13.8.17

Aryballos

Pottery of Ancient Greece

Lebes Gamikos | Loutrophoros | Epinetron | Alabastron | Aryballos | Lekythos | Pyxis

A small flask with a narrow neck and a broad disc-shaped mouth with a narrow aperture.
An aryballos (Greek: ἀρύβαλλος; plural aryballoi) was a small spherical or globular flask with a narrow neck used in Ancient Greece. It was used to contain perfume or oil, and is often depicted in vase paintings being used by athletes during bathing. In these depictions, the vessel is at times attached by a strap to the athlete's wrist, or hung by a strap from a peg on the wall.

The shape of the aryballos originally came from the oinochoe of the Geometric period of the 9th century BCE, a globe-shaped wine jar. By the Proto-Corinthian period of the following century, it had attained its definitive shape, going from spherical to ovoid to conical, and finally back to spherical. This definitive form has a wide, flat mouth, and a single small handle. Some later variations have bell-shaped mouths, a second handle, and/or a flat base. Potters also created inventive shapes for aryballoi.

History: The earliest Protocorinthian round aryballos may be a descendent of the Mycenaean stirrup-vase. The Corinthian evolution of the aryballos can be followed clearly from the round through the ovoid to the pointed. By the end of the seventh century, the shape had been standardized and a new round form was the convention until the fifth century B.C.

The Corinthian version has a round body and generally one handle reaching from the shoulder to the edge of the flattened disc-shaped lip. This shape is rare in Athens, and a fine example of this spherical aryballos carries the signature of Nearchos. The Attic potters develop a different type of aryballos in the last quarter of the sixth century with a bell-shaped mouth, much like that of the later lekythos, and normally two handles reaching from the shoulder to the edge of the lip. In later examples there are no handles. Sometimes rather than having a spherical body, there is a flat bottom. This vessel is often shown in Attic vase painting as being suspended from the wrist of an athlete, or looped by a string and hung on the wall.

Aristoph. Kn. 1094: used to describe a vase from which Athena pours ambrosia on the head of Demos.
Antiphanes in Pollux 10.152: to describe a draw purse.

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