AMPHORA (from amphi (Gk.) both, and phero (Gk.), I carry) a large vessel used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for preserving wine, oils, fruits and so named from its usually having an ear or handle on each side of the neck, whence it was also called diota. It was commonly made of earthenware, but sometimes of stone, glass or even more costly materials; its usual form was tall and narrow, diminishing below to a point.
A number of specimens of the various kinds of amphorae to be seen in the Elgin collection in the British Museum.
Homer and Sophocles mention amphorae used in cinerary urns and a discovery made in 1825 at Salona shows that they were sometimes used as coffins. The amphora was divided lengthwise to receive the corpse, then closed and deposited in the earth, thus preserving the skeletons entire (Steinbüchel, Alterthum, p. 67).
The amphora was a standard measure of capacity among both the Greeks and Romans. The Attic amphora contained nearly nine gallons, and the Roman amphora about six.