A lekythos (plural lekythoi) is a type of ancient Greek vessel used for storing oil (Greek λήκυθος), especially olive oil. It has a narrow body and one handle attached to the neck of the vessel, and is thus a narrow type of jug, with no pouring lip; the oinochoe is more like a modern jug. In the "shoulder" and "cylindrical" types which became the most common, especially the latter, the sides of the body are usually vertical by the shoulder, and there is then a sharp change of direction as the neck curves in; the base and lip are normally prominent and flared. However, there are a number of varieties, and the word seems to have been used even more widely in ancient times than by modern archeologists.[1] They are normally in pottery, but there are also carved stone examples.

Lekythoi were especially associated with funerary rites, and with the white ground technique of vase painting, which was too fragile for most items in regular use. Because of their handle they were normally only decorated with one image, on the other side from the handle;[2] they are often photographed with the handle hidden, to show the painted image.

Hypnos Thanatos BM Vase D56 full
Hypnos and Thanatos carrying the body of Sarpedon from the battlefield of Troy; detail from an Attic white-ground lekythos, ca. 440 BC
Apollonia Painter - Red-Figure "Kerch"-Style Lekythos - Walters 4884 - Right
A red-figure pottery (terracotta) "kerch" style lekythos depicting a nymph and satyr playing a game of knucklebones, with two Eros figures (standing between Aphrodite) offering laurel wreaths of victory to the nymph and to a youth, c. 350 BC
Apulia Lekythos in Gnathia style
A lekythos in Gnathia style with Eros depicted playing with a ball, Apulian vase painting, third quarter of the 4th century BC


Akhilleus Hektor Louvre CA601
Attic white ground lekythos, c. 490 BC, Achilles dragging the body of Hector

The lekythos was used for anointing dead bodies of unmarried women and many lekythoi are found in tombs. The images on lekythoi were often depictions of daily activities or rituals. Because they are so often used in funerary situations, they may also depict funerary rites, a scene of loss, or a sense of departure as a form of funerary art. These drawings are usually outline drawings that are quite expressionless and somber in appearance. The decoration of these ceramic vessels consists of a dull red and black paint. These colors may have been derived from the Bronze Age, but were not used until 530 BC in Athens. Many artists of these vessels attempted to add more color to the figures, but later abandoned the idea, which provides more of a contrast. These vessels were very popular during the 5th century BC, however there are many that have been found dating all the way back to 700 BC.

They contained a perfumed oil which was offered either to the dead person or to the gods of the underworld. Some lekythoi were fitted with a small, inner chamber so that they might appear full, while in reality they contained only a small amount of the expensive oil.[3] The Lekythos was used to smear perfumed oil on a woman's skin prior to getting married and were often placed in tombs of unmarried women to allow them to prepare for a wedding in the afterlife.


Lekythoi can be divided into five types:

  • the standard or cylindrical lekythos, which measures between 30 and 50 cm though there are much larger "huge lekythoi", up to 1 m, which may have been used to replace funerary stele,[4]
  • the Deianeria lekythos which originates from Corinth, this form has an oval profile and a round shoulder and is generally of a small size (20 cm), it was produced from the beginning of the black figure period until the late 6th century,
  • the shoulder or secondary lekythos, a variation on the standard type produced from the mid 5th century on. These have a fuller, swelling body;[5] most are decorated with the white ground technique and measure around 20 cm,
  • the squat lekythos, usually less than 20 cm in height with a rounded belly and a flat base,
  • the acorn lekythos, a rarer form, which has an oval profile and at the bottom of the body a raised cup with protrusions, like the cup of an acorn.

There are also "plastic" lekythoi, with bodies formed in the shape of a head, animal, or other form.

Achilles Ajax dice Louvre MNB911

Achilles and Ajax playing a board game (Attic shoulder lekythos by the workshop of the Diosphos Painter, ca. 500 BC)

Lekythos hoplite Petit Palais ADUT01575

Shoulder lekythos

Aias body Akhilleus Staatliche Antikensammlungen 1884 full

Shoulder lekythos, c. 510

Komos Dejanira lekythos Louvre CA3329

Deianeria lekythos

Lekythos by the Group of the Huge Lekythoi Antikensammlung BerlinF 2684 (1)

Prothesis (lying in repose) (Attic plychrome lekythos (type V), from Alopeke, Group of the Huge Lekythoi, late 5th century BC)

Objects from an inhumation, 475-450 BC

Squat (left) and plastic (right) shapes

Squat Lekythos with Two Youths LACMA M.80.196.24

Squat type

Acorn-lekythos Louvre MNB1320

"Acorn" type, Louvre

Beldam Painter - Herakles and Pholos - Walters 48229 - Top

A view from above

Ancient vases Athens Agora Museum

Group in Athens

NAMA Hermès & Myrrhinè

Relief from a carved funerary lekythos (National Archaeological Museum of Athens): Hermes conducts the deceased, Myrrhine, to Hades, c. 430–420 BCE

See also


  1. ^ Beazley
  2. ^ Woodford, 12-13
  3. ^ Beazley
  4. ^ Beazley
  5. ^ Beazley


  • "Beazley", "Lekythos", Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford
  • Woodford, Susan, An Introduction To Greek Art, 1986, Duckworth, ISBN 9780801419942
  • Lekythos at the Encyclopædia Britannica
Acheloos Painter

The Acheloos Painter, active around 525 - 500 BCE in Athens, was a vase painter of the black-figure style. His scenes were like those of the Leagros Group; however, unlike their work, his themes are comic episodes, not unlike modern cartoons. Herakles was a favorite topic, as were banqueting scenes. His banqueters were portrayed satirically: overweight, aging, huge, jutting noses, and so on. The heroic is made anti-heroic by parody. His preferred vase forms are amphorae and hydriae.

Achilles Painter

The Achilles Painter, was a vase-painter active ca. 470–425 BC. His name vase is an amphora, Vatican 16571, in the Vatican museums depicting Achilles and dated 450–445 BC. An armed and armored Achilles gazes pensively to the right with one hand on his hip. The other hand holds a spear. On the opposite surface a woman performs libation.J. D. Beazley attributed over 200 vases to his hand, the largest share being red-figure and white-ground lekythoi. In his middle phase (ca. 450–445 BC), he decorates more open forms. The Achilles Painter was a late pupil of the Berlin Painter.The Phiale Painter became the Achilles Painter's most prominent student after he assumed the Berlin Painter's workshop. Almost a dozen other recognizable painters passed through the Achilles Painter's workshop as well. Notable painters include the Westreenen Painter, the Persephone Painter, the Clio Painter, Loeb Painter, and the Dwarf Painter. The Kleophon Painter, the Sabouroff Painter, and the Painter of Munich 2335 all spent time at the workshop as well.

Aison (vase painter)

Aison was an ancient Greek vase painter of the red-figure style. About 60 of his vases survive, which are dated between 435 and 415 BCE. Aison spent his career in several workshops, where he came into contact with several other well-known painters. His first works were created in the same workshop as the Kodros Painter. A kylix with motifs from the Theseus legend, that is today in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, was created in the same workshop that Penthesilea Painter was active in and

Aristophanes was later to join. In his third workshop he worked together with the Schuvalow painter and the Eretria painter. Here he painted mostly closed containers. All three artists stood in the tradition of Polygnotos. From this time his second showpiece originates, the lekythos in Naples National Archaeological Museum. Two further lekythos (from the Louvre and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens) clearly mark a turning point in the artist's life when he embraced the Adonis cult. The difference is seen in the quality of his work, which is probably due primarily to difficult life circumstances, as demonstrated by the frequent workshop changes.

Athena Painter

The Athena Painter was an Attic black-figure vase painter, active about 490 to 460 BC. His speciality were white-ground lekythoi painted in the black-figure style.

His pseudonym, for his real name is unknown, refers to his preference for Athena in his choice of subjects. He was one of the last generation of black figure technique painters.The Athena Painter, along with the Theseus Painter, continued the tradition of painting large standard lekythoi. His black-figure work was of high quality. Apart from lekythoi, he mainly painted oinochai. Some archaeologists identify him with the red-figure Bowdoin Painter. They may, however, simply have worked in the same workshop. His workshop was one of the production centres that developed the painting of white-ground lekythoi, which was to become especially important in the 5th century BC.

Daybreak Painter

The Daybreak Painter was an Attic black-figure vase painter, active in the late sixth and early fifth centuries BC. His real name is not known.

He was of the Leagros Group and painted primarily lekythoi and oinochoai as well as the newly introduced olpe. His work is characterised by a highly developed sense of colour and a good hand for detail.

Haspels gave him the name of Daybreak Painter after his lekythos which depicted the god Helios emerging from the sea.

Edinburgh Painter

The Edinburgh Painter was an Attic black-figure vase painter, active around 500 BC. His speciality was white-ground lekythoi painted in the black-figure style.

His real name is unknown. His conventional name is derived from his name vase in Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland 1956.436.

Eretria Painter

The Eretria Painter was an ancient Greek Attic red-figure vase painter. He worked in the final quarter of the 5th century BC. The Eretria Painter is assumed to have been a contemporary of the Shuvalov Painter; he is considered one of the most interesting painters of his time. Many of hist best works are painted on oinochoai and belly lekythoi. His paintings often depict many figures, moving in groups across all available surfaces. He also painted such vessels as figure-shaped vases or head-shaped kantharoi. Much as the vase shapes he painted on are unusual, his themes are conventional: Athletes, satyrs and maenads, and mythological scenes. There are also some careful studies of women. He also painted white-ground vases. A lekythos in New York shows a funeral scene, typical of white-ground painting: Achilles is mourning Patroclus; the nereids bring him new weapons. The Eretria Painter's drawing style influenced later artists, e.g. the Meidias Painter and his school.

Halteres (ancient Greece)

This article concerns an ancient sports object. For halteres in insect anatomy, see Halteres.

Halteres (; Greek: ἁλτῆρες, from "ἅλλομαι" - hallomai, "leap, spring"; cf. "ἅλμα" - halma, "leaping") were a type of dumbbells used in Ancient Greece. In ancient Greek sports, halteres were used as lifting weights, and also as weights in their version of the long jump, which was probably a set of three jumps. Halteres were held in both hands to allow an athlete to jump a greater distance; they may have been dropped after the first or second jump. According to archaeological evidence, the athlete would swing the weights backwards and forwards just before take-off, thrust them forwards during take-off, and swing them backwards just before releasing them and landing. Halteres were made of stone or metal, and weighed between 2 and 9 kg (4 and 20 lb).

Writing in Nature, biophysicist Alberto E. Minetti calculates that halteres added about 17 cm (7 in) to a 3 m (10 ft) long jump.

Hercules and the lion of Nemea (Louvre Museum, L 31 MN B909)

Heracles and the Lion of Nemea is a lekythos which is held at the Louvre Museum, with the representation of the first of the labours of Hercules, the slaying of the Nemean lion. It is coming from Athens, dated around 500 - 450 BCE and it was bought for Louvre Museum at 1870. It was probably created from the shop of a Tanagran artist. According to Beazley and Haspels it is attributed to the Diosphos painter.


Hermonax was a Greek vase painter working in the red-figure style. He painted between c. 470 and 440 BC in Athens. Ten vases signed with the phrase "Hermonax has painted it" survive, mainly stamnoi and lekythoi. He is generally a painter of large pots, though some cups survive.


A loutrophoros (Ancient Greek: λουτροφόρος; Greek etymology: λουτρόν/loutron and φέρω/pherō, English translation: "bathwater" and "carry") is a distinctive type of Greek pottery vessel characterized by an elongated neck with two handles. The loutrophoros was used to carry water for a bride's pre-nuptial ritual bath, and in funeral rituals, and was placed in the tombs of the unmarried. The loutrophoros itself is a motif for Greek tombstones, either as a relief (for instance, the lekythos on the Stele of Panaetius) or as a stone vessel. There are many in the funeral area at the Kerameikon in Athens, some of which are now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.


The naiskos (pl.: naiskoi; Greek: ναΐσκος, diminutive of ναός "temple") is a small temple in classical order with columns or pillars and pediment. Often applied as an artificial motif, it is common in ancient art. It also found in the funeral architecture of the ancient Attic Cemeteries as grave reliefs or shrines with statues for example the stele of Aristonautes from Kerameikos in Athens and in the black-figured and red-figured pottery of Ancient Greece at the Loutrophoros and the Lekythos and the red-figured wares of Apulia in South Italy. There also exist naiskos-type figurines or other types of temples formed in terracotta; examples abound at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The form of thenaiskos suggests a religious context, relating especially to Greek funerary cult. Some of the Hellenistic inscriptions found in the Bay of Grama are placed inside a naiskos, and in this case the religious context is an invocation of Castor and Pollux (Dioskouroi) for a safe passage across the Adriatic, rather than funerary. A similar style, called the Aedicula, is observed in Roman art.

Pan Painter

The Pan Painter was an ancient Greek vase-painter of the Attic red-figure style, probably active c. 480 to 450 BCE. John Beazley attributed over 150 vases to his hand in 1912:"Cunning composition; rapid motion; quick deft draughtsmanship; strong and peculiar stylisation; a deliberate archaism, retaining old forms, but refining, refreshing, and galvanizing them; nothing noble or majestic, but grace, humour, vivacity, originality, and dramatic force: these are the qualities which mark the Boston krater, and which characterize the anonymous artist who, for the sake of convenience, may be called the 'master of the Boston Pan-vase', or, more briefly, 'the Pan-master'."

Reed Painter

The Reed Painter (fl. 420s–410s BC) is an anonymous Greek vase painter of white-ground lekythoi, a type of vessel for containing oil often left as grave offerings. Works are attributed to either the "Reed Painter" or his atelier.

The vessels of the Reed Painter are typical of white-ground lekythoi in that they often focus on real people, in contrast to the earlier black-figure tradition that featured scenes of mythical figures pertaining to Dionysiac cult. The purpose of the lekythos is often reflected in its subject matter. This artist's most common theme is a scene depicting a visit to a tomb. The figures, usually a woman bringing offerings or a youth leaning on a spear, display quiet dignity rather than emotion. The tomb, topped by a pediment, provides important evidence for funerary monuments in Attica at the time. The artist takes his name from his characteristic use of reeds in the landscape, particularly in depictions of Charon, the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology.A lekythos by the Reed Painter is one of only a few white-figure examples that depict a horseman at a tomb; unusually, the youth sits at the tomb with his horse rather than riding it. He may be an ephebe in training for the cavalry, as he wears the black cloak (chlamys) that was characteristic attire for the Athenian ephebe at certain processions and festivals. He also wears a helmet in the shape of the petasos, a hat typically worn by travelers, the metal version of which appears on Athenian reliefs and is known from archaeology. He carries two hunting spears, and not the kamax, the long thin spear principally used by Greek cavalry.Around the turn of the 21st century a number of the artist's lekythoi were discovered in a mass burial of plague victims in Athens. Work from the atelier of the Reed Painter is concentrated in Attica, though a few examples have been found as exports to Gela and Corinth.The Reed Painter worked in true white-ground technique, in which polychrome figures are outlined on the white ground, first in a dilute brown glaze and then in a more-fluid matt black or red. Women's skin was painted white on white, with solid colors on garments. The colors — including bright red, yellow, purple, blue, and green — were added after firing. The unstable pigments have flaked away and often left figures on surviving vases with the appearance of nudity when they were intended to be clothed.

Sub-Mycenaean pottery

Submycenaean pottery is a style of ancient Greek pottery. It is transitional between the preceding Mycenaean pottery and the subsequent styles of Greek vase painting, especially the Protogeometric style. The vases date to between 1030 and 1000 BC.

Submycenaean pottery is not very well researched, as only few sites from the period have been discovered so far. The style was first recognised in 1939 by Wilhelm Kraiker and Karl Kübler, based on finds from the Kerameikos and Pompeion cemeteries in Athens and on Salamis. The existence of the style remained disputed among archaeologists until later discoveries in Mycenae clearly showed the existence of separate Late Mycenaean and Submycenaean strata.

Submycenaean pottery occurs primarily in contexts such as inhumations and stone-built cist graves. Find locations are widely distributed, suggesting a settlement pattern of hamlets and villages. Apart from the sites mentioned above, Submycenaean pottery is known from locations such as Corinth, Asine, Kalapodi, Lefkandi and Tiryns.

The quality of the vases varies widely. Only few shapes were produced, especially stirrup jars with a pierced shoulder, belly amphorae and neck amphorae, lekythoi as well as jars, some with trefoil-shaped mouths. By the end of the Submycenaean period, the stirrup jar was replaced by the lekythos. Submycenaean decoration is rather simple, the hand-painted motifs are limited to horizontal or vertical wavy lines, single or double hatched and overlapping triangles, as well as single or multiple concentric semicircles. The shoulders of lekythoi, amphorae and stirrup jars bore ornamental decoration. Amphorae, amphoriskoi and jugs were usually painted with one or several thick wavy lines. In general, the style was much shorter and less carefully made than the previous types of pottery.

Taleides Painter

The Taleides Painter was an Attic vase painter of the black-figure style, active in the second half of the 6th century BC. His conventional name is derived from his close cooperation with the potter Taleides, many of whose vases he painted. He also worked for the potter Timagoras.

Thanatos Painter

The Thanatos Painter (5th century BCE) was an Athenian Ancient Greek vase painter who painted scenes of death on white-ground cylindrical lekythoi. All of the Thanatos Painter's found lekythoi have scenes of or related to death (thanatos in Greek) on them, including the eponymous god of death Thanatos carrying away dead bodies.

Typology of Greek vase shapes

The pottery of ancient Greece has a long history and the form of Greek vase shapes has had a continuous evolution from Minoan pottery down to the Hellenistic era. As Gisela Richter puts it, the forms of these vases find their "happiest expression" in the 5th and 6th centuries BC, yet it has been possible to date vases thanks to the variation in a form’s shape over time, a fact particularly useful when dating unpainted or plain black-gloss ware.

The task of naming Greek vase shapes is by no means a straightforward one (by convention the term "vase" has a very broad meaning in the field, covering anything that is a vessel of some sort). The endeavour by archaeologists to match vase forms with those names that have come down to us from Greek literature began with Panofka’s 1829 book Recherches sur les veritables noms des vases grecs, whose confident assertion that he had rediscovered the ancient nomenclature was quickly disputed by Gerhard and Letronne.

A few surviving vases were labelled with their names in antiquity; these included a hydria depicted on the François Vase and a kylix that declares, “I am the decorated kylix of lovely Phito” (BM, B450). Vases in use are sometimes depicted in paintings on vases, which can help scholars interpret written descriptions. Much of our written information about Greek pots comes from such late writers as Athenaios and Pollux and other lexicographers who described vases unknown to them, and their accounts are often contradictory or confused. With those caveats, the names of Greek vases are fairly well settled, even if such names are a matter of convention rather than historical fact.

The following vases are mostly Attic, from the 5th and 6th centuries, and follow the Beazley naming convention. Many shapes derive from metal vessels, especially in silver, which survive in far smaller numbers. Some pottery vases were probably intended as cheaper substitutes for these, either for use or to be placed as grave goods. Some terms, especially among the types of kylix or drinking cup, combine a shape and a type or location of decoration, as in the band cup, eye cup and others. Some terms are defined by function as much as shape, such as the aryballos, which later potters turned into all sorts of fancy novelty shapes.

White ground technique

White-ground technique is a style of white ancient Greek pottery and the painting in which figures appear on a white background. It developed in the region of Attica, dated to about 500 BC. It was especially associated with vases made for ritual and funerary use, if only because the painted surface was more fragile than in the other main techniques of black-figure and red-figure vase painting. Nevertheless, a wide range of subjects are depicted.

Wine vessels
Water vessels
Mixing vessels
Perfume, oil, and wedding
Funerary and religious

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