Book Series Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité Tardive, vol. 37

Late Antique Metalware. The Production of Copper-Alloy Vessels between the 4th and 8th Centuries

The Benaki Museum Collection and Related Material

Anastasia Drandaki

  • Pages: 410 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:250 col., 5 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, Greek, French
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56941-3
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56943-7
  • E-book
  • Available

The book examines the fourth- to eighth-century copper alloy wares in the Benaki Museum, using them as the starting point for a wider debate about the production, circulation and use of copper vessels in Late Antiquity.


“(…) il catalogo di Anastasia Drandaki viene ad aggiungere un importante tassello alla conoscenza della produzione in bronzo del periodo fra la Tarda Antichità e l’Alto Medioevo e raggiunge l’obiettivo di una piena valorizzazione di questa raccolta del Museo Benaki.” (Margherita Bolla, dans HISTARA, 28/02/2022)

“This book provides firm foundations for future study in the area by contextualising the substantial late antique copperwork collections in the Benaki Museum within the wider scholarship on crafts in the period (…) This is a valuable book. The lavish illustrations, both of the Benaki’s own collections and of a wide range of other materials from across the late and post-Roman world, provide clear contextualisation for the items published here, and readers can very much use this volume as a standalone resource. The volume’s translator, Valerie Nunn, should also be congratulated for producing an excellent and easy to follow English text.” (Tim Penn, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2022.04.07)


Anastasia Drandaki is the Curator of the Byzantine Collection at the Benaki Museum, Athens. She has published books and articles on late antique and medieval metalwork, icons and wall paintings, the devotional practices in Byzantium, and the arts of Sinai. She is author of “Greek Icons 14th-18th century: The Rena Andreadis Collection" and has edited “The Origins of El Greco: Icon Painting in Venetian Crete", "Pilgrimage to Sinai" and “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (with D. Bakirtzis and A. Tourta).


The book examines the fourth- to eighth-century copper alloy wares in the Benaki Museum, using them as the basis on which a wider debate about the production, circulation and use of copper vessels in Late Antiquity can be built. It is an attempt at a holistic approach to this rich but as yet little studied material. Apart from the necessary typology and dating, the study also includes systematic discussion of questions regarding the alloys used in the manufacture of the copperwares and the techniques employed in their production and decoration. The study of primary sources provided evidence about the late Roman and Medieval Greek terminology associated with each group of objects, as well as interesting information about the distribution of various types of vessels, the context in which they were used and the value their owners placed on them, while also containing useful references to the coppersmiths themselves.

Most of the Benaki copperwares were acquired on the Egyptian market and can be connected with the rich local production in the Late Roman and Early Islamic period. Yet the study of these artefacts showed that they have striking similarities with a wide range of archaeological material discovered over an extremely large geographical area, from the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK. The geographical spread of copper alloy wares that follow a parallel development in different parts of the empire and also appear almost contemporaneously in Western European burials reignites the debate on the production centres and subsequent modes of distribution of these artefacts. In turn these issues touch on the long-standing debate on the so-called ‘Coptic bronzes’ and the actual role of Egypt in the overall production of and trade in these articles in Late Antiquity.



Part Α.
Types of vessels
1. Small bowls  
2. Three-footed bowls
3. Footed bowls
4. Bowls with horizontal handles  
5. Bowls with long spouts 
6. Bowls with moveable handles   
7. Bottles and Ewers
8. Ladles   
9. Spoons – forks – strainers
10. Buckets
11. Amphoriskoi  
12. Flasks  
13. Lighting devices
14. Censers           

Part Β.
15. Technical results 
16. Workshops 
17.  Forms and decoration  

Appendix: Catalogue of the copper alloy vessels in the Benaki Museum Byzantine Collection
Abbreviations – Bibliography