The Lekythos: An Icon of Ancient Ceramics

lecito griego

The Lekythos or lecithos is a ceramic vessel originating in ancient Greece, between the 6th and 4th centuries BC, with an elegant shape, mainly used to store oils and ointments. Beyond its practical function, it became an artistic expression, decorated with mythological and everyday scenes, reflecting the skills and culture of its time.

What is a lekythos and what was it used for in ancient Greece?

It was not a simple vessel, but a testimony to the life and beliefs of the Greeks. Originally, these pieces of pottery were used for storing oils and ointments, essential in daily life and ritual practices. However, as time went by, the lekythos became something more: an art object, a storyteller.

FormIt has an elongated and stylized design, with a narrow body that widens towards the base, a long and slender neck, and a small mouth. This distinctive shape makes it easily recognizable among other ceramic pieces.

lekythos griego
Ceramic Lekythos made by Knossos Art

In Greek art, the lekythos reflected the evolution of techniques and styles. It began with the ceramics of black figures where dark silhouettes stood out against a light background. Later, came the technique of red figures, a revolutionary advance that allowed for greater expressiveness and detail. These changes not only evidenced the skill and creativity of the artisans, but also the transformations in society and culture.

Techniques and Designs of lekythos

The lekythos were true masterpieces, created with exquisite precision and care. Each piece was unique, hand-formed and hand-painted by artisans who dedicated their lives to perfecting their craft. The designs varied greatly, ranging from scenes from Greek mythology to depictions of everyday life to the most intimate and personal moments.

The techniques to create these jewels of the Greek pottery were diverse and complex. It required a deep knowledge of materials and extraordinary skill to bring figures and scenes to life. Artisans played with colors, shapes and textures to create pieces that were not only beautiful, but also narrative.

Iconography and Symbolism

The lecithos was much more than a vessel; it was a mirror of the society that created it. Every image, every figure painted on its surface, had a meaning. Scenes could depicting famous myths, gods and heroes or they could be more personal, showing scenes of daily life, such as banquets, warriors, or even moments of love and affection.

Often, the lecithos were used in funerary contexts, where they served as offerings or grave markers. The images in these cases could reflect the journey of the soul, the farewell to loved ones or the hope of an afterlife.


Buy unique Greek reproductions

Fortunately, there are artisans who make reproductions identical to the classical works of art that were made in ancient Greece and are only found in museums, making them affordable.

The Importance of the lekythos in Rituals

In ancient Greece, the lecithus played an essential role in rituals, especially in funeral ceremonies. It was common for these vessels to be used to contain oils and ointments with which the bodies of the deceased were anointed. Their importance went beyond the functional; they were symbols of respect and memory, a way of connecting the living with their deceased loved ones.

These objects not only tell us about the beliefs and practices of the ancient Greeks, but also offer us a window into their emotions and thoughts. Through them, we can glimpse how they coped with loss, how they honored their dead, and how they viewed the journey to the afterlife.

Some of these have been found in unusual contexts or with mysterious inscriptions, raising questions about their origin and use. These discoveries often lead historians and archaeologists to rethink what we know about ancient Greek culture and practices.

© Cover image: Greekartshop1

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