A kylix is a type of wine-drinking cup with a broad relatively shallow body raised on a stem from a foot and usually with two horizontal handles disposed symmetrically. The almost flat interior circle on the interior base of the cup, called the tondo, was the primary surface for painted decoration in the black-figure or red-figure styles of the 6th and 5th century BC. As the representations would be covered with wine, the scenes would only be revealed in stages as the wine was drained. They were often designed with this in mind, with scenes created so that they would surprise or titillate the drinker as they were revealed.
Because the primary use for the kylix was at a symposium - a "drinking party", or symposion in Greek -, they are often decorated with scenes of a humorous, light-hearted, or sexual nature that would only become visible when the cup was drained. Dionysos, the god of wine, and his satyrs or related komastic scenes, are common subjects. Scenes of heterosexual or pederastic love, sex or orgies are also often depicted. The shape of the kylix enabled the drinker to drink whilst recumbent, as was the case in the symposia.
Developed in the second half of the 6th century B.C., the kyathos - compare the Greek verb, kuein - 'to contain' - is a small dipper, with a single high handle and low foot. It seems that the shape was copied from Etruria. The name seems to be correct for this shape, although it also occurs as a measure, 0.045 litres.
The kantharos is a type pottery used for drinking. It is characterized by its high swung handles which extend above the lip of the pot. The stem of the foot is often tall. The form can be traced back to the eighth century, and kantharoi - perhaps metal versions- are frequently depicted on black- and red-figure vases, held by Dionysos or Herakles. Although the name is ancient -Greek kantharos - dung-beetle), it is not clear how precisely it was connected with this shape, and it seems that kotyle could have been used as well.
Rhyton - pl. rhyta - is a term applied to a drinking-horn, through which liquid may be poured (compare Greek rhysis - a stream). The shape originates in the Near East, where it may be elaborated by rendering the spout in the form of an animal head. Examples seem to have inspired Athenian potters to make their own versions. In many cases, the animal-head no longer serves as an orifice (the vessel is used as a cup, rather than for pouring), but the term rhyton is often used today nonetheless.
The animal head, such as a ram or mule, is mould-made and attached to the bottom part of the cup. The addition of mould-made heads is not confined to drinking vessels, and neither are the heads only of animals - female, satyr or Negro heads can be found for aryballoi and oinochoai too. In some cases, two heads may be juxtaposed back-to-back - 'janiform'.
The skyphos (pl. skyphoi) is a deep-bowled drinking vessel with a low foot and two short handles that are usually horizontal.It is regularly depicted in symposium scenes. Shallower versions of the shape, with a concave lip, are termed 'cup-skyphoi'. In the fifth-century, some skyphoi have a vertical handle. These are regularly decorated with an owl, an Athenian symbol, from where the name glaux (Greek for owl) is derived.
The term skyphos is ancient, although it seems also to have been used for cups - kylikes. Another term that is often used for deep straight-sided drinking vessels is the Greek kotyle (pl. kotylai), but this too seems to have been used in antiquity for cups of all sorts. Likewise, kylix also seems to have been used to refer to the shape we today term the skyphos. A variation on the shape, the mastos - pl. mastoi; Greek mastos - breast-, is named for its breast-like shape, which terminates in a nipple. Examples with a flat base and offset lip are termed 'mastoid cups'.