Cups and other drinking vessels

Consistent features for drinking cups during the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. are the relatively shallow shape, a foot that is connected to the bowl by a stem (except in the case of stemless cups) and two handles. The Greek name kylix (pl. kylikes) seems to have been used for the shape in antiquity, although it was probably applied to other drinking vessels too. Modern classifications such as Komast-, Siana-, Little Masters, and Types A, B, and C are useful for bringing to light the general course of the shape's development, which is broadly chronological. But not every example fits neatly into each type, and scholars have identified further variants, such as Cassel and Droop cups. In all cases, the handles are horizontal, often swinging upwards. Handles that meet at a point, such as those found on so-called Merrythought cups, are named 'wishbone handles'after the skeletal feature that they resemble.

Deeper vessels, such as the skyphos, mastos and kantharos, are also considered here, as are the rhyton, head- and figure-vases. Many are depicted in use, most obviously in symposium scenes. In particular, the kylix is used for the game of kottabos, which involved flinging the dregs of one's drink at a target. 'Mugs' are discussed under pouring vessels, but phialai are included here, for they were occasionally used as drinking vessels.

Back to top