kotyle [Greek, κοτύλη]

Also romanized as cotyla.


In ancient Greece, a unit of both liquid and dry capacity, varying with period and location. For liquids, = 6 kyathoi,; for dry materials, = ¼ choinix. About 240 to 300 milliliters. Hultsch said the Attic kotyle was 273.6 mL, which has been generally accepted. chart symbol

In addition to being a measure, “kotyle” also referred to an actual cup.

The kotyle was also said to have a weight of 60 drachms; taking the liquid as water makes the kotyle 32 cubic daktyloi.

Lang draws attention to the influence that Greek formulas for the volume of a cylinder, 11/14 times the square of the diameter times the height (from Heron), had on the dimensions of cylindrical standard measures: calculation was easier if the dimensions had 7 as a factor. In the case of the kotyle, 3½ dactyloi (that is, 7/2) in inner diameter times 3½ in height made 33 11/16 cubic dactyloi (by Heron's formula, or 33.67 by ours). The extra cubic dactyloi would have been taken up by the “handle” inside the cylinder.

Mabel Lang and Margaret Crosby.
Weights, Measures and Tokens.
The Athenian Agora, vol. 10. (1964).


In modern Greece, the royal kotyle = 10 liters.


In Egypt, ? – 3rd century ce, a unit of capacity, the Maximian cotyla (κοτύλα Μαξιμιανὰς), between about 528 and 600 milliliters, according to Mayerson. This is more than 2 times the usual size of the kotyle, but close to the size of the Roman sextarius. Mayerson speculates that it was a means by which the Egyptians transitioned from the Greek kotyla of Ptolemaic days to the Roman sextarius.

Cockle's article contains a copy (with translation) of a contract executed on 5 September 264 ce for manufacture of 15,300 pots, the capacity of which is specified in Maximian kotylai. (Cockle points out that the size of the kotyle given by Segré must be wrong.)

Helen Cockle.
Pottery Manufacture in Roman Egypt: A New Papyrus.
Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 71 (1981).
Page 95.

Philip Mayerson.
The Value of the Maximian Cotyla in P. Oxy. L 3595 and PSI XII 1252.
Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 131 (2000).
Pages 168 and 169.



In Archiv f. Papyrusforschung 45.1 (1999), 96-127, we attempt to demonstrate that from the 4th century A.D. onwards in Egypt the chous, standing as a metrological unit in between the kotyle and the metretes (144 kotylai = 12 choes = 1 metretes), disappears completely from the Greek documents from Egypt (likewise, the kotyle and the metretes also disappear).

N. Kruit and K. A. Worp.
Mnemosyne, vol 53, fasc. 3 (2000).
The authors question the translation quoted in their title, of a potter's contract in P. Oxy. LVIII 3942.

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