The Lycurgus Cup: The Real Life Holy Grail

The Lycurgus cup is not some pre-medieval inspiration of the Holy Grail.  This cup goes all the way back to 300 AD and looks like it was crafted when Gandalf met Dumbledore to see who could make the better ale goblet. Had we known its maker we’d tell you who won because to start with the cup is surrounded with lore fit for a Norse saga. No one knows who made it but its design shows King Lycurgus entangled in vines because he tried to kill a follower of Dionysus, the Greek god or wine, known to the Romans as Bacchus. So it’s an ode to alcohol made for drinking alcohol.

How was the Lycurgus Cup Made?

The cup’s history isn’t just what’s so interesting about it but its material as well. Dichroic glass is a material made by infusing glass with nanoparticles of gold and silver. The process it was made with wasn’t replicated until the end of the twentieth century and even historians weren’t sure how the Romans could have made it with nothing but hot coal and a blowpipe. The process wasn’t for nothing though because until the Twilight movies we weren’t even close to having such a concentration of shiny in one place. When light strikes the glass in a certain angle the glass will reflect it as green while another angle gives it a blood shade of red. The effect wasn’t explained until the 1990s because that’s when modern technology caught up with the Romans those guys who went to war in sandals and work in robes.

An Ancient Cup – Being used in Modern Science

The cup doesn’t just change appearance when hit by light just in case you think that it’s only great for show and tell it’s effect is now being mimicked for other uses too. When its material was remade and tested, even different liquids changed the cup’s color. This effect now known as the Lycurgus effect is being applied in other areas because its color spectrum is more sensitive than current sensors in differentiating between the concentrations of the liquids. It’s hoped that if successful it could be used to detect a wider range of substances and even lower the cost of some tests given that pregnancy tests already used a variant of the Lycurgus effect.

Its Story and Ownership is even more Interesting

Just as the Holy Grail has been shrouded in mystery and sought after by many so has the Lycurgus Cup, disappearing and reappearing throughout various points in history. It was sought after by the rich because someone had to first live the life which would later inspire modern man to go to his office and develop Temple Run and feel manly playing it. It got lost during the French revolution before being found with M Dubois and later landed in the hands of the Rothschild Family. Now it sits easy at the British Museum only leaving when it needs to be displayed to remind people that there was a time humans drank from the cup of a god.

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The Lycurgus Cup: The Real Life Holy Grail