What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Collection online

Additional options
Production date to

Or search by


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.


  • Bibliography

    • Freestone, Meeks, Sax & Higgitt 2007 bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 10-11, no. 1 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1991 pls.116-117 bibliographic details
  • 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 reg.no 1958,1202.1.a in 1958.

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • 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



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCB1864

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help