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Red-figure Apulian kantharos with a female head, 320–310 BC (Walters Art Museum)
Silver kantharos with the death of Orpheus and the abduction of Helen, c. 420–410 BC, part of the Vassil Bojkov collection, Sofia, Bulgaria

A kantharos /ˈkænθəˌrɒs/ (Ancient Greek: κάνθαρος) or cantharus /ˈkænθərəs/ is a type of ancient Greek cup used for drinking. Although almost all surviving examples are in Greek pottery, the shape, like many Greek vessel types, probably originates in metalwork. In its iconic "Type A" form, it is characterized by its deep bowl, tall pedestal foot, and pair of high-swung handles which extend above the lip of the pot. The Greek words kotylos (κότῦλος, masculine) and kotyle (κοτύλη, feminine) are other ancient names for this same shape.[1]

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, who was associated with vegetation and fertility.[2]

As well as a banqueting cup, they could be used in pagan rituals as a symbol of rebirth or resurrection, the immortality offered by wine, "removing in moments of ecstasy the burden of self-consciousness and elevating man to the rank of deity".[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew J. Clark; Maya Elston; Mary Louise Hart (2002), Understanding Greek Vases: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques, Getty, p. 101, ISBN 978-0-89236-599-9
  2. ^ George W. Elderkin, Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1924):4
  3. ^ Elderkin, Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult, 2-6