Paestum in southern Italy
Mixing vessel (calyx krater), about 350 340
B.C., earthenware with slip decoration.
Gift of the Charter Collectors 1990.7
The Greek symposium was a key social institution. It
was primarily a drinking party, but also served as a
forum for men to debate, plot, boast, or simply socialize.
At a symposium a Krater like this one would be placed
at the center of the room and used to mix water with
wine. Nude servant boys would fill pitchers with the
water and wine mixture from the krater to serve the
guests. This type of krater is known as a calyx krater
because the low handles resemble the calyx of a flower.
Kraters were glazed to make them more suitable for holding
liquid and were usually elaborately painted with drinking
scenes. The painting on this particular krater is attributed
to Python, a painter who was considered one of the leading
vase painters in Paestum in the fourth century B.C.
In this scene Dionysus, the god of wine, is reclining
with a woman, possibly his wife Ariadne, who entertains
him on the flute. Dionysus plays a drinking game called
kottabos which involved flinging the dregs of the wine
at a target. In this case he would be aiming to knock
the top off the elaborate stand. If he were successful
it would hit the disc in the middle and make a bell-like
Dionysus is being served by a Papposilenos, one of his
male followers, recognizable by his goat’s tail
and pointed ears. The Maenads, his female companions,
are shown in the background and the two masks above
him represent his role as god of the theater.