The term employed by the Greeks for pottery is  κέραμος, or for the material  γῆ κεραμική. The word for clay in a general sense is  πηλός, while  κέραμος has the more restricted sense of clay as material for fictile objects; the latter word is supposed to be connected with  κεράννυμι, to mix. They likewise applied to pottery the term  ὄστρακον, meaning literally an oyster-shell, and  ὀστράκινα τορεύματα is also an expression found for works in terracotta. Nor must we omit to mention that  πηλός too comes to bear a restricted sense, when it is applied to the unburnt or sun-dried bricks freely employed in early architecture. Keramos was regarded by the Greeks as a legendary hero, from whom the name of the district in Athens known as the Kerameikos, or potter's quarter, was derived. The word  κέραμοςsoon became generic, and as early as Homer's time we find such an expression as  χάλκεος κέραμος for a bronze vessel ; similarly it came to be used for tiles, even when they were of marble . The art of working in clay may be considered among the Greeks, as among all other nations, under three heads, according to the nature of the processes employed: (1) Sun-dried clay (Gk. πηλινα or  ὠμά, Lat. cruda ); (2) baked clay without a glaze, or terracotta (Gk. γῆ ὀπτή); (3) baked clay with the addition of a glaze, corresponding to the modern porcelain. It is then possible to treat of the uses of clay under these three heads. The first, from its limited use, will occupy our attention but very briefly; the second, the manufacture of building materials and terracotta figures, only technically comes under the heading of pottery, and will therefore also receive comparatively brief mention. It remains, then, that in the succeeding chapters, as in the preceding, it will be almost exclusively with the third heading that we are concerned. Before, however, dealing with this third heading, or pottery, we may review briefly the purposes for which clay was worked, under the other two headings of brick and terracotta.

The uses of clay among the Greeks were very varied and extensive. Sun-dried clay was used for building material, and we have already seen what an important part was played by pottery in their domestic and religious life. The uses of terracotta are almost more manifold than those of pottery. It supplied the most important parts both of public and private buildings, such as bricks, roof-tiles, drain-tiles, and various architectural adornments; and was frequently used in the construction and decoration of tombs and coffins. Among its adaptations for religious purposes may be noted its use as a substitute for more expensive materials in the statues of deities, as well as the countless figurines or statuettes in this material, many of which have been found on the sites of temples or in private shrines; and besides the statuettes and other figures, of which such quantities have been found in tombs, it was used for imitations of jewellery or metal vases made solely for a sepulchral purpose. It also supplied many of the wants of every-day life, in the form of spindle-whorls, theatre-tickets, lamps and braziers, and culinary and domestic utensils of all kinds, taking the place of the earthenware of modern times. It supplied the potter with moulds for his figures and the sculptor with models for his work in marble or bronze, and placed works of art within the reach of those who found marble and the precious metals beyond their means.

One of the most elementary uses of clay is for the manufacture of building material, for which it plays an important part, as we have already seen, in the history of the Semitic races. Both burnt and unburnt bricks were employed in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and their use has already been referred to in the Introduction. Vitruvius speaks of the use of brick in the palace of Kroisos at Sardis, and we also read of the walls of Babylon and Larissa (on the site of Nineveh) as being of brick. Generally speaking, sun-dried bricks belong to an earlier period of development than baked bricks; at any rate, this is the case in the buildings of Greece and Rome.

In Greece itself the antiquity of brick is implied by the words of Pliny, who tells us that Hyperbius and Euryalus of Athens “were the first to” construct brick-kilns (laterarias ) and houses; before their time men lived in caves. He further goes on to say that Gellius regarded one Toxius as the inventor of buildings of sun-dried clay, inspired by the construction of swallows' nests. The reference is obviously to the employment by swallows of straw and twigs to make the clay for their nests cohere; this may well have suggested, in the first instance, the principle of mixing straw with sun-dried clay bricks, as was done by the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt. The method is one still practised in the East, where in such countries as Palestine and Cyprus whole villages built in this fashion may be seen.

There is no doubt, however, that in Greece, with its stores of marble and stone for building, brick never became general, though it was probably more used in sun-dried form in earlier buildings before the Greeks had begun to realise the possibilities of stone buildings. Pausanias speaks of temples of Demeter at Lepreon in Arcadia and Stiris in Phokis, of a shrine of Asklepios at Panopeus in Phokis, and of the Stoa of Kotys at Epidauros (restored by Antoninus Pius) as being of unburnt brick (πηλός). Of the same material was the cella of a temple at Patrae; but the walls of various cities, such as Mantinea, were of burnt brick.

Nor was the use of sun-dried clay confined to building material. It seems also to have been employed for modelling decorations of public buildings. Thus Pausanias mentions “images of clay,” representing Dionysos feasting in the house of Amphiktyon, adorning a chamber in the temenos of that god in the Kerameikos, and it seems highly probable that these are to be identified with the cruda opera  of one Chalcosthenes or Caicosthenes mentioned by Pliny, where the word cruda  can only be used in a technical sense (Greek ὠμά). He also mentions at Tritaea in Achaia statues of the Θεοὶ μέγιστοι in clay, and at Megara an image of Zeus by Theokosmos, of which the face was gold and ivory, the rest clay and gypsum.

Our knowledge of the use of brick (both burnt and unburnt) and terracotta in Greek architecture has been largely increased, not to say revolutionised, by recent discoveries in all parts of the Greek world, and going back to a very remote period.

Recent excavations have yielded walls of unburnt brick at Eleusis, Mycenae, Olympia, Tegea, and Tiryns. The Heraion at Olympia, which dates from the tenth century B.C., is a peripteral temple with stone stylobate, pillars and antae  of wood, and cella-wall of unburnt brick. In this respect it resembles the temple of Zeus and Herakles at Patrae (see above). It also possesses the oldest known example of a terracotta roof (Fig. 9). A recently discovered temple at Thermon in Acarnania is constructed of wood and terracotta, with painted terracotta slabs in wooden frames for metopes; the style of the paintings appears to be Corinthian, and they form a valuable contribution to the history of early Greek painting.

From Durm's Handbuch .


The stone stylobate at the Heraion was a necessity because of the destructive effect of the moist earth on terracotta; it consisted of a row of vertical slabs on which the bricks were placed in regular courses. We may see in this method of construction the forerunner of the system, universal since that time, of building walls on a plinth, which survives even to the present day. In the same way door-jambs and lintels, which were of necessity made of wood, not of brick, continued to be constructed in that material even after the introduction of stone. It has been assumed by some authorities that the Doric style of architecture is derived from a wooden prototype; this, however true of the Ionic style, is not altogether true of Doric. The proportions of the latter are too heavy. A more probable explanation is that it is the combination of wood with sun-dried tiles or bricks which we see in the Heraion that developed with the introduction of stone into the Doric system.

It is then clear that although in Greece bricks were by no means indispensable for building temples, houses, and walls, and though stone and marble undoubtedly had the preference, especially in later times, yet their use is more general than was hitherto supposed. But when they are mentioned by classical authors it is generally when speaking of foreign or barbarian edifices, such as the palace of Kroisos at Sardis or the monument of Hephaestion at Babylon, and in a manner which shows that they were not much employed in Greece at the time when they wrote. The older temple of Apollo at Megara is described by Pausanias as having been of brick (πλίνθος), but we are left in doubt as to whether this was baked or sun-dried; while the excavations at Olympia have distinctly contradicted his statement that the Philippeion was of brick, as it is proved to have been built of stone ashlar. In 333–329 B.C. the Long Walls of Athens were constructed, partly in brick, under Habron, son of Lykourgos, with Laconian tiles for the roofs. Other recorded buildings are all of late date and under Roman influence.

There is an interesting passage in the Birds  of Aristophanes, in which he is describing the building of the city of Nephelokokkygia, the walls of which are apparently conceived as being of sun-dried brick. He there speaks of “Egyptian brick-bearers,” implying that the use of brick was a characteristic distinction of that nation. The passage (1133–51) is worth quoting in full, as showing the process employed in the making of sun-dried bricks.

Mess.   Birds and none else; no bricklayer of Egypt,
No stone-hewer was there, no carpenter:
With their own hands they did it, to my marvel.
There came from Libya thirty thousand cranes,
All having swallowed down foundation-stones,
Which with their beaks the rails still aptly shaped:
Another party of ten thousand storks
Were brick-makers: and water from below
The plovers and the other wading birds
Were raising up into the higher air.
Peisth. And who conveyed the mortar for them?
Mess.                                       Herons,
In hods (λεκάναισιν).
Peisth. And how did they get in the mortar?
Mess.   That was the cleverest device of all, sir.
The geese with their webbed feet, as though with spades (ἄμαις),
Dipp'd down, and laid it neatly on the hods.
Peisth. What feat indeed may not be wrought with feet?
Mess.   Aye, and the ducks, by Jove, all tightly girt,
Kept carrying bricks, and other birds were flying,
With trowel on their head, to lay the bricks;
And then, like children sucking lollipops,
The swallows minced the mortar in their mouths.
(Kennedy's Trans.)

Sun-dried bricks were known as πλίνθοι ὠμαί (lateres crudi ); baked bricks as πλίνθοι ὠπταί (lateres cocti  or coctiles ). The Romans also used the word testa  for baked brick, corresponding to the Greek κέραμος. Vitruvius distinguishes three varieties of unburnt bricks, as used by the Greeks. One, known as “Lydian,” was also used by the Romans, who named the bricks from their length sesquipedales ; their size was 1½ by 1 ft. The other two, exclusively Greek, were known as πεντάδωρονand τετράδωρον, the word δῶρον signifying a “palm” or three inches; in other words, they were respectively fifteen inches and one foot square. The former was used for public buildings, the latter for private houses, and they were arranged in the walls in courses of alternate whole and half bricks, as is frequently done at the present day. Vitruvius also speaks of bricks made at Pitane in Mysia, and in Spain, which were so light that they would float in water. He advises that bricks should not be made of sandy or pebbly clay, which makes them heavy and prevents the straw from cohering, so that they fall to pieces after wet. Many other directions are given by him, but are too lengthy to quote here. Bricks were made in a mould called πλαίσιον, a rectangular framework of boards; and the sun-dried bricks were, as we learn from the passage quoted above, made by collecting the clay with shovels (ἄμαι) into troughs (λεκάναι) and working it with the feet. It is probable that we have some allusion to the use of moulds in certain passages from the Latin writers. The final proceeding was the drying in the sun.

An important branch of the subject is the use of terracotta for roof-tiles and other architectural decorations of temples and other buildings. On this point our knowledge has during the last five-and-twenty years been marvellously increased, the extent of its use in architecture having been hitherto but little suspected. The generic term for a roof-tile is in Greek κέραμος; they are generally divided into flat tiles (στεγαστῆρες or σωλῆεςtegulae ) and covering-tiles (καλυπῆρεςimbrices ). Besides the ordinary roof-tiles there must also be taken into consideration four varieties of ornamental tiles which found their place on a classical building. They are: (1) the covering-slabs arranged in a row along the γεῖσον, or raking cornice of the pediment; (2) the κυμάτιον or cornice above the γεῖσον; (3) the cornice along the sides of the building, with spouts in the form of lions' heads, to carry off rain-water; (4) the row of antefixal ornaments or ἀκρωτήρια surmounting the side-tiles.

The flat roof-tiles or σωλῆες, as in the Heraion of Olympia and other early buildings, are square and slightly concave, so that the raised edges placed side by side may catch under the semi-cylindrical καλυπῆρες, and so be held in their place. The latter are of plain semi-cylindrical form, except the row at the lower edge of the roof, which have attached to them the vertical semi-elliptical slabs known as “antefixae,” of which more later.

The κυμάτια were painted with elaborate patterns of lotos-and-honeysuckle, or maeanders, in red, blue, brown, and yellow, the principle being preserved (as always in Greek architectural decoration) of employing curvilinear patterns only on curved surfaces, rectilinear only on flat surfaces. At the back was the gutter for collecting rain-water, which ran off through the holes pierced at intervals in the cornice, passing through the mouths of lions' heads, moulded in very salient relief. These correspond to the gurgoyles of Gothic architecture. Many specimens have been found at Olympia, Elateia, and elsewhere in Greece; one of the finest, from a temple of Apollo at Metapontum, is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. It is very finely modelled, and the whole, with the background, richly coloured in red, yellow, and black. Spouts were sometimes modelled in other forms, such as a Satyric mask, or the fore-part of a lion; of the latter there are some examples in the British Museum.In the accounts for the erection of the arsenal at the Peiraeus there is an interesting entry relating to these lions' head spouts, in which they are described as κεραμίδες ἡγέμονες λεοντοκεφάλαι, “principal tiles with lions' heads.”

The invention of antefixae is attributed by Pliny to Butades of Sikyon, who is also credited with the invention of modelling in clay, in a well-known story; “he was,” says Pliny, “the first to place masks on the extremities of the roof-tiles, which were at first called bas-reliefs (protypa ), but afterwards alto-reliefs (ectypa ).” It is possible that the ἀγάλματα ὀπτῆς γῆς seen by Pausanias in the Stoa Basileios at Athens were ἀκρωτήρια or antefixal ornaments at the angles of the cornice, but they are more likely to have been modelled free and in the round than in relief on a background. Such sculptured groups were not uncommon in Greek architecture; thus the cornice of the pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia was adorned with a series of figures of Victory. The groups above mentioned represented Theseus slaying Skiron and Eos carrying off Kephalos; and it is interesting to note that a terracotta group with the latter subject found at Cervetri also undoubtedly came from the cornice of a building.


Archaic Antefixae of Graeco-Italian Style (British Museum).
1. Satyr and Maenad, from Civita Lavinia; 2. Female Head, from Capua.

The manner in which the antefixae were treated by the Greeks and Etruscans for purposes of decoration is well illustrated in the British Museum collection. In Cases 64–71 of the Terracotta Room may be seen a series from Capua of archaic style, the front part being semi-elliptical in form, having within an ornamental border a female bust, Gorgon's head, or other design in relief, all being richly coloured (Plate .). The back projects in a semi-cylindrical termination, forming the covering-tile, with an arched support to the upright piece. Similar antefixae were found by Lord Savile at Civita Lavinia (see below), and some have elaborate subjects, such as Artemis with two lions, or a Satyr and Maenad with a panther (Plate II.). Many have also been found at Cervetri, from which site came some interesting friezes of terracotta now in the British Museum (B 626) and at Berlin. These works of art, with which we must rank for their style the reliefs on the archaic terracotta sarcophagus in the British Museum, show throughout a strong influence of Ionic art; though all of local manufacture, their style is purely Greek, as is the case with many of the contemporary works in bronze found in Italy.


Antefixes from Hellenic sites are not so common, nor do they present the same variety of subject or richness of colour. In many cases, as in the fourth-century British Museum specimens from Asia Minor, the decoration is confined to scrolls and floral patterns in low relief, the palmette being regarded as the most appropriate decorative motive for this form of tile. An example of this type in the British Museum (C 902 = Fig. 10.), found on the field of Marathon, is inscribed with the name Athenaios. Many later antefixes with remains of colouring have been found at Tarentum, the subjects being chiefly heads of women or mythological personages.

Roof-tiles proper have been discovered in large numbers both in Greece and Italy. Olympia has proved the richest site in this respect, and there are many specimens in the Museums of Athens and Palermo.Many of them have coloured decoration, and these terracotta remains are almost the only evidence we now have of the extensive system of colouring applied by the Greeks to their temples.

At Olympia all the buildings have terracotta roofs except the temple of Zeus and two others, the dates varying from the seventh century B.C. down to Roman times. We know from Pausanias that the temple of Zeus was roofed with marble tiles in imitation of terracotta, an invention traditionally attributed to Byzes of Naxos. The covering-tiles of the Heraion roof (see Fig. 9.) end in semicircular discs painted with ornamental patterns; the flat roof-tiles are of the concave type described above. The normal sixth-century type of roof is seen in the Treasury of the Megarians, which has smooth flat tiles and covering-tiles ending in antefixes with palmette-and-lotos ornament, and a kymation cornice with lion's head spouts.

A greater variety of tiles is to be seen in the Treasury of Gela. Here for the first time we note the introduction of a new system, which consists in nailing slabs of terracotta over the surface of the stonework, or, to use the convenient German term, “Bekleidungstechnik.” It is obvious at the first glance that the origin of this practice dates from the time when buildings were largely or wholly of wood, which required protection from the weather. When the wood was replaced by stone, the fashion held its ground for a time; but with the more extensive use of marble, which could not well be covered in this manner, it disappeared altogether in Greece.


Part of Archaic Temple with Terracotta Roof, Civita Lavinia, as Restored
in the British Museum.

But the Treasury of Gela is by a Sicilian architect, and it seems highly probable that the method of decoration employed was not one usually practised in Greece, but was introduced from the Western Mediterranean. Though rare in Greece, it is exceedingly common in Sicily and Southern Italy. Themiddle temple (known as C) on the acropolis of Selinus, and buildings at Gela and Syracuse, may be cited as examples. The principle is also well illustrated in the terracotta remains of the temple at Civita Lavinia, excavated by Lord Savile in 1890–94, which are now in the British Museum. They have, as far as possible, been incorporated in a conjectural restoration in the Etruscan Saloon (Plate III.). It will be noted that most of the slabs are pierced with holes, by means of which they were attached to the walls or surface of the entablature; they are mostly decorated with lotos-and-honeysuckle and other patterns, in relief and coloured, the same being repeated in colour only on the back of the overhanging edges of the cornice. These remains belong to two periods, the end of the sixth century and the fourth century B.C.; they may be easily distinguished by the differences in the treatment of the ornamental patterns, while there is a marked absence of colouring in the later remains. Similar architectural remains in terracotta have been found in Etruria, and are described in Chapter XVIII. It should be noted that the Civita Lavinia slabs are flat, whereas those used at Olympia, and many others in Southern Italy and Sicily, are three-sided.

Specimens of ordinary Greek tiles have been found in many parts of the ancient world, besides those for special architectural purposes already discussed. Avolio mentions many examples from Acrae and elsewhere in Sicily, stamped with emblems or names of officials and of makers. At Olbia, in Southern Russia, tiles were found stamped with names of Greek aediles (ἀστυνόμοι), and in Corfu tiles and bricks with names of magistrates (πρυτάνεις), indicating in each case the existence of public regulations concerning the potteries. At Kertch (Panticapaeum) Dr. Macpherson discovered large numbers of tiles with labels on which was stamped the word ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΗ, “Royal,” together with other inscriptions. These tiles showed the manner of their attachment one upon the other, and their dimensions answered to the Lydian variety mentioned above. Other tiles discovered by Mr. Burgon at Athens, by Sir Charles Newton in Kalymnos, and by Mr. Colnaghi at Kandyla (Alyzia) in Acarnania, bore labels with inscriptions and designs in relief. On one of the latter series in the British Museum is the inscription ALYZEIÔN, “of the people of Alyzia” (Fig. 11); on another was inscribed in the manner of the Athenian vases ΙΠΠΕΟΣ ΚΑΛΟΣ ΑΡΙ[Σ]ΤΟΜΕΔΕΙ ΔΟΚΕΙ, “Hippeus seems handsome to Aristomedes.”


Inscribed tiles from Greece proper are somewhat rare, and the best-known examples, to the number of sixteen, have been collected by M. Paris; they are usually inscribed with the word ΔΗΜΟΣΙΑ or ΔΗΜΟΣΙΟΣ, as a sort of Government stamp. Others have magistrates' names, as ΦΡΟΔFΙΣ,Ἀ]φροδ(ε)ισίου, on a tile at Corinth, or the maker's name, FΑΣΤΟΥΚΡΙΤFαστουκρίτ[ου, on one from Thisbe in Boeotia. Those found by M. Paris at Elateia have either the word ΔΗΜΟΣΙΟΣ or Ε[Π]Ιwith the name of the magistrate; though all are fragmentary, it is possible to restore the full formula as πλίνθος δημοσία ἐπὶ Ἀπελλέα, “government bricks, in the year of Apelleas' office.” A remarkable tile or stele , found near Capua and now in the British Museum, has an inscription in Oscan, and two stamps of a boar and a head of Athena, resembling types on Italian coins of the early part of the third century.

From Benndorf .



From Jahrbuch d. arch. Inst.


We may recall the fact that it was with a tile that Pyrrhus met his death when besieging Argos. Nor is this the only occasion on which these humble objects have played a part in history. In the well-known Athenian institution of Ostracism the act of voting was performed by writing on fragments of tiles or potsherds the names of those whom it was desired to banish. Recent excavations have yielded more than one actual specimen of these ὄστρακα or sherds,—one bearing the name of Megakles (Fig. .); another, part of a painted vase from the pre-Persian débris on the Athenian Acropolis, the name of Xanthippos, the father of Perikles (Fig. ); and a third, that of Themistokles.

It is also probable that in Greece, as among the Romans, the hollow floors of the hypocausts, as well as the flue-tiles of the hot baths, were made of terracotta. The same material was also used for the pipes, by means of which water was conveyed from aqueducts or drained from the soil. A drain-pipe from Ephesos in the Museum at Sèvres is noted by Brongniart and Riocreux, and others have been found at Athens and in the Troad.

Tiles were also employed for constructing graves. In some tombs the floor was paved with flat tiles, and the roof was constructed of arched tiles forming a vault. The flat and square tiles were not used for tombs until a comparatively late period. Some graves had a second layer of tiles to protect the body from the superincumbent earth. We shall have occasion to make further allusion to the use of painted terracotta slabs in Etruscan tombs.

The sarcophagi which played so important a part in the tomb were also frequently made of terracotta, this material being most commonly employed in Etruria. We have already mentioned the series of archaic painted sarcophagi, which have all come from Clazomenae, near Smyrna, and furnish us with much valuable information on the art of painting in Ionia in the sixth century B.C. The British Museum contains two very remarkable examples of Etruscan terracotta sarcophagi, as well as a series of smaller examples, which are mere cinerary urns. Among other examples of terracotta as used in tombs may be mentioned here a series of small reliefs found in tombs at Capua and elsewhere in Southern Italy. They consist of masks of Satyrs, river-gods, and Gorgons, and are often highly coloured in red and blue. They are of late archaic work, about 480 B.C., but the exact way in which they were used to decorate the tombs is uncertain. The British Museum collection contains many specimens of these objects.

There is a curious class of objects which hardly come under the heading of any other category, but may be conveniently discussed here. Complete specimens are very rare, but there is one in the Museum at Geneva which has been identified as a brazier (πύραυνος or ἐσχάρα), and more recently as a baking-oven (κλίβανος). The form is that of a large basin on a high stand, hollow underneath, with three square solid handles projecting upwards from the rim. These handles, of which over a thousand examples are to be found in various collections, are usually the only part remaining, sometimes with part of the rim attached. They are decorated with heads and other devices, usually in relief on square panels, and the majority of these heads are of a Satyric or grotesque character, wearing conical caps or adorned with ivy-wreaths. They probably represent demons of some kind, and are placed there with superstitious intent, to avert evil influences from whatever was baked or cooked in the vessel. Similar masks are usually seen attached to representations of forges and ovens on the painted vases, and remind us of the pseudo-Homeric invocation of evil deities against the potters of Samos. Professor Furtwaengler has identified the heads as those of the Kyklopes, the attendant workmen of Hephaistos.

These objects are found all over the Mediterranean, especially at Halikarnassos, Naukratis, and Delos, and the last-named place has been regarded as the centre of their manufacture. They are all of the same brick-like, coarse, red clay. Some bear the name of their maker, Hekataios or Nikolaos. Besides the heads already mentioned, heads of goats or oxen, or of Sirius, thunderbolts and rosettes are used by way of devices. They have been collected together, and illustrations of all the different types given by Conze in the Jahrbuch  for 1890, p. 118 ff.: two specimens are given on Plate IV. They belong to the Hellenistic Age.

Other objects that exemplify the use of clay or terracotta in Greek daily life are: moulds for vases and terracotta figures, lamps, weights, and stamps for various purposes. Many flat discs of terracotta have been found at Tarsus, Gela in Sicily, Tarentum, and other places, pierced with two holes and about three inches in diameter. They are stamped with various devices and inscriptions, but their use is unknown. Other discs of convex form found at Halikarnassos and stamped with heads in relief are supposed to have been weights ([λεῖαι) to hold down the threads of the loom (ἀγνύθες), such as are used by the Greeks at the present day; others again may be the weights used for keeping the ends of the folds of a himation in position. Small pierced cones of terracotta often found in the fields of Greece have been supposed to have been suspended round the necks of cattle, but are probably weights of some kind.Lastly, terracotta egg-shaped objects have been found in Sicily inscribed with various names, and are supposed to have been voting-tickets used for the ballots of the tribes.

Many examples have been found of terracotta impressions from coins, which may have been the trial-pieces of die-sinkers or forgers, since persons of that class, as among the Romans, seem to have employed this material for their nefarious practices. The British Museum contains a large collection of these found in the Fayûm in Egypt, all of Roman date; also a copy of a coin of Larissa from Acarnania. Terracotta medallions with impressions of gems or seals are not uncommon, especially in Asia Minor and at Naukratis, and among the latter are many lumps of clay actually used as seals, with the pattern of the substance in which they were impressed adhering to the back of them, while on the front is a design from a signet-ring.

The subject of Lamps  is one that is more conveniently and appropriately treated in the Roman section of this work, almost all existing examples in terracotta being of that period; it may not, however, be out of place to include here a few general remarks on the subject, pointing out the distinctive features of those of purely Greek origin.


Greek Lamps and “Brazier-handles.”
1, 3, 4, 6, Lamps from Greek Sites ; 2, 5 Braziers from Halikarnassos and Cyprus (British Museum).

The invention of lamps was ascribed by Clement of Alexandria to the Egyptians; and they were certainly in common use among the Greeks. Herodotos describes those which he saw in Egypt as simple saucers filled with oil in which the wick floated, and this statement is partly supported by the form of the lamps found in the earlier tombs of Cyprus and on sites under Phoenician influence. He also uses the phrase περὶ λύχνων ἁφάς, “about the time of lighting lamps,” to denote the evening.The Greek comic writers allude to the use of lamps of terracotta or metal, and they played a part in religious ceremonies.

The regular Greek name for a lamp was λύχνος (not λαμπάς, which means a torch), and a lampstand was called λυχνοῦχος; the spout or nozzle in which the wick was placed was known as μύξος or μυκτήρ, the wick itself as ἐλλύχνιον. A lamp with more than one nozzle was known as δίμυξος or τρίμυξος.The simple form was that derived from the Phoenician lamp, an open saucer with a bent-up lip in which the wick was placed; but commonly the Greek lamp had a circular or oval body (the receiver) with flat covered top, in the centre of which was the filling-hole. To this was sometimes attached a handle permitting the insertion of a finger, and the nozzle was usually very small and quite plain. An epithet applied by Aristophanes to a lamp is τροχήλατος, “made on the wheel”; but evidence points to their being always made in moulds.

The majority of the lamps which have been found on Greek sites are of Roman date, and they frequently bear Latin inscriptions; those of the Hellenic period are seldom ornamented, and are usually covered with a thin black glaze. Others are modelled in the form of human figures, animals, heads, or sandalled feet; the British Museum possesses a good example of grey ware from Knidos in the form of a figure of Artemis (Cat. C 421), with the oil-receptacle on the top of her head; another from Naukratis represents Eros (see for these Plate IV.). One from Athens was inscribed ΜΗ ΑΠΤΟΥ, “Do not touch,” aninscription of similar import to those on the Roman lamps from the Esquiline.

Little has at present been done in the way of a scientific investigation of Roman lamps, but the results of a rough classification according to shapes show that certain forms are more specially associated with Greek sites, and moreover frequently bear names of makers in Greek letters. This is particularly the case with one form, which appears to be confined to Athens, Corfu, the coast of Asia Minor, and Cyprus. These lamps, of a pale yellow clay, have a circular body with flat top, round the edge of which runs a border of impressed egg-pattern, interrupted on either side by a small plain raised panel. The handle is small and pierced with a hole, the nozzle also small, with straight sides. These lamps bear the makers' names (in the genitive), Primus (ΠΡΕΙΜΟΥ), Abaskantos (ΑΒΑCΚΑΝΤΟΥ), etc., the former being especially common; all are in Greek letters. Some again only have a single letter or monogram engraved underneath. They are often very carefully executed, with sharply cut details, and the subjects are usually mythological (see Plate IV. fig. 1); they appear to be of very late date, not earlier than the third century after Christ.

Another form which appears to be specially characteristic of Greek sites is that with a plain or heart-shaped nozzle, sometimes with a groove incised at the base, but without a handle. They are usually quite small, with circular bodies. Large numbers of these were found by Mr. Newton at Knidos in 1859,and by Mr. Barker at Tarsos in 1845. The subjects are mostly poor and devoid of interest, including animals, rosettes, and various floral patterns. Many of these lamps bear the signature ROMAINE(N)SIS , the form of the word indicating that they were made by a Roman residing abroad (i.e. at Knidos), not in Rome. A third form, approximating to the Christian type, has a small solid handle and plain nozzle, and is confined to sites on or near the coast of Asia Minor. These, with the remaining types of lamps, will be more fully dealt with in the Roman section of this work. It may, however, be worth while mentioning here that Mr. Newton found at Knidos several lamps of a coarse black ware, covered with thin glaze, which are mostly of large size. They are circular, and convex above, and are supplied with two or more long nozzles with blunt terminations radiating round them (see Plate IV. fig. 6). Between the nozzles are roughly stamped devices of Satyrs' heads, flowers, etc., in relief. These may fairly be regarded as a Greek type.

The subject of Greek sculpture in terracotta  is so wide as to demand a volume to itself; but a discussion of the uses to which clay was put by the Greeks would not be complete without some mention of their achievements in this direction. We propose therefore briefly to review the main features of Greek terracotta statuettes and reliefs, by way of illustrating the purely artistic use which they made of this material.

The subject may be divided under four heads: (1) Large statues; (2) Statuettes or figurines; (3) Reliefs; (4) Moulds. Large or life-size statues belong more particularly to the earlier phases of Greek art, but appear again in its later developments, under Italian influences. Statues of terracotta were also a common feature of Italian art, being, in fact, the usual material employed by Etruscan statuaries, as well as for the decoration of temples. Greek terracotta statues are practically non-existent; and although there are some female figures nearly life-size and a male torso of almost colossal proportions in the British Museum, also a Hermes in the Vatican, these were found at Rome, belong to the Roman period, and, though Greek in style, are really following an Etruscan fashion.

It is characteristic of the Hellenic race that from its earliest beginnings it did not employ clay for utilitarian purposes exclusively, but, influenced partly by the natural imitative instincts of man, partly by the anthropomorphic tendencies of the Greek religion, soon learned the value of this easily workedmaterial for producing images of deities, animals, and other objects. Although an equally high antiquity may be claimed for images of wood, and the word ξόανον used for a primitive cult-statue argues for the frequent use of this material, yet the history of the word πλάσσειν tells equally in the other direction. Originally used of moulding wet clay, it came by degrees to denote modelling in general, and finally its derivative πλαστική became the authorised classical word for sculpture.

Lactantius speaks of Prometheus as the inventor of fictile images for religious purposes, and of figures in bronze and marble as a later development; the Latin poets bear similar witness to the primitive use of clay for sculptured images, and Pliny marvels at its long-continued employment in Italy. Among early Greek legends the most noteworthy is that of Butades, the potter of Sikyon, to whom the invention of modelling clay in relief was ascribed by Pliny and Athenagoras. The story as told by the former was that, in order to preserve the likeness of his daughter's lover, he moulded in terracotta the shadow of his profile which the girl drew on the wall. This account, however, is not very intelligible, and the clue is perhaps to be found in the words of Athenagoras, who says that he hollowed out the lines of the face in the wall, filled in the grooves with clay, and so obtained his relief as from a mould. This primitive work of art was said to have been exhibited in the Nymphaeum at Corinth.

But this same invention was also claimed by the Samian sculptors, Theodoros and Rhoikos, who flourished about the end of the seventh century. They were pre-eminently artists in bronze, and were associated with the introduction of hollow-casting in that material into Greece; it may therefore be supposed that they actually were among the first to use clay models for statues, this being an essential preliminary to the hollow-casting process. This would not be incompatible with the invention of moulding reliefs by Butades, admitting the truth of his story. The latter was also credited with the invention of antefixal ornaments (see above, p. 98) and the introduction of a mixture of red ochre or ruddle with clay in order to give it a warmer tone.

The clay models used by sculptors as the basis of their work, which were known as προπλάσματα, were probably made on the same lines as the large works of art in clay. We read that Lysistratos of Sikyon, the brother of Lysippos, was the first to make casts of statues by means of terracotta moulds,implying that it was about this time that the practice arose of multiplying the principal statues in the same manner as is now done by means of plaster casts. Some of the latter artists combined the plastic art with that of painting, and Zeuxis is said to have previously modelled in terracotta the subjects which he afterwards painted. Pasiteles, an artist who lived at Rome in the first century B.C., always first modelled his statues in terracotta, and spoke of the plastic art as the mother of statuary. But it must not be supposed that as a general rule the Greek sculptors worked their marble statues from models; rather, the contrary was the case, and Pasiteles seems to have been peculiar in this respect.

The statue of Zeus, which has already been mentioned as made by Theokosmos for Megara, appears to have been made from a clay model. It was intended to be of gold and ivory, but the breaking out of the Peloponnesian War prevented the artist from carrying out his intention, and only the head was completed, the other portions being of gypsum and terracotta. At a later period gypsum was sometimes used for sculpture, as in the case of an Apollo mentioned by Prudentius, and some fragmentary remains from Cyprus in the British Museum.

The clay models were sometimes made entirely by hand, but more usually on a wooden core known as κάναβος, which we may conjecture to have been formed of two rods in the form of a cross, from the use of the Latin word crux  in this connection. It was certainly a framework, not a solid core, and must be carefully distinguished from κίνναβος, a lay-figure. Aristotle, in an interesting passage, uses the word in speaking of skeletons drawn on a wall. The modelling of details was done partly with tools, partly with the finger. The use of the finger-nail for this purpose became proverbial, as in the saying attributed to Polykleitos: “When the clay has reached the finger-nail stage, then the real difficulty begins.”

The chief attention of inferior artists was directed to the production of small terracotta figures, which the Greeks used as ornaments or household gods, buried in their tombs, or dedicated in their temples. They follow the same lines of development as the larger sculptures, beginning with the columnar (ξόανα) and board-like (σανίδες) types found in the primitive tombs of the Mycenaean and early Hellenic civilisation. Originally they seem to have been manufactured purely for religious purposes, but in course of time, with the gradual rationalising of religious beliefs and consequent secularisation of art-types, they lost this significance, and, while the types  were preserved, they were converted into genre  figures from daily life.

These statuettes have been found on nearly all the famous sites of antiquity from Babylonia to Carthage and Kertch; the most fruitful have been Tanagra in Boeotia, Rhodes, the Cyrenaica, Capua and Canosa in Italy, and various sites in Sicily. In Cyprus, Sardinia, and to a great extent also in Rhodes, Phoenician influences seem to have been dominant, and the earlier types bear a markedly Oriental character. For beauty and charm the palm has by general consent been given to the Tanagra statuettes of the fourth and third centuries, which were known in antiquity as κόραι or “maidens,” from the prevalence of the seated or standing types of girls in various attitudes.

The makers of these charming figures, known as κοροπάσται or κοροπλάθοι, were, like the vase-painters, quite in a subordinate position in the artistic world, and are spoken of with some contempt by Isokrates, as if it would be absurd to compare them with a Pheidias or a Zeuxis. A fable of Aesop's represents Hermes being offered a statue of Zeus for a drachma and one of himself for a mere song; the low price seems to suggest that they were of terracotta, but the vendor is called an ἀγαλματοποιός, not a κοροπλάθος. Demosthenes condemns the Athenians for voting for figure-head generals like makers of toys for the market; and in further illustration of the uses to which they were put, we may cite the definition of Suidas, of “those who fashion little images out of clay of all kinds of creatures, with which to trick children”; and the remark of Dio Chrysostom, who speaks of those who buy the “maiden” figures for their children. A pretty epigram in the Anthology  tells how Timareta, when about to marry, dedicated to Artemis the playthings of her childhood, including her terracotta dolls (κόρας). Lastly, Plato speaks of κόραι and images hung up in shrines.

The processes employed in the manufacture of terracotta statuettes were five in number: (1) the preparation of the clay; (2) moulding; (3) retouching; (4) baking; and (5) colouring and gilding. It does not follow that all five were employed in the production of any one object; on the other hand, all processes necessary to the completion of any one object fall under one or other of these heads.

There were many varieties of clay in use among the Greeks, some being considered more suitable for one purpose, some for another. These clays vary in their characteristics in different parts of the Greek world, and this may often be an important criterion for distinguishing fabrics and detecting instances of importation. The clay of Cyprus differs much from that of Rhodes, and that of Naukratis again from either, being of a dark, coarse, and brick-like consistency. M. Pottier noted nine varieties of clay in use at Myrina in Asia Minor, and M. Martha distinguishes five in the terracottas of Athens. But these differences may be explained by variations in the length or temperature of the firing rather than in the clay.

Generally speaking, the clay of the terracottas is softer and more porous than that of the vases. It is easily scratched or marked, and does not ring a clear sound when struck; nor does it when submitted to a high temperature become so hard as the pottery. Its colour ranges from deep red to a pale buff colour, and its texture and density vary greatly in different localities. It was prepared by being washed free of all granular substances, and then kneaded with the aid of water. So, as we read in Hesiod's account of the creation of Pandora, the god directed the mixing of clay and water, in order to form his new creation.

The modelling of the figures was done by hand in the case of the earlier fabrics, and of small objects such as the toys and dolls; the clay was worked up into a solid mass with the fingers, and the marks of these, left while it was wet, may still be often seen. Subsequently the use of moulds became universal, the final touches being given to the figure either with the finger or with a graving-tool, traces of which are often visible on the faces and hair of the Tanagra figures. These were invariably moulded, and the finer ones show traces of having been most carefully touched up.

There is a pretty epigram in the Anthology, which seems to imply that the wheel was sometimes brought into use for modelling figures, perhaps for the first rough outlining. A statuette of Hermes is supposed to say:

The rolling circle of the potter's wheel
Me, Hermes, formed, of clay from head to heel.
Mud-made, I lie not: the poor potter's art,
Stranger! was ever pleasant to my heart.

The process of moulding gave scope for reducing the “walls” of the figure to the smallest possible thickness, thereby avoiding the danger of shrinkage in the baking; it also rendered them extremely light, and allowed of great accuracy in detail. A model (πρότυπος) was made in terracotta with modelling-tools, from which the mould (τύπος) was taken, also in terracotta,


Moulds for Terracotta Figures, with Casts from the Moulds.
2, 3. Archaic, from Rhodes; 1, 4. Archaistic, from Tarentum (British Museum).

usually in two pieces, which were then baked to a considerable hardness. From this mould the figure was made by smearing it with layers of clay until a sufficient thickness was reached, leaving the figure hollow. The back was made separately, either from a mould or by hand, and then fitted carefully on to the front, the join being concealed by a layer of wet clay. The base was usually left open, and a vent-hole was left at the back which may have served a double purpose—first to allow the clay to contract without cracking, and subsequently in some cases for the suspension of the completed figure.

The heads and arms were usually moulded separately and attached afterwards, and altogether the average number of moulds employed—say for a Tanagra figure—was four or five. M. Pottier quotes an instance of an Eros from Myrina which is made up of no less than fourteen; yet it is not a specially complicated figure.

Greek moulds, either for statuettes or reliefs, are somewhat rare; but the British Museum contains a fair number from Tarentum of all kinds (see Plate V.). Those that we possess are mostly for small objects, such as figures of animals; but in the Museum collection there are several moulds for reliefs, as well as for vases of the later class with reliefs , such as the Calenian phialae with embossed designs. Moulds employed for making stamps of various kinds are also in existence; at Naukratis Mr. Petrie found several circular “cake-stamps” with various designs. Of the moulds used by forgers or others for copying coins we have already spoken.

The shrinkage of the clay as it dried afterwards permitted the figure to be withdrawn easily from the mould, and it was then ready for the necessary retouching. It is obvious from a glance at any collection of terracottas that there is a great similarity between the various representatives of any one type, and that actual or virtual repetitions are by no means uncommon. This was, of course, due to the fact that only a limited number of moulds were used, corresponding to the different types. At the same time there are in almost all cases minute differences which redeem them from a charge of monotony, and these were obtained in various ways: by varying the pose of the head or attaching the arms in different positions; by retouching before the baking; or by the addition of attributes and colouring. As it has been neatly put by M. Pottier, “All the Tanagra figures are sisters, but few of them are twins.” But retouching is not invariable, and is, in fact, confined to the finer specimens, such as those of Tanagra. In the statuettes from the Cyrenaica and Southern Italy it is the exception. The difference which it effected may be well observed by comparing two statuettes of Eros in the British Museum from Myrina (C 535–36), which are from the same mould. They are identical in style and type, yet one is far superior to the other in artistic merit, just because of the greater finish of detail.

The process of baking required great care and attention; for if no allowance was made for the evaporation of moisture, or if too great a degree of temperature was reached, the result was bound to be disastrous. It does not appear that a very high temperature was reached, especially as compared with the pottery. The clay was further insured against too rapid drying by preliminary exposure to the air. A story told by Plutarch of the fate which befell the chariot cast for the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol illustrates the possibility of disasters either from accident or carelessness. The clay swelled up to such a size and hardness that it could only be extracted by pulling the kiln to pieces.

The colouring of statuettes may be considered a fairly universal practice, although not always suggested by their present appearance. The earlier archaic specimens were not always, or only roughly, coloured, and those of the Roman period seem to have been often left plain; but otherwise it is the general rule. The surface on which the colours were applied was formed by a white slip or engobe  of a creamy colour and consistency, with which the whole figure (except the back) was coated. This when dry becomes very flaky, and is liable to drop off, carrying the colours with it; most statuettes retain at least traces of this coating.

The method of painting is that known as in tempera , the pigments being opaque, mixed with some stiffening medium. The colouring was as a rule conventional, aiming at giving the figure a pleasing appearance, without any particular regard to nature. It was applied after the firing, as in that process the colours would have been liable to injury. The tints are what are known as body-colours, without any attempts at shading, and those usually employed are red, blue, yellow, and black, the white slip forming a ground throughout, and left untouched over the nude parts and often over the drapery; of these the favourites, especially for drapery, were blue and red, as also we learn from Lucian. Pollux says it was a speciality of the κοροπλάθοι to colour their figures yellow, or with a golden tint. The reds range in shade from scarlet to rose-colour and purple. At all times there was a tendency to treat the drapery in masses of colour, and this we see especially in the Tanagra figures, in which the chiton is almost invariably blue, the himation rose-pink. At a later date it became more customary to leave the drapery white, with borders and stripes only of colour. Black was only used for details of features, such as the eyes; green is very rare; and yellow was employed (in a deep brownish shade) for the hair, and also for jewellery, etc. The use of gilding is at all times rare in the statuettes; but some good examples are known—as, for instance, two archaic statuettes from the Polledrara tomb, and a head of Zeus, all in the British Museum. Imitation jewellery in terracotta gilt is not at all uncommon. On many of the earlier figures from Cyprus the drapery is indicated by stripes of red and yellow laid directly on the clay, while animals are usually decorated with stripes of red and black; the method employed is the same as on the contemporary vases. Similarly, in the terracottas of the Mycenaean and Geometrical periods, such as those from Boeotia, the technique of the painted vases is closely followed, and the same decorative patterns are employed.

The use of an enamelled glaze first appears at Athens in the fourth century, and it is also occasionally found at Tanagra. The colour is uniformly a dull ashen-grey. A few examples are also known from the Cyrenaica, but it was in Sicily that the practice found most favour. There we find attempts to reproduce the colouring of the flesh by an enamel coating varying in hue from rose-pink to orange, and also grey and purple tints.

It is probable that the colours employed for painting terracottas were made from the same earths, though of a coarser kind, as the ware itself. Some information on the subject may be derived from Theophrastos, Vitruvius, and Dioskorides. For white the artist used a white earth, such as Melos produces, and white lead; it is also said to have been produced from the burnt lees of wine, and from ivory. The reds were composed of a red earth, probably ochre from Sinope, and vermilion or minium . Yellow was obtained from Skyros and Lydia; and a yellow ochre was obtained by burning a red earth. The Egyptian smalto  or cobalt served for blue, and a copper solution prepared with alkali and silica was also employed. Copper green was obtained from many places, and mixed with white or black.

This may be a convenient point at which to speak of a class of vases which come rather under the heading of terracottas than that of painted pottery. They are found at Calvi, Canosa, Cumae, and other places in Southern Italy, and belong to the Hellenistic period, forming a parallel development to the glazed wares with reliefs of which we shall speak later . They combine in a marked degree the characteristics of the vase and the statuette, some being vases with moulded reliefs or small figures in the round attached in different places, others again actual figures or colossal heads modelled in vaseform by the addition of mouth, handle, and base (see Plate VI.). They are usually of considerable—sometimes gigantic—size, and do not appear to have served any practical purpose; some, indeed, are only imitation vases with false bottoms. It is reasonable to suppose that they were manufactured for sepulchral purposes only, like the large painted kraters and amphorae of Apulia.


Terracotta Vases from Southern Italy (British Museum).

Like the statuettes, they are covered throughout with a white slip laid directly on the unglazed clay, and this is often richly coloured in tempera . Some of the heads have the hair covered with intersecting pink lines to imitate a net, and the figures attached to them are usually coloured in the manner of the statuettes, with blue and pink draperies. There are some, however, in which the encaustic or a similar process seems to have been employed; one example, in the British Museum (D 185, shown on Plate VI.), has a Hippocamp painted on either side in white and colours outlined with black, the wings being elaborately rendered in blue, brown, yellow, and pink. The same process is employed for a large cover of a vase in the British Museum from Sicily (D 1), but the figures are now nearly obliterated.

The prevailing shape of these vases is that conventionally known as the askos , with spherical body, over which passes a flat handle and three mouths on the top; the latter are often covered in and figures placed upon them. On the front and back of these vases appliqué masks of Medusa or figures in relief are usually placed, flanked by the fore-parts of galloping horses. Others take the form of a large jug or bowl with appliqué ornaments.

It now remains to consider the small but interesting class of terracotta reliefs, which are nearly all of the late archaic period, dating from the beginning of the fifth century. Later reliefs are nearly all architectural in character, and have already been described, as have those which were made for the decoration of tombs and sarcophagi. But the purpose for which the reliefs were made, of which we are about to speak, is not so certain. One group appears from the character of the subjects to be votive, and they may possibly have been let into the walls of temples or shrines; but the others are mostly known to have been found in tombs. The former group are found at Athens and at Locri in Southern Italy; the latter at Melos and other sites round the Aegean Sea, being usually known as “Melian” reliefs.

The character of the work of these Melian reliefs (see Plate VII.) is exceedingly delicate and refined; the subjects are mainly mythological, and include the slaying of Medusa by Perseus and of the Chimaera by Bellerophon, Helle on the ram, Peleus seizing Thetis, Eos carrying off Kephalos, and the death of Aktaeon. Three classes have been distinguished, of which the peculiarly Melian type has the figures cut out, without background; in the second only the outer contours are cut round, and the third consists of rectangular plaques.

Brunn considers that they served a definite architectural purpose, being intended to cover a field enclosed by borders, and that the holes with which they are pierced show that they were used either for suspension or attachment. But his reasons for regarding them as an archaistic survival have not been generally accepted.

The Locrian type of relief takes the form of a square plaque. They are easily recognised by the rough micaceous character of the clay, and by their subjects, which mostly relate to the myth and cult of Persephone. They were probably dedicated in one of her shrines, as were those found on the Acropolis at Athens to Athena. All these reliefs seem to have been impressed in moulds, not modelled by hand, as many of them exist in duplicate. Those from Greece are sometimes coloured.


Terracotta “Melian” Reliefs, Archaic Period (Brit. Mus.).

Many little figures in the shape of animals and other objects, such as goats, pigs, pigeons, tortoises, chariots or boats, boys or apes riding on animals, women making bread, and similar subjects, together with jointed dolls or νευρόσπαστα, were evidently used as children's toys. They have been found deposited with the bodies of children in the tombs of Melos, Rhodes, and Athens. In Mr. Biliotti's excavations at Kameiros in Rhodes in 1863, one child's tomb was found containing two of the “Melian” reliefs, small vases of glass and black-glazed ware, a terracotta basket of fruit, and a sea-shell; in another were a bird, two dolls, a child in a cradle, two grotesque figures, a woman playing a tambourine, and two other terracotta figures.

The terracotta dolls were cast in a mould like the ordinary figures, but the bodies, legs, and arms are formed of separate pieces pierced with holes, so that they might be joined and moved with strings, like the modern marionettes; hence their name of νευρόσπαστα, “drawn by wires.” They all represent girls, and sometimes dancers with castanets in their hands; they are coloured in the usual manner, and date from various periods between 500 and 200 B.C. Allusion is sometimes made to these figures in the Greek writers—as, for instance, by Xenophon, who in his Symposium  introduces Socrates inquiring of an exhibitor of these puppets what he chiefly relies on in the world. “A great number of fools,” he replies, “for such are those who support me by the pleasure they take in my performances.” Aristotlementions dolls that moved their limbs and winked their eyes like marionettes, but this can hardly refer to terracotta figures.

It would require too much space to enumerate all the subjects  represented in the terracotta statuettes. But it may be found convenient to give an outline of the subjects and principal types adopted at different periods. Roughly speaking, the range of subjects may be divided into seven groups: (1) figures of deities; (2) mythological subjects; (3) scenes from daily life; (4) imitations of works of art; (5) caricatures; (6) masks; (7) animals. Among the figures of the Olympian deities we find most commonly Demeter, Aphrodite, and Artemis; Hephaistos, Ares, and Hestia are seldom if ever represented; Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, and even Athena are also very rare. Of the inferior deities, Dionysos, Persephone, Eros, and Nike (Victory) are most frequently found, as well as Satyrs and similar personages. Nor is it always easy to ascertain definitely whether a figure is or is not intended to be mythological in significance.

This question is, in fact, closely bound up with that of the Uses for which the statuettes were made, as on such a purpose their interpretation in a mythological or human sense may largely depend. The uncertainty of identification arises from the practice which obtained of adhering closely to certain recognised types , which occur repeatedly at all periods. There is a strong probability that a clear distinction was not recognised by the Greek κοροπλάσται, but that the same type of figure might be used either for a votive offering to a deity, or as a mere ornament or article of tomb-furniture. And we are further met with the fact that a type which was mythological at one period ceases to be so at another, or at any rate is transformed by some slight alteration of details or omission of an attribute. Thus the seated figure of an Earth-goddess or Nursing-mother of a Rhodian or Cypriote tomb becomes the nurse and child of the fourth century at Tanagra, while the archaic standing type of a Persephone holding a flower requires little but the omission of her special head-dress to transform her into the girl-type of the Hellenistic age.


Archaic Greek Terracottas (British Museum).
1. Man with Ram (Rhodes); 2. Persephone (Sicily); 3. Rhodes; 4. Doll (Athens).

The earliest beginnings of the statuette proper show, as might be expected in primitive Greek art, a very limited range of ideas. As in marble, bronze, and wood, so also in clay, the type of the female deity reigns supreme. The primitive Hellenic type of goddess adopts two forms, both derived from an original in wood, the board-form or σανίς, and the column-form (κίων or ξόανον), each of which finds parallels in sculpture. The limbs are either completely wanting or of the most rudimentary description, the figure terminating below in a spreading base. Both these types are found in Rhodes, but on the mainland of Greece the columnar form is confined to the Mycenaean period. In the succeeding “Geometrical” age the board-like types rose into popularity at Athens and Tegea, and above all in Boeotia. Two varieties are found, a standing and a sitting type, and they are usually painted in the manner of the local vases (see p. ). The later examples show a great advance in modelling, especially in the heads. The columnar form exhibits its development best in the terracottas of the Graeco-Phoenician period from Cyprus.

The standing and sitting goddess (Plate VIII.) are the two principal types in archaic Greek art, and are remarkable for their wide distribution and universal popularity. The name of the goddess may vary with the locality, but the types remain almost identical, and the attributes show little variation.

Another interesting archaic type is the so-called funeral mask or bust (Plate VIII.), of which the best examples have come from Rhodes. Being almost exclusively feminine, we must suppose that they ceased to represent the image of the dead person, as in Egypt and primitive Greece, and became images of the Chthonian goddess, Demeter or Persephone, represented under the form of a bust rising out of the earth. Thus they played in the tombs the rôle of protection against evil influences, like the mask of Demeter Kidaria, worn by the priest at Pheneus in Arcadia on certain occasions. Male masks are occasionally found, representing the Chthonian Dionysos. They are very rare after the fifth century.

The purely divine and mythological types in the archaic period are very few in number. Of the Olympian deities few are represented, except in the conventional hieratic types, hardly to be differentiated one from another. But on certain sites are found representations of nature-goddesses, such as the Earth-mother with a child in her lap (Gaia Kourotrophos), or a nude goddess within a shrine, who may be a combination of Astarte and Aphrodite. These types are of Oriental origin, and are found in Cyprus, Rhodes, Naukratis, and Sardinia. They may represent offerings made after child-birth. Among the individualised deities we may point to figures of Hermes Kriophoros (from Rhodes and Sicily),of Herakles, or of the local nymph Kyrene, who appears holding the silphium-plant in a terracotta from Carthage.

Among miscellaneous feminine types are the hydrophoros  or water-carrier, the woman riding on a mule, horse, or other animal, the musician, and the mother nursing a child. Some of these have their mythological counterparts, as in the Aphrodite riding on a goose, or the Earth-mother, already mentioned. Male types are curiously rare, the athletic influences, which are so strongly manifest in early Greek sculpture, not affecting terracottas. The most popular is that of the horseman, particularly in Cyprus. These figures are usually of a rude and primitive kind, especially in Cyprus and at Halikarnassos. The examples from Greece Proper show a more developed archaism, and are found at Athens and in Boeotia. Sometimes instead of a horse the man rides on a swan, mule, or tortoise.

Reclining male figures are sometimes characterised as Herakles or a Satyr; but this type is most fully developed at Tarentum, in numerous terracottas representing the well-known subject of the Sepulchral Banquet, associated with a cult of the Chthonian deities. There are also various types of grotesque figures, usually in a squatting or crouching attitude; some assume the form of a Satyr, and others are obviously derived from the Egyptian figures of Ptah-Socharis, with bent knees and protruding stomach.


Greek Terracottas of Hellenistic Period (British Museum).
1, 4, Tanagra ; 2, 3, Southern Italy.

In the fine and later periods, from the end of the fifth century onwards, the standing or seated feminine figures are still by far the most prominent. The change, however, which has taken place, from mythological to genre , has been described as an evolution rather than a revolution, brought about by artistic, not religious, considerations. The possible varieties of the feminine standing types may be best studied in the Tanagra figures (Plate IX), which include women or girls in every variety of pose or attitude. In most cases the arms are more or less concealed by the himation, which is drawn closelyacross the figure; in others a fan, mirror, wreath, or mask is held in one hand, the other drawing the edges of the drapery together. Some lean on a column or are seated on a rock; others play with a bird or perform their toilet. Imitations of the Tanagra figures, but vastly inferior in merit, subsequently became popular all over the Greek world; they are found at Myrina in Asia Minor, in Cyprus, the Cyrenaica, and many parts of Southern Italy.

Among miscellaneous types of the Hellenistic period, many of the archaic ones already mentioned retain their popularity. Others appear for the first time, and are more in accordance with the spirit of the age, such as girls dancing, playing with knucklebones, or carrying one another pick-a-back. There is a beautiful group of two knucklebone-players from Capua in the British Museum (D 161). The dancing type is found widely distributed.

Figures of goddesses and mythological subjects are very rare at Tanagra, but fairly common on other sites, as at Myrina and Naukratis. Archaistic imitations of the archaic seated and standing goddesses are often found in the Cyrenaica and Southern Italy; but the Chthonian deities appear but rarely among the types of more advanced style. As in sculpture and vase-paintings, Aphrodite now becomes the most prominent among the feminine deities, and some of the later statuettes appear to be reproductions of well-known works of art, the Cnidian Aphrodite, the Anadyomene, or the crouching type of Aphrodite at the bath. Artemis and Athena are occasionally found, but Nike (Victory) is really the most popular figure after Aphrodite. She, however, plays little more than the part of a female Eros, a counterpart to whom the Hellenic artist felt to be a necessity. Formerly these winged female types were styled Psyche, but this was a conception of post-Hellenistic origin.

Among the male deities the conditions remain much as before. Zeus appears for the first time, and was especially popular at Smyrna, and Sarapis and Asklepios are also occasionally found. In Naukratis the influence of the Egyptian religion made itself felt in the production of numerous figures of Bes, Harpocrates, and the like. Hermes is not found so often as might have been expected, though there is a notable instance in the British Museum (C 406) of a caricature of the famous statue by Praxiteles, where a Satyr takes his place. Dionysos is only met with occasionally, as are Satyrs and Maenads; but masks of a Bacchic character are very common in Italy.

The one deity who really seems to have caught the popular taste is Eros, although at the time when most of the Tanagra statuettes were produced this popularity was hardly assured. The types of Eros standing, seated, flying, or riding on animals are innumerable and found all over the Greek world. The best examples come from Eretria in Euboea, but Myrina and Sicily have also produced large numbers. They vary from almost Praxitelean conceptions, like the Flying Eros from Eretria in the British Museum (C 199), to the veritable Pompeian amoretti  from the same site and from Myrina. The riding types of Eros (on a horse, dog, swan, or dolphin) are chiefly found in the Cyrenaica or Southern Italy. In many cases the Eros types are used for ordinary unwinged boys.

Among the human male types a new feature is the introduction of the athlete, as he appears in many boyish figures from Tanagra, and later as a boxer among the somewhat coarse conceptions of the Roman period. Some years ago a remarkable copy of the Diadumenos of Polykleitos in terracotta was found in Asia Minor.

In the tombs of the Aegean Islands, Italy, and elsewhere, a class of ware has sometimes been found quite distinct from the ordinary fictile pottery and resembling the porcelain or enamelled ware of the Egyptians and Babylonians, such as the ushabtiu , found in the tombs of the former, and the enamelled bricks of the latter. For the most part they must be regarded as importations, of foreign manufacture, the medium of commerce being the Phoenicians, who not only introduced Egyptian objects of art, but themselves endeavoured to imitate them. Hence we must distinguish some as of Egyptian origin, others as made by the Phoenicians. As might be expected, they are most often found where Phoenician influence was strong, as in Rhodes and Sardinia. Egyptian perfume-vases have been found in the Polledrara tomb at Vulci (see Chapter XVIII.) and may be dated by the accompanying scarabs of Psammetichus I. as belonging to the end of the sixth century.

But these are by no means the earliest examples. In the Bronze Age tombs of Cyprus occasional finds have been made of plates of blue porcelain or faïence, with Egyptian designs going back to the eighteenth dynasty; and for several centuries other Egyptian objects in porcelain, or with enamelled glaze, continue to be found in the tombs of Cyprus, Rhodes, and Greece. And there is also a considerable quantity of such wares which is not Egyptian in character, although it may be to some extent imitative, and therefore demands notice. Of this the most remarkable examples are the rhyta , or drinking-horns, found at Enkomi in Cyprus, in 1896, and now in the British Museum. The two finest specimens are in the form of a female head surmounted by a cup (Plate X) and a ram's head respectively. Although found in tombs with Mycenaean objects, and therefore presumably of early date, the style and modelling are so far advanced—so purely Hellenic—that they may be compared with archaic work of the sixth century B.C. or even later.

In the tombs of Kameiros in Rhodes, along with Egyptian porcelain objects, were found many vases of this ware, of apparently Greek workmanship. This is further implied by the presence in one tomb of a figure of a dolphin with a Greek [Π]Υ[Θ]ΕΩ [Ε]ΜΙ, “I belong to Pythes.” It is quite conceivable that the Greeks of Rhodes (as of Naukratis: see below) knew and practised Egyptian methods. The finds include small alabastra  with friezes of men and animals in relief, and flasks of a compressed globular shape similarly ornamented; also aryballi  of various moulded forms, such as animals or helmeted heads (Plate X. fig. 3). The vase in the form of a head seems to be an early Phoenician idea; and this particular type of the helmeted head seems to have been adopted subsequently by Ionian artists in the Clazomenae sarcophagi. Similar vases and figures have been discovered in the tombs of Melos, Corinth, Cervetri, and Vulci, and also in Syria and at Naukratis in Egypt. Others again from the tombs of Kameiros and Vulci take the form of jars of opaque glass ornamented with zigzag patterns in white and dull crimson on a greenish ground. A specimen of somewhat similar ware was found in a Bronze Age tomb at Curium, Cyprus, in 1895, consisting of a tall funnel-shaped beaker of blue and yellow glazed ware with an edging of dark brown (Plate X.). The technique is superior to that of the later examples, and more on a level with that of the porcelain rhyta  from Enkomi.

In Greece Proper there are altogether few traces of this enamelled ware, and after the sixth century B.C. it quite disappeared. But some very fine specimens have been found in the tombs of Southern Italy. A jug with delicate ornamentation in blue and white came from Naples, and a similar vase from the same site, but shaped like a kalathos  and of a pale green colour, is now in the British Museum. Objects of this ware have also been found on the site of the ancient Tharros in Sardinia. Their glaze was a pale green, like that of the twenty-sixth dynasty wares, and with them was found a scarab of Psammetichus I, which shows them to be contemporaneous with the objects found in the Polledrara tomb. But the strong Phoenician element in Sardinia is sufficient to indicate that these fabrics are all of Egyptian importation.


Porcelain and Enamel-glazed Wares  (British Museum ).

4, 6, Cypriote Bronze Age ; 3, Archaic Greek  (Rhodes ); 1, 2, 5, Graeco-Roman Period.

In the Hellenistic period, when vase-painting had reached its latest stages, the fashion of glazed enamelled ware was revived; its chief centre was Alexandria, which would naturally have carried on the traditions of Egyptian porcelain or faïence. Specimens of glazed ware with reliefs or modelled in various forms have been found at Naukratis and in the Fayûm, including a fine blue porcelain head of a Ptolemaic queen (Plate X.). In a tomb at Tanagra were found a beautiful askos  in the form of a duck on which Eros rides, and another porcelain vase, evidently imported from Alexandria, or some other industrial centre of Hellenised Egypt. Porcelain jugs, inscribed with the names of Arsinoe, Berenike, and one of the Ptolemies, have been found at Benghazi in North Africa, at Alexandria, and at Canosa in Southern Italy. They are of blue ware, with reliefs of Greek style attached. Fragments of the same kind dating from the first century B.C. were found at Tarsos in Cilicia, and in the Louvre there are glazed wares covered with yellow or green enamel from Smyrna and Kyme. The British Museum possesses similar vases from Kos and elsewhere, with wreaths and similar patterns in relief (Plate X.), but these are not earlier than the Roman period. Enamelled wares of early Roman date have also been found on the Esquiline, and the ware is common at Pompeii.

It does not appear that the manufacture of these enamelled wares was confined to one spot; they are found all over Asia Minor, Italy, and Gaul, and in other countries bordering on the Mediterranean. It seems probable, however, that there were three principal centres of the fabric, at least in the Roman period. The first of these was in Asia Minor, or the islands along its coasts, whence came the specimens found at Tarsos, in Ionia, and in the islands such as Kos. These are mostly small vases, of metallic form, especially in the treatment of the handles (cf. Plate X., fig. 5), the colour being usually a bluish green, though some examples are more polychromatic. These seem to have been exported to Italy, and viâMarseilles to Gaul. Next, there are the wares made at Alexandria, of which the vases described above are examples. And, thirdly, there was a Gaulish fabric, which must probably be located at Lezoux in the Auvergne, examples from which are found at Vichy, in the Rhone Valley, and at Trier and Andernach in Germany. Fragments of this ware are even reported to have been found in England—as, for instance, at Ewell in Surrey, at Colchester and Weymouth. These are of grey clay with yellow, green, or brown glaze, with ornaments of leaves, vine-branches, or scrolls, stamped in moulds; the shapes are jugs, flasks, or two-handled cups. A later variety is of white clay with a malachite-green glaze, the forms being again of a metallic type, and towards the end of the period imitations of glass with barbotine  decoration appear. These two groups cover the first century after Christ.

Sometimes the ornamentation of the later glazed wares from Italy takes the form of small reliefs (emblemata ), made separately and attached before the glaze was applied, and there are two or three specimens of this class in the British Museum. It was also not infrequently used for lamps, which, apart from the glaze, have all the characteristics of the ordinary kinds, and even for figures of gladiators, boats, and other objects. The glaze is of a thick vitreous character, and was not improbably produced by lead; at all events a French writer maintains, in opposition to the views of Brongniart and Blümner, that by a study of this ware he has established a knowledge of lead-glaze among the ancients.