21 click on the image for the pot, or here for details 2006.21.T, Boeotian Type A Kantharos
450 BCE
Height 19.3 cm
Maximum Width 12.1 cm
Transferred from the University of Colorado Musuem of Natural History to the CU Art Museum, University of Colorado (2006).

This kantharos (plural kantharoi ) is 19.3 cm tall and has a maximum diameter of 12.1 cm. It is possibly of Boeotian origin. The Etruscans in Italy produced bucchero kantharoi in the late 7 th or early 6 th century BCE and the shape is later adopted by Boeotian potters.(1) Click here for examples of Boeotian kantharoi from this period. The kantharos in this exhibit is dated to 450 BCE.(2) It is entirely black glazed, which is common during this time period when non-figural, black-painted ware becomes popular.(3) There is an incised band between the base of the body and the stem and two more horizontal incised bands in the middle of the stem that show the deep orange or rust color of the clay. There is also a ring of orange clay visible along the outer edge of the foot. This is visible in another Boeotian kantharos that has the same shape as the example from this exhibit and is also dated to 450 BCE.

There are several different shapes of kantharoi. This example from the University of Colorado Art Museum is a Type A Kantharos . This style of cup is identified by its high stemmed foot, tall straight sides, and tall handles that rise above the lip.(4) On this and other Type A kantharoi there is a horizontal step on the exterior of the cup between the vertical sides and the stem. This step corresponds to an undercut lip on the interior of the cup. The undercut leads to the shallow, curved base on the interior of the bowl. There is a smooth transition between the exterior step and the handles.

The kantharos is a cup used to hold wine, possibly for drinking or for ritual use or offerings. The kantharos seems to be an attribute of Dionysos, the god of wine.(5) He is often depicted holding this type of vessel, as on this example of a silver Stater coin minted between 420 - 410 BCE in Nagidus, Cilicia.(6) Satyrs, bestial goat-men associated with Dionysos, and Maenads, women who joined in the revelry of Dionysian festivals, were commonly portrayed on painted pottery holding a kantharos.(7) Dionysos, Satyrs and Maenads were particularly represented with a kantharos on kraters, kylikes, and other shapes associated with the symposium (link to Jessika's essay) . Despite this fact, the kantharos may not be a banquet-cup, but rather a vessel used in pagan cult as a symbol of rebirth or the immortality offered by wine, "removing in moments of ecstasy the burden of self-consciousness and elevating man to the rank of deity."(8) The kantharos is depicted in scenes that might be related to funerary cult or offerings.(9)

Author: Gina Hander

This vase was originally published by Hara Tzavella-Evjen, in "Greek and Roman Vases and Statuettes from the University of Colorado Collection," Deltion 28 (1973) (Athens 1975):195.


(1) "Kantharos," Perseus Digital Library Project , Accessed 28 March, 2005, available from: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3atext%3a1999%2e04%2e0004&query=id%3dkantharos#id,kantharos.

(2) Dating based on comparison to other Boeotian Kantharoi of this period as published by Hara Tzavella-Evjen and other sources. Hara Tzavella-Evjen, "Greek and Roman Vases and Statuettes from the University of Colorado Collection," Deltion 28 (1973) (Athens 1975):195, pl. 99c. CVA Romanie , pl. 41 (1). CVA Deutschland 5, pl. 20 (10). M. G. Kanowski, Containers of Classical Greece:  A Handbook of Shapes (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press 1983): 48-51, fig 3.

(3) R. M. Cook, Greek Painted Pottery (London: Routledge, 1997):201.

(4) "Type A Kantharos," Perseus Digital Library Project, Accessed 28 March, 2005, available from: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3atext%3a1999%2e04%2e0004&query=id%3dtype%2da%2dkantharos#id,type-a-kantharos.

(5) George W. Elderkin, Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1924):4.

(6) Andrew J. Clark, Maya Elston, and Mary Louise Hart, Understanding Greek Vases: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 2002):101.

(7) Maenads, Satyrs. N. G. L. Hammond, H. H. Scullard, eds., "Maenades" and "Satyrs" The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970):636, 956.

(8) Elderkin, Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult , 2-6.

(9) According to Elderkin, the Kantharos suggests a libation to the dead. Elderkin explains further symbolism, including the pomegranate, snake, and other components of this relief that link it to the cult of the dead. Elderkin, Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult , 2-6.