Rhyton, head-vase and figure-vase

Rhyton (pl. rhyta) is a term applied to a drinking-horn, through which liquid may be poured (compare Greek rhysis - a stream). The shape originates in the Near East, where it may be elaborated by rendering the spout in the form of an animal head. Examples seem to have inspired Athenian potters to make their own versions. In many cases, the animal-head no longer serves as an orifice (the vessel is used as a cup, rather than for pouring), but the term rhyton is often used today nonetheless.

The animal head, such as a ram or mule, is mould-made and attached to the bottom part of the cup. The addition of mould-made heads is not confined to drinking vessels, and neither are the heads only of animals - female, satyr or Negro heads can be found for aryballoi and oinochoai too (these may be termed 'head-vases'). In some cases, two heads may be juxtaposed back-to-back ('janiform'). Occasionally the terracotta attachments may be in the form of complete figures, such as the riding Amazon or Negro mauled by a crocodile associated with Sotades (these are termed 'figure-vases').

Athenian figure vase
  • Athenian figure vase
Athenian figure vase head
  • Athenian figure vase head