Peruvian, Moche;Detail from Rattle-based cup in form of owl
Burnished gray ceramic, ca. 550-700 CE
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James F. Mathias (Barbara V. Lord, Class of 1934)

Kylixes and Philosophy in Wine and Spirit

Nov 19, 2010 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Don Lesser


The kylix was a flat drinking vessel used for drinking wine while reckylixlining at symposia -- men's after-dinner drinking parties -- in ancient Greece. The bottom on the interior was often decorated with images that appeared only when the wine was finished.  While a symposium today is a more stolid affair, apparently the originals were somewhat livelier, featuring a variety of entertainments. The conversations that took place, often about specified topics, and lubricated it seems, by the wine ("three bowls and no more"), are most famously recorded in Plato's Symposium.


The symposium depicted by Pietro Testa in 1648 shows a much more serious affair that has been interrupted by a drunken Alcibiades stealing Agathon's thunder. Still, for better or for worse, wine is an integral part of the process.