This silverwroght cup is a masterpiece from the Roman Empire. Probably, it was an appointment of wealthy members of a Greek community in the Levant, where it was found. Since 1999 the cup is a property of the British Museum of London.
The reliefs are worked in the technique of repoussé, that means the metal is hammered from the reverse to create a low relief on the front. Silver findings are very rare, because precious metal was often melted down during later times. This one is among the remaining of “virtuosic craftmanship” (Neil MacGregor: Warren Cup. In: A History of the World in 100 Objects).
Two homoerotic scenes are shown. The Romans had no concept of, or word for, homosexuality, while in the Greek world the partnering of older men with youths was an accepted element of education. The first scene is situated in a luxuriously equipped house, with sofas, rich draperies and musical instruments like a lyra on the walls. The sofa is abundantly fitted up with soft cushions and duvets, supporting an honoured man in his prime (mark the beard and the laurel wreath in his hair). Atop and with his back to him, is a younger man, who lowers himself just down, searching hold on a rope, which is fastened above. Although the elder one is suspected to be the more experienced, it is the younger who leads with his right hand the motion of his lover. They are watched by a servent who peeps through an open door in the far corner of the room on the right.
The second scene is more stereotyped: Two young men, one of them clearly still in his adolescence, are settlled down on cushions and blankets, the older holding the younger in his arms, their legs entwined.
This side depicts a man (the active participant or erastes) engaging in anal sex with a young man (the eromenos, or passive participant), who lowers himself onto the erastes using a rope or support from the ceiling in roughly the modern sexual position of reverse cowgirl. Meanwhile a boy, perhaps a slave, watches surreptitiously from behind a door.
A Roman silver drinking vessel that depicts two sets of male lovers is one of the most prized jewels in the British Museum, singled out by director Neil MacGregor for his critically acclaimed History of the World in 100 Objects.
But on Wednesday, 15 years after the British Museum bought the Warren Cup for £1.8m, a highly respected German archaeologist suggested it could be a forgery.