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CAN´THARUS (κάνθαρος) is the name of a kind of boat--of what shape we do not know (Aristoph. Peace 143, and ap. Ath. 473d)--and also of a drinking vessel; called either from resemblance to an inverted beetle (κάνθαρος), as Ussing supposes (p. 135), or more probably from the name of the inventor (Pherecr. ap. Ath. 474d; Poll. 6.96). From the cup came the name of Cantharus, the follower of Dionysus, to whom it was sacred (Plin. Nat. 33.150; Macrob. 5.21). Hence Dionysus is frequently represented on ancient vases holding a cantharus in his hand. It had feet (Ath. 488f), handles (cantharus ansa, Verg. Ecl. 6.17), which were what we may call vertical, stretching from the rim down to near the foot, the curve often extending far higher than the rim. These vertical handles are what mainly distinguish the cantharus from the CALIX which latter had horizontal handles. It differed from CARCHESIUM in not having the centre narrower than the rim, and in being as a rule a much less splendid article. As regards depth, it varied considerably; but in size it was generally large (Eubul. ap. Ath. 474c), also called ἁδρός (473 d, 474 a), but sometimes medium-sized (modicis cantharis, Hor. Od. 1.20, 2).. It was usually made of earthenware (Ath. 473f), but also of metal (Hor. Ep. 1.5, 23). We hear of them even of gold (Menand. ap. Ath. 474c; cf. Plin. Nat. 33.53), silver (Orelli, 6071), and gilt (6140). Like all the other kinds of drinking cups among the ancients, canthari were often highly adorned.

Dionysus, holding a cantharus. (Millin,
Peintures Antiques,
pl. 53.)

Subjoined are two representations of canthari, taken from Dennis (Etruria, i. p. cxvii.). The

Cantharus. (Dennis.)

usual form is shown in the first cut; the second is a late variety, with the handles differently arranged.

Cantharus. (Dennis.)

In the Digest, 30, 41, 11 (reading siphones, Olelli, Inscr. 2504), it appears that the name cantharus was given to basins for catching water from fountains (Plin. Nat. 36.184). A splendid one in the Museum at Naples is reproduced by Saglio (Dict. p. 894). One appears outside a Christian church in a mosaic in San Vitale at Ravenna (Rév. Arch. 1850). [p. 1.357]

For works bearing on Greek drinking vessels, see CALIX


hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Aristophanes, Peace, 143
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.2
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.20
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.53
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.5
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