A flask for toilet oils, perfume or condiments having a cylindrical body, a narrow neck with a deep mouth and one handle. The handle reaches from the shoulder to just below the neck. Shape: The canonized lekythos is the standard shoulder lekythos described below and illustrated. There are three principal types of lekythoi: 1) early shoulder - a continuous curve from the neck to the base ( the characteristic shape during the first half of the sixth century); 2) standard shoulder - the shoulder set off from the body ( from the middle of the sixth century throughout the fifth); 3) squat - a squat body, broad at the base. Characteristics of the canonical type two lekythos include: a long, cylindrical body, round at the base and slightly convex just below the shoulder; the foot was either a torus or of two degrees (the upper straight-edged, the lower torus shaped. History: Although most Athenian vases were made for domestic use, the lekythoi performed a role in religious ceremony as well, for they are often used as an offering to the dead. The earliest Athenian black-figure lekythoi ( by the Gorgon Painter and his followers) appeared in the sixth century B.C. and may be derived from Corinthian shapes. Two types of this early shape may be distinguished: the round lekythos, perhaps derived from the aryballos, and the elongated oval lekythos, perhaps derived from the Corinthian alabastron. Various sub-types were developed, without lasting results, but by about 560 B.C. the variety with the offset shoulder had been invented in an Attic workshop. In succeeding years, these shoulder lekythoi acquired straighter walls, a stronger (almost cup-like) lip, and an inverted echinus foot. By the end of the sixth century B.C. the canonical proportions had been reached. A lekythos by the Diosphos Painter has the word "hirinon" painted on its rim, indicating its use to contain iris-scented oil. It is the Beldam Painter's larger lekythoi which are first to be given false interior compartments, so that the entire vessel need not be filled with oil. Term: The Greek word "lekythos" could describe several kinds of flasks; the evidence shows that it was used to signify the ovoid aryballos, the round aryballos or the athlete's oil bottle, the lekythos of the white-ground shape, and the squat lekythos.
- Aristoph. Eccl. 996 refers to someone as "the man who paints lekythoi for the dead."
- Plat. Hipp. Min. 368c, tells us that the Athenians use the word lekythos for a vessel in which they bring unguents to the dead.
- Aristoph. Pl. 810: a lekythos is used as a vessel for oil.
- Aristoph. Birds 1589: a slave exclaims, "there is no oil in the lekythos."
- Aristoph. Pl. 810: Karion says, "the lekythoi are full of perfume."