Height: 8.600 cm
On loan from the
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Greek, about 300-250
From Ithaca, Ionian Islands, Greece
A gilded beaker decorated with curved lotus-flower petals and bosses
As the expansion of the Greek world opened new markets to artisans and their employers, fine craftsmanship flourished in the Hellenistic age. Precious materials such as gold and silver became more readily available, and the increase in private wealth created a new demand for skills in working them. Certain centres, such as Alexandria in Egypt, became famous for the production of luxury goods. The goods themselves travelled widely, and often ended up far from their place of manufacture.
This beautifully made gilded silver vessel must have been a precious and treasured possession and was no doubt created in one of the metropolitan centres. It was excavated on the Greek island of Ithaca, the home of Homer's mythological Odysseus. Although a small and poor island, Ithaca's wealthiest inhabitants owned very fine objects such as this. The island clearly shared in the prosperity of the Hellenistic Greek world.