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AMPULLA (λήκυθος, βομβύλιος), a tall, slender, narrow-necked vessel, furnished with a handle. The narrow neck is described by Pliny (Plin. Ep. 4.30, 6). It was used for holding perfumes and unguents, and was generally made of earthenware, sometimes however of leather, or of the precious metals (Ath. 13.584 f.; 10.451 d; Plut. Sull. 13; Mart. 14.110). The lekythos is found in large numbers in ancient tombs. [For details, see FUNUS] Its usual

Lekythos. (British Museum.)

form is represented in the annexed figure. Lekythoi were in constant use at the toilette of Greek ladies, as may be seen from their frequent [p. 1.117]representation on Greek vases. The largest lekythos in the British Museum was found by Mr. Dennis in the necropolis of Gela, and is here figured. The lekythos of a later period had a broad base (Dennis, Etruria, vol. i. p. cxxiii.). The lekythos or ampulla was also used to hold the oil with which the body was anointed after bathing or athletic exercises. For this purpose they were regularly carried by a slave, together with the strigil, to the baths and gymnasia, and were often suspended by a strap from the wrist (Ath. 10.451 d; Poll. 3.154, 10.62;

Lekythos. (British Museum.)

ampulla olearia, lenticulari forma, tereti ambitu, pressula rotunditate,” Apul. Flor. 1.9). As such bottles frequently contained perfumed oils, we read of ampullae cosmianae (Mart. 3.82, 26). Bottles of this kind are figured below (cf. Hermann, Griech. Antiq. iv.3 p. 164). Such bottles were also used for holdingvinegar (Plin. Nat. 20.152),

Late Lekythos. (Dennis, Etruria.

and wine (“ampulla potoria,Mart. 14.110), especially on a journey, when the wine or water was drunk from the bottle (Mart. 6.35; Plaut. Merc. 5.2, 86; Suet. Dom. 21).

Lekythos. (From a relief at Athens.)

Lekythos. (From a tomb at Myra in Lycia.)

Another common use of the lekythos was to anoint the bodies of the dead. After the anointing had been performed, the vessels used were placed near the body during the laying out (πρόθεσις), and were then buried or burned with the corpse. Large numbers of lekythoi have been found in tombs or in a charred condition, in places where funeral-piles had been erected. (Aristoph. Eccl. 538, 996, 1032; Hermann, Griech. Ant. iv.3 p. 364.)

The word λήκυθος was also used, like the Latin ampulla, as a synonym for exaggerated high-flown language, probably from the gurgling sound made by the oil as it issued from the flask (cf. Aristoph. Frogs 1200 ff.; Poll. 4.114; Hor. Ep. 1.3, 14; Ars Poët. 97). The dealer in bottles was called ampullarius, and part of his business was to cover them with leather (corium). A bottle so covered was called ampulla rubida. (Plaut. Rud. 3.4, 51, Stich. 2.1, 77, compared with Festus, s. v. Rubida.) (See Becker-Göll, Gallus, ii. p. 377, iii. p. 149; Marquardt, Röm. Alterth. vii. p. 630.) On the use of the ampulla in the Christian church for containing the wine and water used at the altar, and also for holding consecrated oil or chrism, see Dict. of Christian Antiq., s.v.

[J.H.O] [W.S]

hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 1032
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 538
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 996
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 1200
    • Suetonius, Domitianus, 21
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 4.30
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 4.6
    • Plutarch, Sulla, 13
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.110
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.26
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.82
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 6.35
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.14
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.3
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