During the Roman period, vessels were made in great quantity and manufactured in diverse materials, including glass, pottery, stone and metal. Metal-based vessels were usually manufactured from copper alloys, widely available in the ancient Mediterranean. The properties of bronze allowed vessels to be manufactured by either casting or hammering, thus enabling a relatively fast production. Amphoriskoi were delicate flasks used primarily to store oil and expensive perfume. Normally produced in glass, these vessels are occasionally found in bronze.
It is possible that the swan lid was meant to be seen as a representation of the Roman king of the gods and more specifically the story of Leda. According to Mythology, Jupiter (Zeus) took many different forms in order to seduce and mate with his desired partners. He took the form of a swan to seduce Leda, a beautiful Spartan queen who he greatly admired. Seeking protection from a pursuing eagle, the swan fell into her arms. Their consummation took place on the banks of the river Eurotas. Resulting from the union with the god was the generation of two eggs, from which hatched Helen of Troy, Clytemnestra and Castor and Pollux. Leda and the swan was a popular subject in ancient art, strongly linked with Homer’s Iliadic epic poem.
To learn more about everyday bronze items in the Classical World, visit our relevant post: Everyday Items in the Classical World.