Ancient Greek Silver Embossed Phiale


A fine Ancient Greek dish cast in silver. The shallow vessel with a flat base and short sides leading to an everted lip resembles a Roman patera in form. The phiale is embellished with an embossed pattern of twenty-two radiating petals, each with a chased mid-rib and pointed tip, tipped by tear-shaped lobes with chased mid-ribs, repeated around a smooth and unworked central circle. On the outside of the dish the pattern is enriched with fine outlines to each of the raised geometric forms, and floral motifs between each of the teardrop forms on the sides. The inside of the dish is smoother, creating a simple flower or sun-like pattern around the gold circle in the centre. Originally a gold appliqué would have sat in the centre, but this is now missing.

Date: Circa 4th Century AD
Provenance: Ex private collection, Surrey gentleman, JL collection.
Condition: Very fine condition, some slight patination to surface.


A phiale would have been used by the Greeks as a part of the libation process – the pouring of wine as an offering to the gods. The wine would usually be diluted with water (the standard practice was five or six measures of water to one of wine), which would be poured from an oinochoe into a phiale. The phiale would be held in the worshipper’s right hand while he prayed, and then its contents would be poured onto the altar to the gods. The remainder of the wine in the oinochoe would then be drunk by the celebrants.

To find out more about different metal decorative techniques please see our relevant blog post: Decorative Metalwork Techniques

Weight 194 g
Dimensions W 15.1 x H 2.9 cm




Reference: For Similar: Christie’s Auction House, London, Auction 8724, Antiquities, 12th April 2000, lot 140