The kylix was designed primarily for the drinking of wine, and was the most commonplace vessel for this purpose. Although the bull by itself does not necessarily carry significance, it was still an animal of religious importance to the Greeks. The bull was linked to both Hera and Dionysus (and, of course, the myth of the Minotaur). Dionysus, the god of wine and release, seems a particularly fitting deity for allusion on a wine vessel. The bull was also strongly linked to the Mithraic Mysteries which was a secretative cult that spread across the Roman Empire at an alarming rate from the Late 1st Century AD. Not much is known of the cult, apart from its many stages of initiation, the prominence of Chicken remains in the temples, and the imagery of Mithras slaying the bull. This is suggested by the fact that, of the few animals depicted in marble, some can be identified as the animal attendants of specific deities. It is also possible that this bull was part of a sacrificial scene. Bulls were prominent in many Grecco-Roman Myths, particularly that of Europa and the Bull. Europa was spotted by Zeus who instantly fell in love with her. He disguised himself as a bull and lured the princess with his gentle nature. Inquisitively, she climed onto the bull’s back and he flew to Crete where the pair had 3 children before Zeus ultimately left. Other popular myths include that of the Minotaur (a half man-half bull animal) which was terrifying the people of Knossos.
To discover more about Ancient Greek pottery, please visit our relevant blog post: Collecting Ancient Greek Vases.