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Bowl with cracked surface and featuring two figures to the interior. One figure sits on a stool with head bent forward while the other stands over the other.

Kylix (drinking cup)

SOPHIA: Time for a guessing game. Is this ...

  • a fancy soup bowl
  • a wine goblet, or
  • a dog dish?

The Ancient Greeks must have been thirsty, because this enormous vessel is actually a wine goblet! The Greeks called it a kylix.

So what did Ancient Greeks do with their wine? Did they ...

  • dilute it with lots of water
  • mix it with grated cheese, or
  • fling it at targets to entertain themselves?

The answer is ... all of the above! Eeyeew.

At parties they used to lie down on the floor and fling their wine at a target in the corner. And what’s worse, the wine was mixed with all sorts of things when it was served, including herbs and cheese. Imagine your parents and their friends lying on the lounge-room floor and throwing chunky wine at the wall.

Chunky wine is also hard to see through, so kylixes like these were made to have a surprise picture on the bottom that was only revealed once the wine had been drunk – or thrown across the room!

Sometimes the pictures on the bottom of the kylix were funny. Sometimes they were a warning.

This kylix shows a scene from the story of Achilles. Basically, Achilles is having a big sulk because he didn’t get his way. The picture warns of the danger of getting angry and saying or doing things you regret afterwards.

But that’s not what Achilles is best known for. Have you heard of him before?

The story goes, when Achilles was born, his mother took him to the River Styx which was the river that separated the world of the living from the world of the dead and was known to have protective powers.

Achilles’ mother held her baby by his heel and dipped him into the river water. From then on, Achilles could not be harmed anywhere … except the tiny patch of heel where his mother had held him.

Achilles became a famous hero and warrior. He could not be beaten until one day an arrow hit him in the tiny, unprotected patch on the back of his heel, killing him instantly.

Anyway, if you hear someone talk about their Achilles' heel, they mean it’s their weakness.

As in … giant chocolate-covered marshmallows are my Achilles' heel! I cannot resist those gooey brown bites of bliss!

Do you have an Achilles' heel?

Disclaimer and Copyright notice
This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.

© National Museum of Australia 2007–21. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.

Date published: 17 December 2021

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