miniature men..." ' Quote from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weighing_of_souls Feb 24, 2018 at 16:43
  • That is an interesting quote. Please update your answer to include it (and if possible reference its actual source, not Wikipedia).
    – yannis
    Feb 24, 2018 at 17:28
  • I tried looking for it in the British Museum, but could not find the comment on the lekythos. Feb 24, 2018 at 18:55

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