The term 'krater' suggests a mixing-vessel - compare Greek kerannumi - to mix, and we know that the wine served at the symposium was mixed with water. In the Athenian repertoire, there are four main types identified today: column, kalyx, bell and volute.
Named for its column-like handles, the column-krater is first known from Corinthian examples dated to the late seventh century B.C.. It is regularly produced by Athenian potters from the first half of the sixth-century until the third quarter of the fifth century B.C.
The handles of the calyx-krater are placed low down on the body, at what is termed the cul. Their upward curling form lends the shape an appearance reminiscent of the calyx of a flower, hence the name. The earliest known example was possibly made by Exekias in the third quarter of the sixth century. It continues to be produced, mainly in red-figure, becoming more elongated over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries.
The bell-krater first occurs in the early fifth century, and is not found decorated in black-figure. It is named for its bell-like shape, perhaps originating in wood. It has small horizontal upturned handles just over halfway up the body. Some do not have a foot, and earlier examples may have lugs for handles. Over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries, the shape becomes slimmer.
The volute-krater is named after its handles. The Francois Vase is a famous and early example, but the typical Athenian form occurs only later in the sixth century, with the handles tightly curled so that they look like the volutes on Ionic columns. The shape is also found in metal. Over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries, examples become slimmer, and Apulian volute-kraters from South Italy are particularly elaborate.
The amphora (pl. amphorae; from Greek amphi - on both sides, phero - carry) is a two-handled pot with a neck that is considerably narrower than the body. It was used for the storage of liquids and solids such as grain. Undecorated 'coarse' amphorae, with their lower part tapering to a point, were the standard transport containers in the Mediterranean. They are frequently depicted in symposium scenes. Panathenaic prize amphorae are perhaps the closest in shape, but the majority of painted amphorae are grouped into two main types, the one-piece belly-amphorae, and neck-amphorae, which have a clearly-marked neck.
The broad body, narrow neck and foot of Panathenaic amphorae gives a shape reminiscent of transport amphorae. They served as prizes in the Panathenaic Games, containing oil for victors. The Games seem to have been established in Athens in the 560s, and the earliest examples of the shape can be dated to around the same time. Panathenaic amphorae are useful for dating, since they continue to be produced well after the fourth century, becoming more elongated and elaborate. From the fourth century, the name of the archon for the year is inscribed, permitting an unusually precise means of fixing chronology. Panathenaic amphorae are only decorated in the black-figure technique. Athena always appears on one side, with the inscription "ton Athenethen athlon" - a prize from Athens. The event for which the vase was a prize is depicted on the other side. Amphorae 'of Panathenaic shape' refer to vases of this shape that are decorated in different ways, such as those in red-figure. Smaller versions also occur, perhaps as souvenirs.
Type A : This shape appears about 550 B.C. and lasts to about 450 B.C. The belly is less tense than that of the Type B amphora. The strap handles have flanges and decorated edges - usually an ivy tendril. The foot is in two degrees, the lower with a convex profile and the upper with a vertical edge. There is a fillet between the foot and the base of the body.
Type B : The most typically occurring form is termed Type B, characterised by the combination of round handles, the mouth's straight lip, and the convex profile of the one-piece foot. The shape is old, dating back to the seventh century, and continuing to be produced until the mid-fifth century. The decoration was confined to the two panels, one on the front and one on the reverse of the vase. Above these panels appears a floral chain. Above the foot is a reserved frieze which contains a band of rays. It lasts to the third quarter of the fifth century B.C.
Type C : A variation of the neck-less amphora, characterized by a continuous curve from lip to foot. The shape is similar to Type B , but with a convex (rolled) lip, and either a torus or an inverted echinus foot. This form is especially popular in the third quarter of the sixth century with the black-figure painter known as the Affecter, who also paints neck amphorae. The shape continues in red-figure pottery from about 520 to 450 B.C.
The neck-amphora is identifiable by its clearly defined neck. It has a small ovoid body and looped handles reaching from the shoulder to the neck. This amphora is so-named in modern times because of its offset neck, as opposed to the continuous curve of the belly, or one-piece amphora. It is one of the new leading shapes that comes to dominate the Protogeometric period. In Athenian black-figure, examples can be ovoid (notably the so-called Tyrrhenian amphorae, which seem to have been made for an Etruscan market), but the standard type has a more obvious 'shoulder', perhaps inspired at some stage by East Greek shapes.
Another distinct type is the strap-handled Nikosthenic amphorae. These imitate a shape found in Etruscan bucchero, and the find-spots suggest that an Etruscan market was intended. Among the various types found in red-figure, distinctive are the small Nolan amphorae, identifiable by their high necks, and named after Nola where many examples were found.
A stamnos -pl. stamnoi; possibly connected with Greek histemi: I set up - is a broad-shouldered, round-shaped vessel, with a low foot and a low neck. Its two horizontal handles usually curl upwards to some degree. It ranges from twelve to fifteen inches in height.
Vessels of this shape were used for the purpose of both storing and serving wine is attested to in literature and on vase painting. The shape appears mainly in red-figure, though there are black-figure examples, establishing itself in Attic pottery during the last quarter of the sixth century throughout the fifth century B.C. and in Etruscan pottery throughout the fourth century B.C. The name might have been used for this shape in antiquity, but not necessarily exclusively, and it may also have been applied to other storage vessels, such as amphorae. Some examples have lids, suggesting that they were used for storage.
A dinos is a large, deep round-bottom bowl that curves into a wide, open mouth, used for mixing wine. Some may be provided with a high stand, which may be elaborately turned. Many metal examples of dinoi, in addition to terracotta, are preserved, either in one piece with their tripod or separate from it. Probably these metal bowls were used in cooking, whereas the terracotta ones served for mixing wine, much like a krater. Vessels of this shape are depicted in vase-paintings, both as prizes given at games and as serving bowls for wine in banquet scenes. The shape occurs in pottery from the middle of the seventh century until the late fifth century B.C.
Literary evidence also shows use of the term lebes, so the name can be confidently applied to vessels of this shape. On a fragment from a vase found on the Acropolis is a tripod with a bowl inscribed "lebes". The name dinos is frequently used by modern scholars to describe vessels of this shape, but the only ancient literary evidence regarding the name seems to indicate that the dinos was a kind of drinking cup.
A variation of the one-piece amphora, so called because the neck flows smoothly into the body, in contrast to the offset neck of a neck amphora. The Greek word "pelike" was not applied to this shape in ancient times but was adopted by modern archaeologists; the ancient "pelike" is described variously as a kylix, a chous (or small oinochoe), and a lekanis. It seems to have been used to carry and contain water and wine.
The pyxis (pl. pyxides) is a small round box, probably used for storing trinkets, ointments or cosmetics. The type can be traced back to Geometric examples, which are often topped by horses, but the most common black-figure shape seems to have been borrowed from Corinth. In red-figure, pyxides are regularly decorated with scenes of female activity, and the shape is shown in feminine contexts. Contemporary references to vessels of this sort use the word kylichnis, and the term pyxis is found mainly after the fourth century B.C. However, its connection with the Greek pyxos - boxwood, may reveal something about the shape's material origins, and examples of the shape can be found in other media, such as stone.
Type A : The type A pyxis is a vase with high concave walls and a flattened cover with a knob serving as a handle. It sometimes has a low foot-disc or it may stand on three notched low feet. This shape was the most common and was borrowed from the covered boxes of Corinth. It is popular throughout the sixth century to the fifth century B.C., regularly decorated with various scenes of women.
Type B : A pyxis with a low foot, low conave sides, and a dome-shaped lid. This shape was especially popular in Attica in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
Type C : A pyxis characterized by its low concave walls which have a wider flaring lip and base. It rests on a low, slightly recessed foot, and is covered with a dome-shaped lid. This type of pyxis enjoys its greatest popularity from the late fifth century to the fourth century.
Type D : This shape of pyxis is characterized by its cylindrical walls, and its flat handless lid. Round, mostly handleless boxes were used by women to contain toilet articles; many have been found containing the remains of rouge, cosmetics and other treasures.
The Nikosthenic type is a lidded vase with a flaring body, standing on a low stemmed foot. A high conical lid topped by a knob covers the vase. This particular pyxis is named in modern times for the potter, Nikosthenes, who introduced this type.