Krater discovered at the acropolis of Mycenae, depicting fully armed warriors. 1200-1100 BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens
For the landform crater, see Crater.

A krater (in Greek: κρατήρ, kratēr, from the verb κεράννυμι, keránnymi, "to mix") was a large vase used to mix wine and water in Ancient Greece.


Form and function

At a Greek symposium, kraters were placed in the center of the room. They were quite large, so they were not easily portable when filled. Thus, the wine-water mixture would be withdrawn from the krater with other vessels. In fact, Homer's Odyssey[1] describes a steward drawing wine from a krater at a banquet and then running to and fro pouring the wine into guests' drinking cups. An interesting sidenote to this is that the modern Greek word now used for undiluted wine, krasi (κρασί), originates from the krasis (κράσις, i.e. mixing) of wine and water in kraters.[2] Kraters were glazed on the interior to make the surface of the clay more suitable for holding water, and possibly for aesthetic reasons, since the interior could easily be seen.


At the beginning of each symposium a symposiarch (συμποσίαρχος), or "lord of the common drink", was elected by the participants. He would then assume control of the wine servants, and thus of the degree of wine dilution and how it changed during the party, and the rate of cup refills. The krater and how it was filled and emptied was thus the centerpiece of the symposiarch's authority. An astute symposiarch should be able to diagnose the degree of inebriation of his fellow symposiasts and make sure that the symposium progressed smoothly and without drunken excess.

Wine dilution

Drinking ákratos (undiluted) wine was considered a severe faux pas in ancient Greece, enough to characterize the drinker as a drunkard and someone who lacked restraint and principle. Ancient writers prescribed that a mixing ratio of 1:3 (wine to water) was optimal for long conversation, a ratio of 1:2 when fun was to be had, and 1:1 was really only suited for orgiastic revelry, to be indulged in very rarely, if at all. Since it is well-known that such mixtures would nowadays produce a rather unpalatable, watery drink, this certain practice of the ancients has led to speculation that ancient wines might have been vinified to a high alcoholic degree and sugar content, e.g. by using dehydrated grapes, and could withstand dilution with water better. Such wines would have also withstood time and the vagaries of transportation much better. Nevertheless the ancient writers offer scant details of ancient vinification methods, and therefore this theory, though plausible, remains unsupported by evidence.

Forms of kraters

Column krater

This form was invented in Corinth, but was taken over by the Athenians, where it is typically black-figure.

Calyx krater

Probably invented by Exekias in about 525 BC, this form remembers the calyx of flowers, with low handles protruding from the base of the bowl.

Volute krater

An Attic shape (whose handles look like the volute of a capital) that lasted through the 4th century BC.

Bell krater

This form looks like an inverted bell. All bell kraters are red-figure.

Metal kraters

According to many scholars the ceramic kraters imitated shapes designed initially for metal exemplars. Among the largest and most famous metal kraters in antiquity were one in the possession of the Samian tyrant Polycrates, and another one dedicated by Croesus to the Delphic oracle. There are a few extant Archaic bronze kraters (or often only their handles), almost exclusively of the volute-type. Their main production centres were Sparta, Argos and Corinth, in Peloponnesus. During the Classical period the Volute-type continued to be very popular along with the calyx-type, and beside the Corinthian workshop an Attic one was probably active. Exquisite exemplars of both volute- and calyx-kraters come from Macedonian 4th century BC graves. Among them the Derveni krater represents an exceptional chef d’œvre of the Greek toreutics.[3]


  1. ^ IX.10
  2. ^ Entry κράσις at LSJ
  3. ^ Barr-Sharrar B., The Derveni krater: masterpiece of classical Greek metalwork, ASCSA 2008

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Krater — Sm std. (18. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. crātēr, das seinerseits aus gr. krātḗr stammt. Das griechische Wort bedeutet ursprünglich Mischgefäß (zu gr. keránnymi vermische ); nach dessen Form sind die Vulkanöffnungen benannt.    Ebenso nndl.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Krater [1] — Krater (griech.), bei den alten Griechen und Römern der große Mischkessel, in dem beim Mahl der Wein mit Wasser gemischt wurde. Die K. waren ziemlich groß, weitbauchig und weithalsig, mit zwei Handhaben und entweder mit einem Fuß versehen, oder… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • krater — kráter m DEFINICIJA 1. geogr. otvor, grotlo, ždrijelo u obliku lijevka na vrhu vulkana kroz koji se izlijevala ili izlijeva lava 2. pov. lik. posuda posebnog oblika u običajima i pravilima stare grčke keramike 3. rupa koja nastaje eksplozijom… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Krater — bezeichnet: Krater (Gefäß), im antiken Griechenland ein Gefäß zum Mischen von Wein und Wasser Vulkankrater, die Vertiefung bei Vulkanen, aus der Magma austritt oder ausgetreten ist Sinterkrater, durch Mineralablagerungen um eine Quelle… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • krater — [krāt′ər, krä ter′] n. [Gr kratēr: see CRATER] an ancient Greek jar with a broad body, a wide neck, and two handles, used for mixing water and wine …   English World dictionary

  • Krater — (gr.), 1) großes, auf einem Dreifuß stehendes becherförmiges Mischgefäß für Wein u. Wasser; 2) Sternbild, so v.w. Becher; 3) die meistens trichterförmigen Mündungen der Vulkane (s.d.); sie sind entweder Ausbruchskrater d.h. Öffnungen einer aus… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Krater [2] — Krater (griech., »Becher«), die kessel oder trichterförmige Mündung des Eruptionskanals feuerspeiender Berge (s. Vulkane) …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Krater — (grch.), Mischkrug, Mischkessel, ein weitbauchiges, zweihenkliges Gefäß [Abb. 976]; dann die Öffnung der Vulkane (s.d.) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Krater — Krater, die trichterförmigen Vertiefungen feuerspeiender Berge, welche die Oeffnung einer aus dem Innern des Vulkans aufsteigenden schornsteinartigen Röhre bilden, und durch welche die vulkanischen Ausbrüche geschehen, daher auch Ausbruchs oder… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • kráter — m 1. {{001f}}geogr. otvor, grotlo, ždrijelo u obliku lijevka na vrhu vulkana kroz koji se izlijevala ili izlijeva lava 2. {{001f}}pov. lik. posuda posebnog oblika u običajima i pravilima stare grčke keramike 3. {{001f}}rupa koja nastaje… …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

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