previous next


A type of covered bowl characterized by its broad, shallow bowl and turned-in rim, resting on a high stem.

Shape: The stem has a spreading foot. The flattened disc-like cover has a high stemmed handle, though all examples are not lidded. An important feature on this vessel is its deeply turned-in rim, probably intended to prevent liquids from spilling.

History: Perfume and oil were both used commonly in bathing, and perfume was especially significant in religious ceremonies. Vessels of this shape frequently are depicted on vase painting, where it occurs among the offerings brought by women to the grave. For an example on a pyxis see: Staatliche Museen, Berlin, no. 3373. From this evidence it is safe to say that the function of this vessel was to contain perfume, for both personal and ritual use. Terra cotta examples occur from the late sixth century, and last for quite some time, as it frequently is represented on vase paintings which date from the second half of the fifth century B.C. There are also examples of vessels with this shape worked in marble.

Literary evidence attests to the name and the function of this vessel:

  • Athenaios, 11.496 a, b, defines the plemochoe as "a terra cotta vessel shaped like a top standing on a steady foot." Athenaios continues and states that it was used during the Eleusinian Mysteries when, on the last day " they filled two plemochoai and set them up one to the east, one to the west, and then overturned them, saying mystic words as they did so."
  • Kleidemos in Athenaios, 9.410 a, states that in Athenian grave rites both "washing water" and perfume were offered at the tomb.
  • Both Plut. Arist. 21.3; Aesch. Pers. 613 ff, say that the Greeks brought wine, milk, oil, water, and perfume to the dead.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: