About

Perfumed oil vessels
 

ALABASTRON

Alabastron

The alabastron is a long-bodied vessel, with a flat disk for the mouth and a rounded bottom. It is handleless, although some examples have eyes or lugs by which thread could be attached. It seems primarily to have been a vessel for perfumed oil, as indicated by scenes on vases depicting it in use, e.g., by women after bathing or for athletes. The shape has a long history in Corinth, but is only preserved in Athenian pottery from the mid-sixth century. Examples of the shape have been found in a range of materials, including alabaster. The Greek term for this stone - alabastron of Egyptian origin - probably reveals the inspiration for the shape, and many examples are covered with white-ground, as if to imitate the stone. 

 

ARYBALLOS

aryballoi

The aryballos (pl. aryballoi) has a small round or ovoid body and a narrow neck. The typically broad and flat lip prevents spillage. The use of the Greek term aryballos for this particular shape is a modern convention. It may well have been used in antiquity, but we know that other names, such as lekythos or olpe, were also applied. Aryballoi are common in Corinthian ware, some being tiny and meticulously decorated. Examples are less widespread in Athenian, although the shape is depicted on vases or funerary stelai, either hanging up, often with a strigil or sponge in an athletic setting, or being used by the athletes themselves. In Corinth and East Greece, warrior's heads, animals, and other mould-made figures could serve as the body of aryballoi. Athenian potters sustain the habit, and there are examples in the form of female heads, shells, even genitals. They were mainly for athletes, it seems and were carried slung by a strap from the wrist, to be used after exercise, with the surplus then scraped off the body with a strigil. The earliest are Corinthian of the later 8th century B.C. Through the 7th century B.C. they slim to an inverted pear-shape on a pointed and impratical foot, but about the mid-century a stretched pear-shaped "alabastron" is introduced, while the aryballos becomes quite spherical.

 

LEKYTHOS

lekythoi

The lekythos is a flask for toilet oils, perfume or condiments having a cylindrical body, a narrow neck with a deep mouth and one handle. The handle reaches from the shoulder to just below the neck
The Greek word lekythos was undoubtedly used for the various forms considered here, although it does appear that it was used for oil-vessels in general. In the early 6th century, the lekythos has an oval-shaped body, - a continuous curve from the neck to the base-, but as with the hydria and neck-amphora, a shouldered-type is developed around the middle of the century troughout the fifth. Another type is the squat lekythos, with a squat body, broad at the base.
The form with a tapering body, continues to be decorated by black-figure painters. But it is the cylindrical type, first preserved from the last third of the sixth-century, that will be predominant in the fifth century, and it is this form that is decorated with polychrome figures on white-ground. Fragmentary examples (and X-ray photography) reveal that some had a smaller inner chamber, to limit the volume of oil that could be held. 
Although most Athenian vases were made for domestic use, the lekythoi performed a role in religious ceremony as well, for they are often used as an offering to the dead. The earliest Athenian black-figure lekythoi - by the Gorgon Painter and his followers - appeared in the sixth century B.C. and may be derived from Corinthian shapes. Two types of this early shape may be distinguished: the round lekythos, perhaps derived from the aryballos, and the elongated oval lekythos, perhaps derived from the Corinthian alabastron. Various sub-types were developed, without lasting results, but by about 560 B.C. the variety with the offset shoulder had been invented in an Attic workshop. In succeeding years, these shoulder lekythoi acquired straighter walls, a stronger (almost cup-like) lip, and an inverted echinus foot. By the end of the sixth century B.C. the canonical proportions had been reached. A lekythos by the Diosphos Painter has the word "hirinon" painted on its rim, indicating its use to contain iris-scented oil. It is the Beldam Painter's larger lekythoi which are first to be given false interior compartments, so that the entire vessel need not be filled with oil. 

 

EPICHYSIS - PROCHOUS

The epichysis is a jug pottery used for pouring oil or wine. The base resembles a pyxis with a tall neck and a long spout, and it has a high loop handle, measuring around 15 cm. It certainly was used as an oil lamps refiller.

 

ASKOS

Ancient Greek - tube; plural - askoi, is used to pour small quantities of liquids such as oil. It is recognisable from its flat shape and a spout at one or both ends that could also be used as a handle. They were usually painted decoratively like vases and were mainly used for storing oil and refilling oil lamps. The Greek word askos refers to the bags made of animal-skin that were used to carry wine; in Athenian red-figure scenes, they are often depicted in the arms of satyrs. In time the disc version changes the position of spout and handle and becomes the guttus.