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The Kylix of Ancient Greece

by Caroline Gwaltney

Cordus Painter. Greek, Attic (450-420 BCE). Kylix Cup, red-figured terra cotta, ceramic. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill.

Pictured above is a cup known as a Kylix. The Kylix is meant to serve wine and is served along with another ceramic called a Krater. The Krater was a larger vessel that transported the wine. They diluted the wine in the vessel and poured it into the Kylix. The cup was used during a drinking party where mostly, if not only, males attended. The party was known as a symposium, a social celebration in Greece that was important to their social culture at the time. A symposium was a party thrown for several types of celebration. A popular game played with the wine they served in the Kylix at the party called Kottabos. Kottabos is when the guests throw wine at a target. The style of art for this Kylix is known as Red figure. The red figure was a popular style of vase painting from 500-323 BCE. The background is painted black, and the figures are left unpainted and in natural clay. The black paint makes for more fluid lines and contributes to the beautiful art. Something to note: males are drawn with beards when they are older and without beards when they are younger.

The Kylix creates a connection between storytelling and feasting. While the men at the symposium enjoy a cup of wine, they can simultaneously enjoy the story being told on the cup. The large surface of the cup allows for the layers of wine to be thin, and the art to appear while drinking. The nude man featured on the top is balanced on a platform with a bow and arrow. He is different from the men on the bottom of the cup because ¾ of his face is shown instead of the ½ side view on the rest of the men. The men on the bottom are displayed all together as if they were at a symposium. One man is holding another hunched over (not pictured) while he appears to be sick. Myths were highly valued in Ancient Greek culture, and that shows in the connection between feasting and storytelling. It is clear the symposiums were valued because one is depicted here on the kylix shown above. These symposiums were a place where men could sit back, relax, and drink wine together. In their social gatherings, storytelling was still present.


“Ancient Greek Eye Cups by Zarifah Nawar.” Academus Education, Academus Education, 29 June 2020,

Hernandez, Alicia. “Archaeologies of the Greek Past.” Symposium, 2007,

“Kylix.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., Accessed 11 Oct. 2023.


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