round shallow vessel like a large saucer, but somewhat deeper than our
ordinary saucer. Varro (L. L.
5.122) and Macrobius (Macr. 5.21
) derive its name from its: flat,
expanded shape ( “planum ac patens” ). It had neither the foot
and stem nor the two handles which belonged to the cylix [CALIX; VAS]. It must be observed that alike in
sacred and common use it served only for liquids, and those writers who have
described it as also used for solids have confounded it with patella,
which they have erroneously taken to be a
diminutive of patera. Another error to be avoided is the confusion of the
with the later φιάλη,
which was identical with the Latin
patera. As Curtius points out (Etym.
498), the Homeric
was not used for drinking, but as
a kind of smaller λέβης
or kettle, which
could be placed on the fire (whence the epithet ἀπύρωτος
for a new
), and also as an urn for ashes.
Aristarchus teaches this in the words ὅτι
(of Homer) οὐ τὸ
[p. 2.350]παρ᾽ ἡμῖν ποτήριον,
ἀλλὰ γένος τι λέβητος ἐκπέταλον.
From these words and
from its use in Homer we may conclude that, though shallower than the
and probably smaller, it was
still a deep vessel and not of that saucer shape which belongs to the
familiar patera. The epithet ἀμφίθετος
the Homeric φιάλη
was a puzzle to
Athenaeus, a solution of which cannot now be given with confidence. It is
not possible in etymology to accept the view that it means round,
nor the suggestion of Athenaeus himself that
it may mean “excellently made.” We are left with the view of
Aristarchus that it was a vessel which could stand on either end. Heyne
understands this to mean a double cup of the hour-glass or dice-box shape:
more probably it was so called because, whereas the ordinary Homeric
was rounded at the bottom so
that, if otherwise unsupported, it could only stand inverted, the Homeric
had a flat bottom, and could
stand either way (for the discussion, see
The post-Homeric φιάλη
was of the shape
described at the beginning of this article; it never had a handle (differing
in that respect from one
form of the Italian
patera mentioned below), nor any stem, but often, as in the examples given
below, a low base; sometimes, as we are told, it had knobs or supports,
which were called ἀστράγαλοι
: the φιάλη
with these knobs at the bottom was called
knobs being compared to nuts or acorns. Another feature very common in
and paterae was the ὄμφαλος.
This was a hollow boss in the centre
of the interior or upper side, as shown in the woodcut. Athenaeus
distinguishes φιάλαι ὀμφαλωτοί,
and gives an equivalent name φθοῖς.
or patera was
usually held in the flat of the hand (though not always, as may be seen in
the famous Sosias-cylix, Baumeister, Taf.
xcii.), and it is
easy to understand that the ὄμφαλος
better hold, the fingers catching in the hollow of the boss underneath. The
material was either earthenware or metal, bronze, silver and gold (ἀργυρὶς
): the φιάλαι
120 A are of gold. (Examples of gold and silver
paterae found in Cyprus are given in Cesnola, pp. 316, 337.) The φιάλη
of post-Homeric times was used for
drinking (Plat. Symp.
223 C; Pind.
), and so classed among ἐκπώματα
); but its most
characteristic use was for pouring libations (Hdt.
; Plat. Crit.
l.c., &c.). The
for libations, held by the
officiating person, was usually filled by an attendant from an οἰνοχόη
: in the passage cited from Plato's
the wine seems to be dipped in the φιάλη
from the κρατήρ.
The usual Italian patera
was identical with the
in shape [see SIMPULUM
]. One of white marble
found at Hadrian's villa is now in the British Museum. It is 14 inches in
diameter and 1 3/4 high. It is cut with skill, the
Patera, from Hadrian's Villa.
marble being not much more than a quarter of an inch thick. In the
centre is a female bucchante with a long tunic and a scarf floating over her
head, encircled by a wreath of ivy. The decorations indicate a patera
dedicated to Bacchus. Some paterae, however, had one handle (which the
never had), as in the woodcut
below, a bronze patera found at
Patera, from Pompeii.
Pompeii. This seems to have been commoner in Etruscan paterae, of which there
are several in bronze and terracotta in the British Museum with the single
handle. An Etruscan relief in Inghirami, Mon. Etrus.
M, shows a youth bringing for libation the two vessels, an oinochoe [p. 2.351]
and a patera, the latter having a handle. It is
possible that the addition of the handle may be an Etruscan invention. The
material was often only earthenware (Hor. Sat.
6.116); but often also silver (Mart. 3.41
; Plin. Nat. 33.156
); sometimes gold (Mart. 14.95
--in both, the word phiala
Verg. A. 1.729
). It was originally used
as a drinking cup (Varro, L. L.
afterwards especially for libations (Hor. Od.
;--Ov. Met. 9.160
), whence it became the insigne
of the EPULONES
though often it served both purposes, as in the passage
cited from Virgil. A representation of the libation, from Trajan's Column,
is given under PAENULA
libations, see SACRIFICIUM