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AM´PHORA (ἀμφορεύς, old form ἀμφιφορεύς, Horn. Il. 23.107; Od. 2.290, &c.; Schol. in Apollon. 4.1187; Simon. in Anth. Pal. 13.19).

1. A large vessel, which derived its name from its being made with a handle on each side of the neck (from ἀμφί, on both sides, and (φέρω, to carry), whence also it was called diota, that is, a vessel with two ears (δλωτος, δίωτος στάμνος or κάδισκος, Plat. Hipp. Maj. p. 288 D; Ath. xi. p. 473 c; Moeris, s. v. ἀμφορέα; Hor. Carm. 9, 8). The form and size varied, but it was generally made tall and narrow. and terminating in a point, which could be let into a stand (ἐγγυθήκη,

Amphorae. (British Museum.)

incitega) or into the ground, to keep the vessel upright; several amphorae have been found in this position in the cellars at Pompeii. The above cut represents amphorae in the British Museum.

The usual material of the amphora was earthenware (Hor. de Arte Poët. 21), whence it was also called testa (Carm. 1.20, 2): but Homer mentions them of gold and of stone (Il. 23.92; Od. 24.74, 13.105); and in later times glass amphorae were not uncommon (Petron. 34); several have been found at Pompeii. Nepos mentions, as a great rarity, amphorae of onyx, as large as Chian cadi (ap. Plin. Nat. 36.59). The name of the maker, or of the place of manufacture, was sometimes stamped upon them: this is the case with two in the Elgin collection. [FICTILE]

Amphorae were used for the preservation of various things which required careful keeping, such as wine, oil, honey, grapes, olives, and other fruits (Hom. Il. 23.170; Cato, R. R, 10.2; Colum. R. R. 12.16, 47; Hor. Epod. 2.15; Cic. Ver. 4.74); for pickled meats (Xen. Anab. 5.4.28); and for molten gold and lead (Hdt. 3.96; Nepos, Hann. 9). There is in the British Museum a vessel resembling an amphora, which contains the fine African sand used by the athletae. It was found, with seventy others, in the baths of Titus, in 1772. Respecting the use of the amphora in the streets of Rome, see Petron. 70, 79; Propert. 4.5, 73; Macr. 2.12; and the commentators on Lucretius, 4.1023. Homer and Sophocles mention amphorae as used for cinerary urns (Il. 23.91, 92; Soph. Fr. 303, Dind.); and a discovery was made at Salona, in 1825, which proves that they were used as coffins: the amphora was divided in half in the direction of its length to receive the corpse, and the two, halves were put together again and buried in the earth: the skeletons were found still entire. (Steinbüchel, Alterthüm. p. 67.) Amphorae of particular kinds were used for various other purposes, such as the amphora nasiterna for irrigation (Cato, Cat. Agr. 11.3), and the amphora spartea, which was perhaps a wicker amphora for gathering grapes in (ibid. § 2. Cf. Becker-Göll, Gallus, iii. p. 399 foll.).

The most important employment of the amphora was for the preservation of wine: its use for this purpose is fully described under VINUM The following woodcut, taken from a

Amphorae and wine-cart.

painting on the wall of a house at Pompeii, represents the mode of filling the amphora from a wine-cart.

There is an interesting account of the use of [p. 1.116]the amphora among the Egyptians, in Sir G. Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, vol. ii. pp. 157-160.

The amphorae intended for purposes of decoration were furnished with a base, and were generally adorned with figures representing some scene from mythology or from ordinary life. They differed chiefly in the shape of the body and in the form of the handles, which were sometimes plain, sometimes ridgedorgrooved. The most ancient form is styled “Egyptian;” it has plain handles, and the shoulders of the vase are

Tyrrhene Amphora. (Dennis, Etruria.

rounded, so as to meet the neck at meet the neck at almost right angles. The second, or archaic Greek style, is called “Tyrrhene.” It has a fuller body and a thicker neck, and the greatest diameter of the vase is about half its height.

To the class of decorated amphorae belong the Panathenaic amphorae, or amphorae given as prizes in the games at the Panathenaic festival and containing the holy oil. These had on one side a figure of Athene Promachos, with helmet, shield and spear, in the attitude of attack, with the inscription τῶν Ἀθήνηθεν ἄθλων εἰμί; on

Panathenaic Amphora. (British Museum.)

the other, a representation of the contest in which the prize had been gained.

The “Nolan” amphora excels in simplicity and purity of design, as well as beauty of execution. It has red figures, on the black ground of the vase. It is slighter and more elegant than the forms already described. It is found not

Nolan Amphora. (Dennis, Etruria.

only at Nola, but in Sicily and Etruria. (For details, see Dennis, Etruria, vol. i. p. cix.)

2. The name amphora was also applied both by the Greeks and the Romans to a definite measure of capacity, which, however, was different among the two peoples, the Roman amphora being only two-thirds of the Greek ἀμφορεύς. In both cases the word appears to be an abbreviation, the full phrase being in Greek ἀμφορεὺς μετρητής (the standard amphora), and in Latin amphora quadrantal (the cubic amphora). ( “Quadrantal vocabant antiqui amphoram,” Fest. p. 258.) Respecting the measures themselves, see METRETES, QUADRANTAL. At Rome a standara amphora, called amphora Capitolina, was kept in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol (Rhemn. Fann. de Pond. 61; Capitol. Maxim. 4). The size of ships was estimated by amphorae (Cic. Fam. 12.1. 5; Liv. 21.63); and the produce of a vineyard was reckoned by the number of amphorae, or of culei (of twenty amphorae each), which it yielded.

[P.S] [W.S]

hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.96
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.91
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.92
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.107
    • Homer, Odyssey, 2.290
    • Homer, Odyssey, 24.74
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.4.28
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.170
    • Homer, Odyssey, 13.105
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4.1187
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4.74
    • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 4.1023
    • Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal, 9
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.59
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 63
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