Cup with Odysseus in the Underworld. Side A: Odysseus offering a sacrifice and blind prophet Tiresias
25 BCE — 100 CE.
12.5 × 16.3 × 11.4 cm.
Inv. No. 96.AM.57.Los Angeles, John Paul Getty Museum, Getty Villa in Malibu

Cup with Odysseus in the Underworld. Side A: Odysseus offering a sacrifice and blind prophet Tiresias.

25 BCE — 100 CE.
12.5 × 16.3 × 11.4 cm.
Inv. No. 96.AM.57.

Los Angeles, John Paul Getty Museum, Getty Villa in Malibu.

Private collection, USA.
Royal-Athena Galleries, Switzerland.
?—1994 — Phoenix Ancient Art S. A. (Geneva, Switzerland), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1994.
1994—1996 — Barbara Fleischman and Lawrence Fleischman, American (1925, New York — 1997, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.
Encircling this two-handled drinking cup is a scene from Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey. The Greek hero Odysseus has traveled to the Underworld to consult the ghost of the blind seer Teiresias — the only one who can tell him how to return home to Ithaca. Odysseus, shown brandishing his sword, has just sacrificed a ram to summon the spirits of the dead. Teiresias and another figure are shown sitting on rocks. The other side of the cup depicts a group of men in conversation — seven figures, all older men wearing cloaks, who may be identified as philosophers. The handles are decorated with foliate patterns on the tops of their shafts above the rim, and at their attachment plates to the body of the cup. The foot is decorated with a sharp fillet near the top, and with a beaded band and ovolo atop the footplate.

Roman domestic silver of fine quality often displayed images referring to Greek myth and literature. Cups decorated with narrative subjects inspired discussion at refined dinner parties, where guests could identify the scenes and admire their host’s taste. Heavy, silver drinking cups with repoussé decoration were very popular in the first century A. D. Such vessels were formed from an outer case decorated with the relief and a plain inner liner soldered together. The feet and handles were made separately and soldered on.

(cc) 2021. Photo, text: The J. Paul Getty Museum (CC BY 4.0).
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.
Keywords: ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque ρώμη ρωμαϊκό rome roman romana romano rom römische romaine toreutics toreutica cesellatura toreutik treibarbeit toreutique ὀδυσσεύς ὀδυσεύς οδυσσέας odysseus odisseo τειρεσίας tiresias teiresias blind prophet tiresia rabdomante profeta cieco blinder tirésias devin prophète aveugle cup bowl coppa becher coupe male dress clothes clothing garment abbigliamento maschile herrenbekleidung vêtements pour hommes ανδρικά ρούχα footwear footgear calzatura männerschuhe chaussures παπούτσια sacrifice sacrificio opfer oblatio sacrificium θυσία sword spada schwert épée ensis ξίφος σπαθί baldric balteo wehrgehänge balteus tree albero baum arbre δέντρο cloak mantello mantel manteau μανδύα beard bearded man barba uomo barbuto bart bärtiger mann barbe homme barbu barbatum γενειάδα γενειοφόρος άνθρωπος silver vessel vascello d’argento silbergefäß vaisseau d’argent rock roccia rupe felsen rocher βράχος vaso tazza trinkschale tasse vase skyphos sciphus σκύφος sacrificial animal victim animale sacrificale vittima opfertier sacrificiel victime hostia victima θυσιαστικό ζώο θύμα belt cintura cingolo gurt gürtel ceinture ζώνη relief rilievo underworld otherworld inferi unterwelt enfers old vecchio greis alter vieux vieil seated sitting siede seduta seduto sitzt sitzende sitzender assis assise head of ram testa di ariete widderkopf tête de bélier closed in shoes scarpe chiuse geschlossene schuhe fermées montone hammel two-handled with decoration odysseus the inv no