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Title: Lebes  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Laconian vase painting, Centuripe Class, Rider Painter, Kabiria Group, Tripod
Collection: Ancient Greek Pot Shapes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Lebes gamikos, a vessel that was part of an ancient Greek wedding

The lebes (plural lebetes) is a type of ancient Greek cauldron. It is a deep bowl with a rounded bottom. It was often supported by a sacrificial tripod.[1] In classical times, a foot was attached and it was typically used as a cooking pot.


  • Variants 1
    • Tripod lebes 1.1
    • Lebes gamikos 1.2
  • Value 2
  • References 3


Tripod lebes

The tripod lebes is characterized by two round vertical handles and by three strut-supported legs. All were separately cast then riveted to the cauldron. Artefactual evidence indicates the tripod lebes was not used as a mixing bowl, even long after it lost its role as a cooking pot.[2]

Lebes gamikos

The lebes gamikos (pl. lebetes gamikoi), or nuptial lebes, appears to have been a part of pre-wedding purification ceremonies. It may have stood by the bride's door and was probably used in ritual sprinkling of the bride with water.

Lebetes gamikoi stood on variously long or short bases and each typically was painted with a scene of a wedding procession. Oftentimes, the wedding depicted was mythic (such as the wedding of Peleus and Thetis) or included mythic elements such as chariots bearing Helen and Menelaos.[3]


Under the barter system that existed in early Iron Age Greece, goods and services were directly exchanged without the use of an exchange medium (money). However, such transactions were aided by conventionally accepted reference values. Certain commodities were often used as reference points for evaluating the relative values of different goods. Cattle was common as such a reference in many early cultures. In Greece during this period, in addition to cattle, bronze and iron items—specifically lebetes—were also common.[5]

Remnants of stone inscriptions preserve numerous examples of fines and compensatory damages denominated in bronze lebetes from ancient Crete, as early as the 7th century BCE. For example, in one instance, a bronze tripod "of [worth] ten lebetes" was recorded as payment for a fine.[5]

In the Iliad, a bronze lebes was valued at one ox. By the Hellenistic period, long after the introduction of coin based money, the lebes survived as a term for a quantity of silver coinage.[5]


  1. ^ Sayles, Wayne G. (2003). Ancient Coin Collecting 1. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 258. Lebes: cauldron, usually supported on a tripod. 
  2. ^ Benton, Sylvia (1934). "The Evolution of the Tripod-Lebes". The Annual of the British School at Athens (British School at Athens) 35: 74.  
  3. ^ Boardman, John (1974). Athenian Black Figure Vases. World of Art. Thames & Hudson.  
  4. ^ Crane, Gregory R. "Herodotus, The Histories, Book 1, chapter 144, section 1". Perseus Digital Library. Department of the Classics,  
  5. ^ a b c Metcalf, William E. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 33, 34.  

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