Shapes of Vases and their Uses
Melissa Sidor, Ripton Marini, Casey Cummings

        Our group's task was to create a document that showed the principal shapes of vases and their uses in a symposion (drinking party). Illustrated here are the amphora, hydria, krater, oinochoe, kylix and skyphos,  We also briefly discuss the lekythos, since it is relevant to our course work.

         The first type of shaped vase used was the amphora. It was used to store wine and measured between about 30 in. all the way up to 60 in. in height. The Greek word "amphora" means "with two handles," which well describes it shape.  (The source of these and subsequent ouline images is http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/shapes.htm).

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        The next type of vase is a hydria, which was used for carrying and storing water. The name hydria comes from the Greek word hudor, which means "water." Hydriai often stood about a foot and a half high. Many ancient pictures show women going to water sources and gathering water. This type of vase has three handles two for lifting/carrying and one for pouring.

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        A krater was a large bowl with two handles, used for mixing water and wine. (The Greeks probably stored their wine with a higher alcohol content than modern wine, but after diluting it with water probably drank it with a lower alcoholic content.) There were various types of these vases. Some common varieties are the bell-krater, which has horizontal handles and a bell shaped body; the columnar-krater, which has vertical, columnar handles that are set off by the neck of the vase; and the volute-krater, which has vertical handles, which terminate in spirals, also set off the neck. Most krateres were between 25-40 in. in height.

            Columnar                                  Volute                               Bell

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         Another item used in the symposion was a wine pitcher called an oinochoe.  This was used in more formal indoor gatherings, unlike some outdoor gatherings where wine was taken by ladles out of a krater.  Click here for an image of an oinochoe.                return to top


        The last important vessel is the drinking cup, which appears in two principal forms, the kylix with a shallow bowl,

and the skyphos, which was a less decorative and elaborate vessel, much like an ordinary cup.

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The lekythos  was an oil flask used at baths and gymnasia, and for funerary offerings. The flask has a long, cylindrical body gracefully tapered to the base, and a narrow neck with a loop-shaped handle. Funerary lekythoi were typically covered with a white slip that was then painted with paints of different colors.  Our "What is She Thinking?" picture is on a lekythos; for an example of the full shape, click here.