Fragment of a Phiale

            This is a fragment of a libation vessel, called a phiale, which found on the Greek island of Chios. The vessel is made of clay and it dates back to the 6th century BCE. This type of bowl was used to collect liquids, such as water, wine, milk, oil, or honey, poured out to honor the gods before a meal or a sacrifice. The libation was poured from a wine jug into the phiale and then poured out onto an altar or onto the ground.


            This ritual act of libation demonstrates how food and drink could be used by people to express their relationship with the gods. They used this act to honor the gods, so that they could begin their event with the gods' favor. For example, at a symposium, a group poured out three libations for Zeus and to heroes. This act demonstrates the people’s close relationship with their gods and it illustrates how the ancient people used food as a part of their religious and cultural activities and rituals. This makes the liquid used in the act of libation sacred and shows how important and special the act was for the people. Most phialai were made of bronze or precious metals, rather than clay. Also, they were often decorative. This is further evidence that the liquid poured into the phiale was sacred and special. Overall, this bowl fragment serves as physical evidence of a ritual which expressed the people's relationship with their god through food and drink.