This vase belongs to a distinctive type given as a prize in the games held at Athens during the yearly festival known as the Panathenaia. The festival honoured Athena, the city’s patron deity. The vase, filled with olive oil, was given to a victor at the Athenian games. An inscription on one side of the vase translates ‘from the games at Athens’, while on the other side the potter has signed his work, ‘Kittos made [it]’.
Athena herself was usually shown on one side of such vessels. Here she wears an elaborately decorated chiton (tunic), and her characteristic aegis. On the other side was shown the sport for which the prize was given. These two contestants are probably taking part in a pankration, a vicious all-in fighting event which combined boxing, wrestling and kicking - though the rules forbade biting and gouging. The third naked athlete on the right is perhaps waiting to compete. The figure on the left is a trainer or a judge.