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.
Bucranium – the motif of ox heads – was very common in classical art. It was used to adorn buildings, most commonly to fill the gap between metopes along the friezes of Doric temples. This association with religious architecture, and the fact that oxen were one of the most luxurious sacrifices available, reflects the owner’s wish to emphasise further the piety inherent in the object itself.