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Kylix Cup, A Group Activity

by Carson Jolly

Kylix, Cup, with Athletes, c. 430 BCE. Ackland Art Museum, Ackland Fund, 66.27.4, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Kylix cup is a uniquely constructed drinking vessel that plays an essential role in ancient Greek culture. At first glance, the width of the bowl may lead someone to believe it holds a substantial amount of liquid. In reality, the cup is much shallower, giving insight into its rich history.

At some Greek social gatherings or feasts, one might find a Kylix cup at the table filled with wine (Sheffer). The wine would be poured into the cup by someone outside of the feast in order to make sure that no one saw the image at the bottom of the bowl. This image would be similar to those on the outside of the cup and was the core focus of a game called Kottabos. In the game, the Kylix cup would be passed around the table and everyone would take turns flicking dregs of wine from the cup into a target at the center of the room. When the dregs of wine hit the target, the room would erupt with cheers. This action was done until the cup was empty and the image at the bottom was revealed. The image would often depict mythological stories, heroic deeds, or cultural symbols that were relevant at the time. These visuals served as conversation starters during the gathering; encouraging discussions, storytelling, and the sharing of cultural knowledge.

As a result of the specialized purpose of the Kylix cup, it was mainly used in upper-class feasts (Wiki). Feasts like these were grand events, usually brought on by holidays or festivities. This made the Kylix Cup a vital aspect of the event as everyone wanted to play Kottabos. Sometimes, the festivities of the feast were discussed more than the food itself! (Wiki).

Heroism, storytelling, and mythology were mainstays in Greek culture, so the images on Kylix cups can give creative insights into the time period in which they were made. Furthermore, Kylix cups help add a festive dynamic to feasts as people couldn’t wait to see what was at the bottom of the cup!

Works Cited

Clarke, Jim. “The Wild Ancient Greek Drinking Game That Required Throwing Wine.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 21 Feb. 2018,

Sheffer, Chelsey. “Kylix: Role in Culture.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 2020,

“Kylix.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Oct. 2023,


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