Getty Museum Exhibit Explores Ancient Greek Beliefs on Afterlife

underworld-gettyA funerary vessel, known as a ‘krater’, is the centerpiece of an exhibition that raises the question of what the ancient Greeks believed happened after death.

The exhibition, called “Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife,” is taking place began on Wednesday and continues through March 18, 2019 at the Getty Villa, one of two locations of the Getty Museum.

It aims to shed light onto various depictions of the underworld from ancient artwork originating from Greece and southern Italy.

This specific krater, on loan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, dates back as far as the middle of the fourth century B.C., giving insight into the lives and, more importantly, death of ancient Greeks. It was found in fragments 1847 in the southeastern Italian region of Apulia.

Although the people who resided in the region in ancient times, Apulians, were not Greek, they associated closely with the Greek culture. Included among ruins discovered in the area are numerous funerary vases decorated with scenes from ancient Greece such as myths and well-known dramas.

Indeed, the krater on exhibit depicts the underworld, featuring over 20 mythological figures including the god and goddess of the underworld, Hades and Persephone, as well as Orpheus, Hercules, Hermes, and Sisyphus.

“Some of the richest evidence for ancient beliefs about the afterlife comes from southern Italy in the fourth century BC, and the magnificent Altamura krater exemplifies the monumental, elaborately decorated vases that were produced at that time,” said Timothy Potts, the director of the Getty Museum, as reported by

There will be an additional 35 pieces on display during the exhibition, said David Saunders, curator of the exhibition and associate curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum.

The ancient works “have been chosen to highlight the famous inhabitants of Hades and to explore the ways in which individuals sought to achieve a happier afterlife,”  said Saunders.

The exhibition is being organized in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum in Naples – Laboratory of Conservation and Restoration. More information is available here.