What Were Cups Made of in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, cups were an essential part of daily life. They were used for various purposes, including drinking, ceremonial rituals, and social gatherings. These cups were made from a variety of materials, each with its unique characteristics and significance.

Clay Cups

One of the most common materials used to make cups in ancient Greece was clay. Clay cups were typically handmade by skilled artisans. The clay was molded into the desired shape and then fired in a kiln to harden and strengthen the cup.

Clay cups had several advantages:

  • They were inexpensive to produce, making them accessible to people from all social classes.
  • They retained heat well, making them suitable for serving hot beverages like wine.
  • They provided a natural earthy flavor to the drinks, which was highly valued by the ancient Greeks.

A notable type of clay cup was the kylix:

  • The kylix had a shallow bowl-like shape with two horizontal handles called “ear handles.”
  • It was used primarily for drinking wine during symposia or social gatherings.
  • The interior of the kylix often featured intricate designs or scenes from mythology, adding an artistic element to these cups.

Metal Cups

In addition to clay cups, metal cups were also prevalent in ancient Greece. These cups were typically made from silver or bronze and required great skill to craft.

Metal cups offered several advantages:

  • They were highly durable and long-lasting.
  • The use of precious metals like silver added a touch of luxury to the cups.
  • They were often adorned with intricate engravings or decorative handles, showcasing the craftsmanship of the artisans.

One of the most famous metal cups was the skyphos:

  • The skyphos had a deep bowl-like shape with two horizontal handles.
  • It was commonly used for serving and drinking wine.
  • The exterior of the skyphos often featured elaborate designs or scenes from mythology, making it a visually stunning cup.

Glass Cups

Although less common than clay or metal cups, glass cups were also used in ancient Greece. Glassmaking was a relatively new technique during this time period, and glass cups were considered a luxury item.

Glass cups had several notable features:

  • They were transparent, allowing people to appreciate the color and clarity of their beverages.
  • Glass cups were often decorated with intricate patterns or colored glass to enhance their visual appeal.
  • While not as durable as clay or metal cups, glass cups were highly valued for their aesthetic qualities.

A popular type of glass cup was the rhyton:

  • The rhyton had a horn-like shape and was typically used for ceremonial purposes, such as libations to gods or important figures.
  • Rhytons were often crafted with great attention to detail and embellished with decorative elements like animal heads or mythical creatures.


In ancient Greece, cups played an integral role in daily life. Whether made from clay, metal, or glass, these cups served various functions and were crafted with great skill and artistry. From the simple yet practical clay kylix to the ornate and luxurious silver skyphos, each cup had its unique charm and significance.

By understanding what ancient Greek cups were made of, we gain insights into the culture, craftsmanship, and aesthetic sensibilities of this fascinating civilization.