The Ancient Greek Kalathos- What Did it Symbolise?
In Ancient Greece, the Kalathos was a resilient and beautiful item used
for a variety of domestic functions. It gradually came to have a
distinct symbolic meaning and now has a significant place in the history
of Ancient Greek households.
What is the Kalathos?
A vase like item used to carry fruit and wool among other items, the
Kalathos is a historical version of a modern day grocery basket. The
shape of the vase is reminiscent of a classic top hat and it was usually
decorated with painted images or open-cut work to create a basket
effect. It would usually have a narrower base with a wider lip at the
top and could be made with or without a handle. The Kalathos could be
made out of several different kinds of materials ranging from clay to
glass to rock but was most popularly made of willow rods. Willow is a
pliable and strong natural material that was often used by the Ancient
Greek people to create medicines and construct common household items.
What was the Kalathos used for?
The name 'Kalathos' itself means basket in Greek, pertaining to its
usage of holding and transporting goods. It was commonly used to store
and carry food, wool, grain and flowers and is often depicted in
domestic scenes in Ancient Greek artwork. The Kalathos is traditionally
associated with the harvest due to its function and storage use and this
later led to its distinct symbolic meaning.
What did the Kalathos came to symbolise?
The Kalathos's traditional use during harvest and for wool making
distinguished it as a symbol of fertility and plenty. It is sometimes
associated with Ancient Greek goddesses and deities of love and
fertility. In other cultures illustrations of the Kalathos in larger
artworks was often used to symbolise successful marital relationships,
and a silver Kalathos vase belonging to Helen of Troy is mentioned by
Homer in the Illiad. The symbolism of the Kalathos can be easily
understood through it's functions but also through its outward shape
that grows larger (and more abundant) towards the rim.
Many examples of Ancient Greek Kalathos vases can be seen in museums
around the world and they are all individually decorated and shaped.
Beautiful illustrations and patterns are common features and while they
all differ in decoration and size, the recognisable shape with the wider
lip is a recurring feature of all Kalathos vases.