In Greece, 7th- centuries bce, perhaps a unit of liquid capacity, in which case it is taken as the equivalent of an amphora or metretes. This is one of those cases where it is arguable whether a word was a general term for ‘container’, the name of a specific type of container, the name of a unit of capacity, or some combination of these meanings.
Among the word's definitions in Liddell and Scott, 7th ed., is “a liquid measure, = ἀμφορεύς Anth.”
Saglio, in their voluminous dictionary, gives as a second meaning:¹
II. Comme mesure de capacité, le cadus était l'équivalent de l'amphore attique ou métrétès, égale à trois urnes romaines¹⁶ [urna]. E. Saglio.
16 Priscian. De pond. et mens. 84 : « Attica praeterea discenda est amphora nobis, seu cadus, hanc facies, si adjeceris urnam; » Poll. X, 71 ; Isid. Or. XVI, 26, 13: cf. Colum. De re rust. XXVIII, 4.
In a lengthy discussion of kadoi, D. A. Amyx says²
But there is also mention of kadoi larger than a man (Philippides, in Athenaeus, X, 781 f) and as small as one-third of an amphora (Hedylios, in Athenaeus, XI, 473 a). … This wide range of sizes suggests that the name was applied broadly to vases of a certain general type, without much regard for details of size or use.
Alan Johnston states flatly, “There is no substantial evidence that ‘κάδος’ was ever used as a measure.”³
1. Ch. Daremberg and Edm. Saglio.
Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines…
Paris: Librairie Hachette at Cie., 1887.
Volume 1, part 2, page 778, under the headword “cadus.”
2. D. A. Amyx.
The Attic Stelai: Part III. Vases and Other Containers.
Hesperia, vol 27, no. 3 (July-Sept 1958), page 186, footnote 3.
3. Alan Johnston.
Panathenaic Amphorae, Again.
Zeitshrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol. 161 (2007), page 101.
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Last revised: 16 February 2011.