Athenian boys received their elementary education at three different places. They could learn to read, write, and do arithmetic at various private establishments. They learned to play the lyre and sing from a lyre master. And they were trained in gymnastics at a palaestra, a public or private exercise ground.
On the inside of this cup, a boy trudges to school carrying a writing tablet, which consists of two wooden leaves coated on one side with wax and tied together. One could scratch into the wax surface with a sharp stylus and then smooth the wax to erase the marks. It has been suggested that the boys on the outside of the cup are playing school. On either side, two students approach a boy who is acting as teacher. Two of the boys have papyrus rolls on which various poetic works could be written.