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LEBES

LEBES (λέβης), in Greek usage a sort of kettle made of copper or iron, and put over the fire to cook (Il. 21.362). Buchholz says, “smaller than a tripod” (Homerische Realien, 2.100), and that is perhaps true of the Homeric times, but that later it was not necessarily small may be seen from Thucydides, 4.100, where the huge caldron used in the siege of Delium is a λέβης. It was also used as the basin for washing the hands of guests at dinner, which were held above the silver λέβης while water was poured over them from a jug (Od. 1.137), and even of so large a vessel as the bath in which Agamemnon was killed (Aesch. Ag. 1129). Pausanias (5.10.4) speaks of λέβητες overlaid with gold set on the corners of the temple roof at Olympia: in the Tragedians it occurs as an urn for holding ashes (Aesch. Ag. 444, &c.): in Hdt. 6.58, a λέβνς is beaten like a kettledrum [p. 2.14]by Spartan mourners, and in the same way the λέβητες at Dodona were sounded, whence Virgil borrows his conventional epithet Dodonaci lebetes. The λέβης, like the τρίπους, was a common prize at Homeric games (Il. 23.259), so much so that αἰτίζων ἀκόλους οὐκ ἄορας οὐδὲ λέβητας (Od. 17.222) merely means “a beggar with no ambition beyond it for heroic contests.” The general conclusion from all this is, that the size varied, but the material was always metal: in shape it was rounded at the bottom, so that sometimes it was supported or suspended when it was over the fire, but sometimes it had feet and is called λέβης τρίπους (Aesch. Fr. 1). From this metal λέβης of common use, the lebes shape was adopted for pottery: for examples, see FICTILIA.

The Cretan λέβης (in Gortyna Insc.) was a stater stamped with a lebes (cf. βούς, Aesch. Ag. 36): examples of this coin of the 5th and 4th cent. are found (Svoronos, Bull. Corr. Hell. 1888). The lebes in Latin seems to have been merely a poetical word borrowed from Greek poets.

[G.E.M]

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