The examples of ancient Greek pottery that have survived are often seen by historians 'as windows to the past'. The everyday scenes seen, and the stories and myths heard by the potters and painters, were the inspiration for their designs. The importance of athletics in ancient Greek life meant that such scenes were also included in the repertoire of designs that grace pottery - in fact they were favoured since athletes were considered the ultimate examples of beauty.
All the painted scenes on this kylix (drinking cup) relate to a sporting/competitive theme, including athletes training for the long-jump and the discus.
On side A of the cup are three figures. A naked youth is holding (or perhaps warming up with) a discus, and behind him another youth appears to be exercising using halteres (jumping weights). The primary purpose of halteres, rather than as the equivalents of dumb bells, was to increase the forward momentum of the long-jump - the weights being swung forward whilst in the air. To the left of the two athletes a trainer keeps a watchful eye. Side B also depicts three figures. Two naked athletes, one of whom holds halteres, flank a trainer leaning on a staff. Judging by the trainer's gesture he appears to be instructing or settling a dispute between the two.
In the medallion of the cup is a youth reclining on a couch. He is wearing a victor's wreath on his head and is attending a symposium (drinking party) - possibly part of a banquet of the kind we know was held at the end of each Olympiad for victorious athletes. He is playing a game called kottabos, a boisterous combination of accuracy and wishful thinking: whilst flicking the dregs of the wine into a vessel (or at a person) across the room, the name of a desired or loved one was confessed aloud. In the case of this cup, the name LACHES is written in Greek as if spoken from the youth's mouth.
Other words written on the vase also refer to Laches, together with HO PAIS KALOS, or 'the boy is beautiful'. In ancient Greece, athletes were considered the ultimate objects of beauty. Laches was presumably a youth in ancient Athens renowned for his physical appearance, and his is the most popular 'kalos name' used on the 100 or so cups attributed to the Antiphon Painter.
Paul Donnelly, 1999