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The Lycurgus Cup

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Lycurgus Cup
  • Description

    Drinking-cup; glass; green and red; covered with various scenes representing the death of King Lycurgus; rim mounted with silver-gilt band of leaf ornament, plus silver-gilt foot with open-work vine leaves.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 4thC
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 158.8 millimetres
    • Diameter: 132 millimetres (maximum)
    • Weight: 700 grammes
    • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Curator's comments

    Exhibited at the Society of Arts, 1850. See: 'Illustrated London News', vol.16, 13 April 1850, p.252; Catalogue of Works of Ancient and Mediaeval Art, Exhibited at the House of the Society of Arts, London, 1850, no.626, p.63. For detailed bibliography on both the cup and diatreta in general see: D. B. Harden and J. M. C. Toynbee, ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus cup’, Archaeologia 97 (1959), 179–212, esp. 207; D.B. Harden, ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus cup: addenda and corrigenda’, Journal of Glass Studies 5 (1963), 9–17; R.G. Chirnside and P. Proffitt, ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus cup: an
    analytical investigation’, Journal of Glass Studies 5 (1963), 18–23; R.Brill, ‘The chemistry of the Lycurgus cup’, in Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on Glass. Comptes Rendus 2, Brussels, 1965, paper 223, 1–13; D. Chirnside, ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus cup: an analytical
    investigation’, in Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on Glass. Comptes Rendus 2, Brussels, 1965, paper 222, 1–6;
    T.E. Haevernick. ‘Zu dem Diatret von Termantia’, Madrider
    Mitteilungen 12 (1971), 202–4; K. Painter, ‘The Lycurgus cup’, in D.B. Harden et al., Glass of the Caesars (exh. cat., Milan), Milan, 1987, no. 139; D. Whitehouse, ‘A recently discovered cage cup’, Journal of Glass Studies 30 (1988), 28–33; A. Koster and D. Whitehouse, ‘Early Roman cage cups’, Journal of Glass Studies 31 (1989), 25–33; D. Whitehouse, ‘Roman dichroic glass: two contemporary descriptions?’, Journal of Glass Studies 31 (1989), 119–21; D. Barber and I.C. Freestone, ‘An investigation of the origin of the colour of the Lycurgus cup by analytical electron microscopy’, Archaeometry 32 (1990), 33–45; A. Farnoux, ‘Lykourgos I’, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae VI.1 (1992), 309–19; H. Tait, Five Thousand Years of Glass, 1991, 91–4; R. Lierke, ‘One more time – the making of the diatreta cups’, Glastechnische Berichte. Glass Science and Technolog y 68 (1995), 195–204; G.D. Scott, ‘A study of the Lycurgus cup’, Journal of Glass Studies 37 (1995), 51–64; M. Vickers, ‘Rock crystal: the key to cut glass and diatreta in Persia and Rome’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996), 48–65; C. Steckner, ‘Diatrete als Lichtgefase’, in R. Lierke et al., Antike Glastöpferei – ein vergessenes Kapitel der Glasgeschichte, Mainz, 1999, 110–14; V. Rondot, ‘Le dieu a la bipenne, c’est Lycurgue’, Revue d’Egyptologie 52 (2001), 219–49; I.C. Freestone, N. Meeks, M. Sax and C. Higgitt, ‘The Lycurgus cup – a Roman nanotechnology’, Gold Bulletin 40 (2007), 270–7; R. Lierke, Die nicht-geblasenen antiken Glasgefäße/The Non-blown
    Ancient Glass Vessels (Deutsche Glastechnische Gesellschaft),
    Offenbach/Main, 2009; E. Simon, ‘Lykourgos: Frevler, Tor, Bekehrter’, Archaiognosia, suppl. 8, Athens, 2009, 111–24;
    A. Gerick, ‘Die Trierer Diatrete und die Frage nach der
    Herstellung romischer Netzglaser’, Restaurierung und Archäologie 3 (2010), 117–36; M. Kappes, ‘Les fragments d’un verre diatrete de Grenoble. Elements technologiques’, Journal of Glass Studies 53 (2011), 93–101; E.M. Stern, ‘A new window on ancient glass technology, including cameo glass and cage cups’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 24 (2011), 619–26; J. Elsner, ‘The Lycurgus cup’, in Chris Entwistle and Liz James (eds), New Light on Old Glass: Recent Research on Byzantine Mosaics and Glass (British Museum Research Publication 179), London, 2013, 103–11; R. Lierke, ‘On the Manufacture of Diatreta and Cage Cups from the Pharos Beaker to the Lycurgus Cup’, in ibid., 89–102; D. Barchiesi, 'Lycurgus cup: inverse problem using photographs for characterization of matter', Journal of the Optical Society of America 32/8 August (2015), 1544-1555.


  • Bibliography

    • Freestone, Meeks, Sax & Higgitt 2007 bibliographic details
    • Eastmond 2013 024 bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 10-11, no. 1 bibliographic details
    • Meredith 2015 80 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1991 pls.116-117 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G2a/dc19

  • Exhibition history


    2012-2013 11 Nov-25 Aug, USA, Art Institute of Chicago, Tradition Transformed: Late Roman and Early Byzantine Treasures from the British Museum
    2008 15 Feb-27 May, USA, Corning, Corning Museum of Glass, Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome
    2007 18 Oct-2008 14 Jan, USA, Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome
    2003 23 Oct-2004 18 Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund
    1988 30 Sep-1989 6 Jan, Italy, Rome, Museo Capitolino, Glass of the Caesars
    1988 15 Apr-26 Jul, Germany, Cologne, Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Glass of the Caesars
    1987 18 Nov-1988 15 Mar, London, British Museum, Glass of the Caesars
    1987 25 Apr-19 Oct, USA, Corning, Corning Museum of Glass, Glass of the Caesars
    1987, Milan, 'Glass of the Caesars'
    Society of Arts, 1850.

  • Condition

    Foot removed from cup by Research Lab, 1958 and reunited 1973; given 1958,1202.1.a in 1958.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The cup was originally acquired by Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879). See: DNB, p. 1815; (by Victor Grey and Melanie Aspey). The cup was purchased from Victor (Nathaniel Meyer) Rothschild (1910-1990) in 1958. See: (by Kenneth Rose)

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 1958,1202.1.a (foot)
COMPASS Title: The Lycurgus Cup;The Lycurgus Cup

COMPASS Title: The Lycurgus Cup;The Lycurgus Cup

Image description



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