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TRIPOS (τρίπους), a tripod, i. e. any utensil or article of furniture supported on three feet. More especially--

I. A tripod to receive the λέβης or caldron for boiling meat, &c. [LEBES] Such a tripod was called ἐμπυριβήτης (Athen. 2.37 f; cf. Hom. Il. 23.702; Soph. Aj. 1405): the scene from the story of Medea, painted on the vase which is shown in the cut under CHYTRA Vol. I. p. 426, illustrates this use. The bronze caldron, however, and its stand were often made in one piece, and then the whole boiling apparatus was called τρίπους (Hom. Il. 18.344; Od. 8.434), but also λέβης τρίπους (Aesch. [p. 2.893]Fr. 1). Tripods were also used as stands for mixing-bowls with rounded bottoms (Athen. 4.142; PSYCTER), and then were called ἄπυροι τρίποδες. For their use as prizes in games, cf. LEBES (Blümner, Privatalterth. 168; Id. in Baumeister, Denkm. p. 462).

II. A bronze altar, not differing probably in its original form from the tall tripod caldron already described. In this form, but with additional ornament, we see it in the annexed woodcut, which represents a tripod found at Fréjus

Tripod from Fréjus.

Delphic Tripod.

(Spon, Misc. Erud. Ant. p. 118). That this was intended to be used in sacrifice may be inferred fiom the bull's head with a fillet tied round the horns, which we see at the top of each leg.

All the most ancient representations of the sacrificial tripod exhibit it of the same general shape, together with three rings at the top to serve as handles (οὔατα, Hom. Il. 18.378). Since it has this form on all the coins and other ancient remains which have any reference to the Delphic oracle, it has been with sufficient reason concluded that the tripod from which the Pythian priestess gave responses was of this kind. The right-hand figure in the above woodcut is copied from one published by K. O. Miller (Böttiger's Amalthea, i. p. 119), founded upon numerous ancient authorities, and designed to show the appearance of the oracular tripod at Delphi. Besides the parts already mentioned, viz. the three legs, the three handles, and the vessel or caldron (λέβης), it shows a flat, round plate, called ὅλμος [CORTINA], on which the Pythia seated herself in order to give responses, and on which lay a laurel wreath at other times.

The celebrity of this tripod produced innumerable imitations of it (Diod. 16.26), called “Delphic tripods” (Athen. 5.199). They were made to be used in sacrifice, and still more frequently to be presented to the treasury both in that and in many other Greek temples (Athen. vi. pp. 231 f-232 d; Paus. 4.32.1). [DONARIA] Tripods were chiefly dedicated to Apollo (Paus. 3.18.5); to the Muses, as connected with Apollo (Hes. Op. 658), and to Heracles. In this connexion we may note the myth of the rape of the tripod by Heracles and its recovery by Apollo (Paus. 3.21, 7; 10.13, 4), which often forms the subject of ancient works of art (cf. Baumeister, Denkm. p. 463). The woodcut in Vol. I. p. 158 shows the tripod as an attribute of Apollo. In conformity with the same ideas it was given as a prize to the conquerors at the Pythian and other games, which were celebrated in honour of Apollo (Hdt. 1.144). At Athens the successful Choragus received a bronze tripod as a prize. The choragic monuments of Thrasyllus and Lysicrates, the ornamental fragments of which are now in the British Museum, were erected by them to preserve and display the tripods awarded to them on such occasions. For the tripod as the emblem of the XVvir, see Vol. I. p. 601.

A tripod, scarcely less remarkable than that from which the Pythia delivered oracles, and consecrated to Apollo in the same temple at Delphi, was that made from the spoils of the Persian army after the battle of Plataea. It consisted of a golden bowl, supported by a three-headed bronze serpent (Hdt. 9.81; Thuc. 1.132; Schol. in loc.; Paus. 10.13.5). The golden bowl having been removed, the bronze serpent, about 15 feet high, was taken to Constantinople, and is still to be seen in the Hippodrome. The first figure in the annexed woodcut is copied from Wheler's engraving of it; (Journey into Greece, p. 185).

Bronze serpent from Delphi.

Tripod brazier, in the British Museum.

The use of bronze tripods, whether for domestic use or to serve as altars, evidently arose in a great degree from their suitableness to be removed from place to place. To accommodate them as much as possible to this purpose, they are sometimes made to fold together into a small compass, by a contrivance which may be understood from an inspection of the preceding woodcut. The right-hand figure above represents a tripod brazier in the British Museum. A patera or a plain metallic dish was laid on the top, when there was occasion to offer incense, or a grating, when a vessel to be heated or kept hot was placed there. Many of these movable folding tripods. may be seen in museums, proving how common they were among the Romans.

III. For the three-legged table bearing this name, see MENSA

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

hide References (17 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (17):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.26
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.144
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.81
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.378
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.434
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.13
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.13.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.18.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.21
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.32.1
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 1405
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.132
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.344
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.702
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 2.37
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