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CRATER (κρατήρ) was the large bowl used at feasts for mixing the wine for the whole company. There can be little doubt that it is as old as communal life, with its common ceremonies and common feasts; so that we are not surprised to find it among the oldest people and in the most remote age of each nation. From Assyria (Perrot and Chipiez, 2.410), Cyprus (the crater of Amathus), Persia ( Ath. 514), we hear of colossal specimens which were used generally in religious rites, and which bear evidence that even at the time of their own construction the crater had already had a long history. But specially, among the Greeks, we find the κρατὴρ in Hesiod (Op. 744) and Homer, made of silver (Od. 9.203) and with a gold rim (Od. 4.616), and sometimes of gold (Il. 23.219). The prize Achilles offered for the foot-race was a silver crater, elaborately wrought, holding six measures, nor was any in the whole world able to surpass it in beauty, cunningly wrought as it was by Sidonians (Il. 23.740). During the Homeric feasts the κρατὴρ used to stand at the far end of the men's hall, at the left-hand side near the ὀρσοθύρη (Od. 22.332 sqq.; and Buchholz, Hom. Real. 2.2, 164). The manner of its use at festivals will be found treated of under CENA

In historical times we find it belonging to every class, rich (e. g. Alexis, 119, Kock; Juv. 12.44) and poor (Ar. Eccl. 677; Mart. 12.32, 12); and used also in religious cult, where it is generally mentioned in connexion with σπονδαί (Aesch. Cho. 291; Dem. Lept. 505.158), thus referring to the drinking which followed the libation. So, too, in general festivals we hear o the gods ordering κρατῆρες to be set up in the streets (Dem. Mid. 531.53; Macart. 1072.66); and the crater was used at funerals (Verg. A. 6.225) and in the mysteries (κρατηρίζων, Dem. de Cor. 313.259). And so we find craters were a most common kind of dedication in the temples (e.g. C. I. G. 8; Orelli, 1541), and they are often mentioned as such by Herodotus: for example, the six golden ones dedicated by Gyges, each weighing 5 talents (1.14); the gold one weighing 8 1/2 talents 12 minae, and the silver one holding 600 μετρηταὶ which Croesus dedicated at Delphi (1.51). The monstrous crater carried in the procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Ath. 199b) held the same quantity, and was elaborately [p. 1.561]adorned with figures about the handles and base, and round the middle ran a band of gold with precious stones (cf. λιθοκόλλητον in Eratosth. ap. Ath. 495a). Other highly-adorned craters are mentioned in Hdt. 1.70, 4.152; cf. also Ov. Met. 13.681 sqq. These great public vessels used to be employed for mixing wine in on the occasion of festivals, e. g. the Theophania at Delphi (Hdt. 1.51), and of important state ceremonials, e. g. contracting peace and alliance with another state (4.152). In Virgil (Aen. 9.346) we read of a man hiding behind a crater. These examples show the enormous size, the costly material, and the elaborate ornamentation of some of these vessels; but craters were of all sizes, from these gigantic public ones down to domestic ones holding a few pints. And as the latter were often

Crater. (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxi.)

humble in size, so too they were often humble in material. We find them of wood (the πρόαρον is a κρατὴρ ξύλινος, Ath. 495a), horn (Mart. 12.32, 12), clay (Ov. Met. 8.639). Craters were used chiefly for wine, but also for other libations (Soph. O. C. 472; Verg. A. 5.68). We hear of special kinds with distinct names from places, e. g. Lesbian (Hdt. 4.61), Argive (Hdt. 4.152), Laconian (Ath. 198d); and from individuals, e. g. Thericlean (Alexis, 119, Kock). For the latter see CALIX But archaeologists agree that we have not

Etruscan Crater. (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxii.)

sufficient evidence to identify these different species with the different kinds of craters which have come down to us. The most ordinary shapes of the crater are the following. It will

Crater. (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxii.)

be seen that they had a neck of varying size, a broad body, and a base; also two handles, which were sometimes high up and vertical, and adorned with flutings, sometimes horizontal and nearer the base.

These are the principal kinds; but perhaps we may class under the head of κρατὴρ those large round-bottomed vessels which approached in form to the δῖνος, and which were of the shape of the old mixers of more simple times. The word crater [CANTHARUS] is also used of basins for catching the water discharged by fountains (Plin. Ep. 5.6, 23, and probably H. N. 35.156). It does not appear to have been ever applied to a drinking vessel; but we find κρατηρίσκος in this latter sense (Ath. 478).

The crater often had a support which was called ὑποκρατήριον, ὑποκρατηρίδιον, or ἐπίστατον. These are frequently mentioned in dedications; see Boeckh in C. G. 8, p. 20. In Herod, 1.25 it is of iron; and in 4.152 three brasen kneeling Colossi, seven cubits high. A Latin inscription of 169 A.D. (Orelli, 1541) mentions a “crateram argyrocorinthiam cum basi sua et hypobasi marmorea;” and another (Henzen, 5801) tells of a crater “cum basi bicipite.” Subjoined are two woodcuts to illustrate the ὑποκρατηρίδιον.

Late Crater, Orvieto. (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxi.)

Further, the word κρατὴρ is applied to chasms in the ground (Soph. O. C. 1593, and [p. 1.562]Jebb ad loc.): e. g. the geysers of the Palici at Syracuse (Macr. 5.19). Compare the

Late Crater, Perugia. (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxii.)

dark mountain lake called the Devil's Punchbowl at Killarney. The name of Crater was also given to the Sinus Cumanus or Bay of Naples (Cic. Att. 2.8, 2); compare Cothon at Carthage. Crater, too, was a constellation (Ov. Fast. 2.226).

Besides the works mentioned under CALIX see Pottier in Daremberg and Saglio.


hide References (21 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (21):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.8
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.51
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.70
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.152
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.61
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.219
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.740
    • Homer, Odyssey, 22.332
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.616
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.203
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1593
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 472
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 13.681
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.639
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.68
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.225
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 5.6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 12.12
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 12.32
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
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