Pottery in ancient Greece

In Greece, although nearly all traces of the Stone Age are wanting, and little pottery has been found which can be referred to that period,[1] yet the earliest existing remains of civilisation are, as we shall see later, in the form of pottery; and Greece is no exception to the general rule. But the important difference between the pottery of Asia and Egypt and that of Greece is that only in the latter was there any development due to artistic feeling. Of the Greek it may be said, as of the medieval craftsman,nihil tetigit quod non ornavit . In the commonest vessel or implement in every-day use we see almost from the first the workings of this artistic instinct, tending to exalt any and every object above the mere level of utilitarianism, and to make it, in addition to its primary purpose of usefulness, “a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.” Feeble and rude it may be at first, and hampered by imperfect knowledge of technique or capacity for expression—but still the instinct is there.

There is indeed at first but little in Greek pottery to differentiate it from that of other nations possessing any decorative instincts. As M. Pottier [2] has pointed out, there is a universal law which manifests itself in nascent art all over the world: “More than once men have remarked the extraordinary resemblance which the linear decoration of Peruvian, Mexican, and Kabyle vases bears to the ornamentation of the most ancient Greek pottery. There is no possibility of contact between these different peoples, separated by enormous distances of time and space. If they have this common resemblance at the outset of their artistic evolution, it is because all must pass through a certain phase, resulting in some measure from the structure of the human brain. Even so at the present day there are savages in Polynesia who, by means of a point applied to the soft clay, produce patterns exactly similar to those found on Greek or Cypriote pottery of fifteen or twenty centuries before our era.” Or to take a later stage of development, the compositions of vase-paintings of the sixth century B.C. are governed by the same immutable laws of convention and principles of symmetry as the carvings of the Middle Ages. Instances might be multiplied ad infinitum ; but the principle is universal.

1 .  Remains of Neolithic pottery have recently been found in Crete (J.H.S. xxiii. p. 158) and in the Cyclades.

2 .  Cat. des Vases Antiques du Louvre  i. p. 18.

Status of Potters

It now remains to say something respecting the makers of Greek vases—the potters of antiquity. Unfortunately, however, little is known of their condition, except that they formed a guild, or fraternity, and that they amassed considerable fortunes by exporting their products to the principal emporia of the ancient world. The existence of two Kerameikoi , or pottery districts, at Athens shows the great commercial importance of the manufacture. In later times there seems to have been a considerable tendency to division of labour among the potters, and each man “specialised” in some particular shape; hence we find them characterised as χυτρεύς and χυτροπλάθοςληκυθοποιόςκαδοποιός, or κωθωνοποιός. It is assumed that the word ἐποίησεν, “made,” when found on a vase, indicates the potter, and not the artist, although it is reasonable to suppose that when no artist's name accompanies the formula the potter was at the same time the painter. On one vase the names of two potters, Glaukytes and Archikles, are found; one has been supposed to be the artist's, but it is more probable they were partners.

By the Athenians, potters were called Prometheans , from the Titan Prometheus, who made man out of clay—which, according to one myth, was the blood of the Titans, or Giants—and was thus the founder of the fictile art. It was not, however, much esteemed, although without doubt the pursuit of it was a lucrative one, and many of the trade realised large fortunes; in proof of which may be cited the well-known anecdote of Agathokles, who, at a time when the rich used plate, was in the habit of mixing earthenware with it at his table, telling his officers that he formerly made such ware, but that now, owing to his prudence and valour, he was served in gold—an anecdote which also suggests that the profession was not highly esteemed. The guild at Athens was called ἐκ κεραμέων, “of the potters,”and we also hear of a college of κεραμεῖς at Thyateira. However, the competition in the trade was so warm as to pass into a proverb, and the animosity of some of the rival potters is even recorded upon the vases. To this spirit are also probably to be referred many of the tricks of the trade, such as imitations of the names of makers, and the numerous illegible inscriptions. When the potter's establishment—called an ergasterion —was large, he employed under him a number of persons, some of whom were probably free but poor citizens, whilst others were slaves belonging to him. How the labour was subdivided there are no means of accurately determining, but the following hands were probably employed:—(1) A potter, to make the vase on the wheel; (2) an artist, to trace with a point in outline the subject of the vase; (3) a painter, who executed the whole subject in outline, and who probably returned it to No. 2, when incised lines were required; (4) a modeller, who added such parts of the vase as were moulded; (5) a fireman, who took the vase to the furnace and brought it back; (6) a fireman for the furnace; (7) packers, to prepare the vases for exportation. Hence it may readily be conceived that a large establishment employed a considerable number of hands, and exhibited an animated scene of industrial activity.

Preparation of the Clay

The paste of these vases is similar to terracotta in its general characteristics, such as the constitution of the mixture of which it is composed; it is in general very delicate, but deeper in tone and finer in texture than that of the terracottas. Brongniart has described it as “tender, easily scratched or cut with a knife, remarkably fine and homogeneous, but of loose texture”; but it would be more accurate to say that it varies in one respect, being sometimes so hard that cutting or scratching has no effect upon it. When broken it exhibits a dull opaque colour, varying from red to yellow and yellow to grey. On being struck it gives forth a dull metallic sound; it is exceedingly porous, and easily allows water to ooze through.

The surface was protected by a fine, thin alkaline glaze, which is semi-transparent, enhancing the colours with which the vase was painted, like the varnish of a picture. It is this glaze which forms the special distinction of the Greek painted vases and renders them, in contradistinction to common pottery or earthenware, the counterpart of the medieval faïences or majolicas, or the finer porcelain of the present day.

As to the chemical composition of the paste, it would seem that hitherto investigations have been confined to vases of Italian origin, but probably those found on Greek soil would yield similar results. The principal ingredients are clay, silicic acid, and iron oxide, with slight admixtures of carbonate of lime and magnesia. The principal results of previous investigations have been tabulated by Blümner,and yield the following average result (chiefly from analyses of vases from Southern Italy):—

Silicic acid 52 to 60 parts.
Clay earth 13 to 19 parts.
Chalk 5 to 10 parts.
Magnesia 1 to 3 parts.
Iron oxide 12 to 19 parts.

The largest proportion of clay found in any one vase was 27 parts; there was also one instance given of 24 parts of iron oxide.

The variations in tone of the clay of Greek vases are very marked. The usual colour is an ochre varying from yellowish-white to brownish-red, the mean being a sort of orange. These variations were apparently regulated by the amount of iron oxide employed. It has been noted by Jahn that vases were sometimes moulded “double,” i.e. turned on the wheel in two different thicknesses of clay, the finer and ruddier forming the exterior surface for decoration.

The earliest and most primitive Greek vases (including those of the Mycenaean period) in most cases exhibit the natural quality of the clay, ranging from yellow to grey in colour; it is usually coarse and insufficiently baked, and protected by no lustrous glaze. In the early archaic vases, such as those of Melos, Athens, and Rhodes, we observe a pale yellow tone, which is apparently not a glaze, but inherent in the clay. Thenceforward the clay becomes appreciably redder and warmer in tone until the lustrous glaze reaches its perfection in the Attic vases of the fifth century. In the later Italian fabrics again there is a great degeneration, the clay rapidly reverting to a paler hue, especially in the vases of Campania; while in the Etruscan imitations of the third century it is a dull coarse yellow, apparently due to a preponderance of lime. Generally speaking, it may be said that the colour depends on the proportion in which the constituent parts are mixed, a larger proportion of iron oxide producing a redder, a larger proportion of lime a paler hue.

The clay is permeable, allowing water to exude when not glazed, and when moistened emits a strong earthy smell. It is not known how this paste was prepared, for the Greeks have left few or no details of their processes, but it has been conjectured that the clay was fined by pouring it into a series of vats, and constantly decanting the water, so that the last vat held only the finest particles in suspension. The clay was worked up to the right consistency with the hands, and is supposed to have been ground in a mill or trodden out with the feet. Either red or white clay, or a mixture of the two, was preferred by the ancients, according to the nature of the pottery required to be made, as we learn from an interesting passage in the Geoponica :—“All kinds of earth are not suited for pottery, but some prefer the reddish variety, others the white; others again blend the two ... but the potter ought personally to assist in the operations and see that the clay is well levigated and not placed on the wheel until he has obtained a clear idea of the probable appearance of the jar after the baking” (vi. 3).

Certain sites enjoyed in antiquity great reputation for their clays. One of the most celebrated was that procured from a mine near the promontory of Cape Kolias, close to Phaleron, from which was produced the paste which gave so much renown to the products of the Athenian Kerameikos. The vases made of it became so fashionable, that Plutarch relates an anecdote of a person who, having swallowed poison, refused to drink the antidote except out of a vessel made of this clay. It seems to have been of a fine quality, but not remarkably warm in tone when submitted to the furnace; ruddle, or red ochre (rubrica ), being employed to impart to it that rich deep orange glow which distinguishes the finest vases of the best period. Corinth, Knidos, Samos, and various other places famous for their potteries, were provided with fine clays. At Koptos, in Egypt, and in Rhodes, vases were manufactured of an aromatic earth. The extreme lightness of the paste of these vases was remarked by the ancients, and its tenuity is mentioned by Plutarch. That it was an object of ambition to excel in this respect, appears from the two amphorae mentioned by Pliny as preserved in the temple of Erythrae, of extreme lightness and thinness, made by a potter and his pupil when contending which could produce the lightest vase. The thinnest vases which have come down to us are scarcely thicker than pieces of stout paper. Great difference is to be observed in the pastes of vases from widely-separated localities, due either to the composition or to the baking, as has been noted in the case of the terracottas.

Arrangement of Subjects

The next point to be considered is the method of arrangement and composition of the figures in general on Greek vases. As regards the Mycenaean, Geometrical, and other early wares, they may be left out of consideration,—firstly, because their ornamentation is mainly composed of decorative motives or single figures of animals; secondly, because even where compositions of figure subjects are found, as on the great Dipylon vases, the method of arrangement is still tentative and without system. The figures are arranged in haphazard groups and bands, and all the remaining spaces are filled in with ornament.

The first attempt at an organised method of decoration is seen in the vases of Corinth and Ionia, and is exemplified principally in the arrangement of the friezes of animals. Roughly speaking, there are two main tendencies, one characteristic of each line of development—the procession and the heraldic group. Both are essentially Oriental (i.e. Assyrian) in origin, the prototype of the latter being the familiar motive of the two animals and the sacred tree, which is so frequently found on Mycenaean gems, and is best exemplified in the famous Lion Gate of Mycenae. Yet this typically Mycenaean and Oriental motive was not the one adopted by its natural inheritors, the Ionians, and it is in Dorian Corinth that we find its reflection on the painted vases. On one Corinthian vase it actually occurs in the form of a conventional palmette and lotos-pattern (representing the tree), on either side of which two lions are confronted in true Mycenaean fashion. Later, it becomes a common device on the necks of vases, the ornament taking the form of a decorative combination of palmettes. Even when on Corinthian vases a whole frieze of animals is found, there is always a central “heraldic” group of two, towards which the whole seems to lead up, or else the frieze is broken up into several isolated heraldic groups. But on the Ionic vases, as on those of Rhodes and Naukratis, we have over and over again regular processions of animals all facing the same way, or, as at Daphnae, solemn dances of women, similarly placed and joining hand-in-hand (see Plate XXV.).

In the developed B.F. vases the same principles are observed to some extent, especially where friezes of animals are introduced; but there is much greater freedom of treatment within the limits of the field available. Generally speaking, however, all designs on B.F. vases may be regarded as following one of the three methods of architectural composition—the frieze, the pediment, or the metope. The frieze style, which is seen on the shoulders of hydriae, the exteriors of kylikes, and sometimes on the bodies of amphorae, oinochoae, or lekythi, implies a series of figures, all turned in the same direction, but without any central point for the action, as in processions of warriors, dances of Satyrs and Maenads, and so on. In the pediment style of composition the essential feature is a centre-point, in which the interest of the subject is concentrated, as in such scenes as the Birth of Athena or Theseus killing the Minotaur.The central group is then flanked by figures immediately interested in the action (Eileithyia and Hephaistos, or Ariadne, in the instances quoted; Athena and Iolaos at the labours of Herakles); and the ends of the pediment, so to speak, are occupied by groups of bystanders, often nameless and uncharacterised, who are in fact only included to fill up the space required.

The metope style, which only admits of three, or at most four, figures, was found convenient for all the vases with subjects on panels, where space was restricted, and also on the kylikes of the “minor artist” class, on which a limited use of figures was preferred, and on those of later date where the space was mainly taken up by the large eyes. But in all these cases—friezes, pediments, or metopes—one thing was held to be essential: the correspondence of the two halves of the design (except in friezes), producing perfect symmetry in the composition.

Lastly, there are a limited number of cases where a single figure was found sufficient, as in the interior of kylikes, on the circular pinakes, and sometimes on the vases where the large eyes take up most of the space.

Subordinate designs, bordering the main design of an amphora above or below, or decorating the cover, are usually in the form of animals or chariot-races, in the frieze style of composition. Similar friezes are sometimes also found (in the old B.F. method) on R.F. vases, and even on the kraters of Southern Italy.

The earlier R.F. vases preserve the principles of the preceding period; and, in regard to the kylikes, the system of decoration has been discussed in detail elsewhere. In all of them we see particular attention paid to arrangement, and the variations in the principles of composition form one of our guides in determining the development of the style. In the amphorae and hydriae of the transition from the severe to the strong period the number of figures employed in one scene was diminished, while they became larger in their proportions and were treated with more care; the usual number on the Nolan amphora is one or two each side. On the smaller vases, such as the oinochoë, the number of the figures never exceeds three. Sometimes the hydriae have an elongated composition on the shoulder, containing a frieze of several figures; but usually the design runs into both shoulder and body. Designs in framed panels are rare, except on the earlier amphorae and hydriae, and on the column-handled kraters. The latter are unique in preserving the older methods of decoration right through the R.F. period down to the fourth-century specimens from Southern Italy.

The influence of Polygnotos and his contemporaries brought about, as we have seen, a great change in the arrangement of the compositions, by the introduction of landscape and perspective, and the depicting of figures at different levels. This new development was subsequently exemplified in the large vases of Kertch and Apulia, but in the late fine period at Athens small vases with single friezes or simple subjects were the rule. In the pyxides and other vases with frieze subjects the figures are often crowded together and of dwarfish proportions (Plate XLII. fig. 3). A return to the old system of several friezes is seen where the figures are arranged in two or more rows divided by bands of ornaments, as in the Meidias hydria, or the early Apulian and some of the Lucanian vases.

The earlier vases of Southern Italy, especially those of Lucania, preserve in some measure the spirit of the best R.F. vases, in the arrangement of the figures, and at all times the composition is one of the best features of these vases; but in the later examples the purely decorative element obtrudes itself; single figures of little more than ornamental character abound, and the old preference for mere ornament asserts itself, the patterns encroaching all over the scenes.

The Baking of Vases

The process of baking (ὀπτᾶνcoquere ) was regarded as one of the most critical in the potter's art. It was not indeed universal, as Plato distinguishes between vases which have or have not been exposed to the action of fire (ἔμπυρα and ἄπυρα), and Pliny speaks of fictile crudum  (ὠμόν) used for medicinal purposes. But all the vases that have come down to us have certainly been baked. The necessary amount of heat required was regulated by the character of the ware, and in the case of most Greek fabrics it appears to have been high. Many examples exist of discoloured vases which have been subjected to too much or too little heat, and in which the varnish has acquired a greenish or reddish hue. On the other hand, in some of those that have been subjected to subsequent burning, the red glaze has turned to an ashen-grey colour, the black remaining unimpaired; but there are also instances of the varnish peeling off, the red colour alone preserving the outline of the figures.

Other accidents were liable to befall them in the baking, such as the cracking of the vase under too great heat; this produced an effect expressed by the term πυρορραγής or φοξός, words which seem to have some reference to the sound  of a cracked pot. Or the shape of a vase might be damaged while it was yet soft, one knocking against another and denting its side, or crushing the lip through being carelessly superimposed. On a R.F. amphora in the British Museum (E 295) a dent has been caused by the pressure of another vase, which has left traces of a band of maeanders. This probably happened when the vases were in the kiln for the second firing. The quality of the baking was tested by tapping the walls of the vase.

These misfortunes were attributed to the action of malicious demons, whose influence had to be counteracted in various ways; thus, for instance, a Satyric or grotesque head was placed in front of the furnace and was supposed to have an apotropaeic effect against the evil eye. The pseudo-Homeric hymn addressed to the potters of Samos invokes the protection of Athena for the vases in the furnace, and mentions the evil spirits which are ready to injure them in the case of bad faith on the potter's part. Among the names given are: Ἄσβεστος, “the Unquenchable”; Σμάραγος, “the Crasher”; Σύντριψ, “the Smasher”; Ὠμόδαμος, “the Savage Conqueror.”

The form of the oven probably differed little from those in use at the present day. No furnaces have been found in Greece, and our only evidence is derived from the painted vases; but they have been found at Ruvo and elsewhere in Italy, and also in France, Germany, and England. Those of Roman date are indeed by no means uncommon, but are discussed in fuller detail in the corresponding section of the work.

As depicted on vases and elsewhere, the ancient furnaces seem to have been of simple construction, tall conical ovens fed by fires from beneath, into which the vases were placed with a long shovel resembling a baker's peel. The kilns were heated with charcoal or wood fuel, and in some of the representations of them we see men holding long instruments with which they are about to poke or rake the fires (Fig. 68). They had two doors, one for the insertion of the vases and one for the potter to watch the progress of the baking. For vases of great size, like the huge πίθοι, special ovens must have been necessary; and we have a representation on a Corinthian pinax of such an oven, the roof of which resembles the upper part of a large pithos  surrounded by flames.


On the lamp from Pozzuoli in the British Museum there is a curious subject in relief, representing a potter about to place a vase in an oven with a tall chimney; and on a hydria at Munich (Fig. 67 b) a man is about to place an amphora in a kiln, while other jars (painted white) stand ready to be baked. But for our purposes the Corinthian pinakes are even more valuable for the information they afford. There are several representing the exterior of the conical furnace, with men standing by watching the fires and tending them with rakes;in another we have a bird's-eye view in horizontal section of the interior of an oven, filled with jugs of various forms (Fig. 69). Flames are usually indicated rising from underneath the ovens.


The Munich hydria (Fig. 67b) reproduces the interior of a potter's workshop with such detail that a full description of the scene may be permissible. On the left of the picture a seated man seems to be examining an amphora, which has just been finished (it is painted black) and is brought up for his approval. Next is seen an amphora on the potter's wheel, painted white to indicate its imperfect state; one man places his arm inside to shape the interior, while another turns the wheel for him. On their right another white amphora is being carried out, just fresh from the wheel, but without handles or mouth, to be dried in the open or at the furnace; next is another standing on the ground to dry. On the right of the scene stands the foreman or master of the pottery, before whom a nude man carries what has been thought to be a sack of coals for the furnace, which is seen on the extreme right.

Even more vivid and instructive, in spite of its careless execution, is the painting on a kotyle found at Exarchos or Abae in Lokris, and now in the Athens Museum (Fig. 70). The style is that of the imitation B.F. vases found in the temple of the Kabeiri at Thebes, late in the fifth century. We see represented the interior of a potter's workshop, in which the master of the business sits holding up a kylix in one hand, while with the other he threatens a slave, who runs off with three kotylae ready for the furnace; three similar kotylae stand by the master's feet, and behind him are two more vases on a shelf. On the right of the scene a workman sits at a table on which is a pot full of paint, with a brush in it; he holds up a newly-painted kotyle, admiring his workmanship. The picture is completed by a realistic representation of an unfortunate slave suspended by cords to the ceiling as a punishment for some offence, while another belabours him with a leather thong.


It would appear that the vases after the baking were often placed on the exterior of the furnace, either to prevent the too rapid cooling of the clay, or (as indicated on the Berlin cup) for the pigments to dry. Jahn and others have published a gem on which a small two-handled vase is placed on the top of an oven, and a youth is applying two sticks to it, perhaps in order to take it down without injury by the contact of the hand. A companion gem, on which an artist is painting a similar jar, shows a jug and a kylix standing on a kiln.

When the vases were returned from the furnace, the potter appears to have made good as far as possible the defects of those not absolutely spoiled; and if naturally or by accident any parts remained too pale after the baking, the defect was remedied by rubbing them over with a deep red ochre, which supplied the necessary tone.

Primitive Pottery in Greece

The earliest remains of pottery on Hellenic soil are to be sought chiefly in the Cyclades and on the site of ancient Troy. We have already had occasion to allude to the latter in speaking of the earliest Cypriote fabrics, and it is therefore fitting that we should now give it our first attention.

The site of Troy , now known as Hissarlik, was, as is well known, first explored by Dr. Schliemann in his laudable endeavours to prove the truth of the early Greek legends of the Trojan War. Although doubtless there are visible links between the Homeric poems and the discoveries at Hissarlik, and although it is not necessary to deny all credence to the historical truth of the “Bible of the Greeks,” yet it is now generally recognised that Dr. Schliemann's pardonable enthusiasm sometimes led him to hasty conclusions. For instance, Dr. Dörpfeld in his more recent investigations proved that if any remains are to be connected with the tale of Troy, it is those of the sixth, not of the second or burnt city. Nine layers in all have been traced, of which the five lowest may be termed prehistoric, the third, fourth, and fifth being mere villages on the ruins of the first two. In the lowest and earliest of all, which may be roughly dated 3000–2500 B.C., flint implements were found, together with rude black pottery: hand-made utensils baked in the open, with rings for suspension in place of handles.

The second city belongs to the period 2500–2000 B.C., and it is this which has yielded pottery analogous to the earliest examples from Cyprus. It is of the same rough hand-polished black ware, with decoration either of a plastic character or engraved in the clay while wet and filled in with white paint. Apart from this there are no traces of painted decoration, or of any slip; but the colour of the surface varies with the firing. The patterns consist of zigzags, circles, and other rudimentary geometrical ornaments. A few wheel-made specimens were found, but the majority are made by hand. What artistic sense was evinced by these primitive potters was shown exclusively in the forms, and in the tendency which is especially conspicuous in primitive times, though it lingered on through the history of Greek art, and again broke out in the period of the decadence, to combine the ceramic and the plastic idea, and to give to the vase the rude resemblance of the human form. That this was no far-fetched idea is shown by the universal nomenclature which permits us to speak of the mouth, neck, shoulder, body, and foot of a vase—a principle which has been extended by general consent to countless inanimate objects. Thus we find the Hissarlik potter incising eyes on the upper part of the vase, or affixing lumps of clay to give a rude suggestion of ears, nose or breasts, or bands to denote necklaces. The handles often seem intended for rudimentary arms, and we are tempted to see in the hat-shaped covers of the vases the idea of a head-covering. Schliemann even went so far as to regard them as actual idols, and was led by the superficial resemblance of some to the form of an owl into identifying them with figures of the “owl-eyed” (γλαυκῶπις) Pallas Athena (cf. Fig. 77). But this interpretation has not found favour for many reasons, and the accidental combination of forms is obviously only an artistic phase. There are also many similar shapes, such as plain jars and jugs, and deep funnel-shaped cups with two graceful handles.


M. Dumont classifies the fabrics as follows: (1) ordinary vessels, plates, etc.; (2) large jars or amphorae; (3) primitive kraters, deep cups, etc.; (4) spherical vases with base-ring [?] and long neck; (5) long two-handled cups; (6) vases reproducing the human form; (7) vases in the form of pigs and other animals; (8) exceptional forms, such as double vases; (9) vases with incised patterns, on one of which a Sphinx is engraved. Figs. 78–80 give examples of classes (5), (7), and (8); Fig. 77 a specimen of class (6).


The Hissarlik pottery may be regarded as a local development, partly parallel with that of Cyprus,partly derivative therefrom; of Oriental influence there are no traces, but the connection with Thera and Cyprus is indisputable.


Passing over the unimportant traces of the three succeeding settlements, we find in the sixth city a great advance. The plastic forms disappear, and generally speaking the shapes become more classical. Besides plain pottery with matt-black polished surface we meet with painted vases with curvilinear and vegetable patterns. The remains of genuine Mycenaean pottery, the fortifications and buildings, with great halls in the style of Mycenae and Tiryns, bear out Dr. Dörpfeld's contention that this is the Troy of Homer. Two points among the pottery finds of this period are worth noting; firstly that they included a fragment of Cypriote “white-slip” ware, secondly that Geometrical patterns mingle with the Mycenaean in the upper layers.


The three remaining layers cover respectively the archaic period, the developed Hellenic and Hellenistic periods, and the age in which the city of Ilium was refounded by the Romans. Dr. Dörpfeld found some interesting local fabrics dating from the fifth century, examples of which had previously been obtained by Mr. Calvert for the British Museum.

Of almost equal antiquity with the remains at Hissarlik is some of the pottery discovered in the Cyclades, and especially at Thera . Here, indeed, we meet with the earliest known examples of Greek painted  pottery (Crete excepted), and that, as we shall see, of a remarkably developed type.

The island of Thera may be described as a sort of prehistoric Pompeii buried under volcanic deposits, which have completely transformed the configuration of the island. The results of preliminary excavations by the French in 1866 showed that the cataclysm which overwhelmed the island must (on geological grounds) have taken place about the twentieth century B.C., and that the remains of pottery must be anterior to this event. Herodotos states that Kadmos founded a settlement in the fourteenth century, and the Minyae again about the twelfth, and the island must have been uninhabitable for a long time previously.

The houses and other remains of civilisation discovered below the volcanic deposits show an advance on Hissarlik (second city) and the earliest Cypriote culture, and the pottery is no exception. The vases are wheel-made, fired at a moderate heat in closed furnaces (sometimes baked in the sun), and plastic forms are almost wanting. Many are pierced with holes in the bottom, for what purpose is not known. They were often found in situ , mixed with stone implements, and with evidence of having contained grain. The forms are very regular, a cylindrical shape being specially affected, and they are made of a badly levigated clay, covered with a greyish slip, on which the patterns are laid in matt  colours—white, black, or red—without any incised markings.

From Baumeister .

M. Dumont distinguishes four varieties of ornament: simple patterns, such as bands, hatchings, and dots; volutes, wave-patterns, and intersecting circles; vegetable motives, such as long narrow leaves or flowers; and animals, including deer, and ducks or swans. Generally there is a strong predilection for vegetable motives, and in this naturalistic tendency we may see the prelude to the Mycenaean period. Among those now at the French School at Athens, which has the best collection, are several interesting examples illustrated in Fig. 81. One is a trefoil-mouthed jug with running quadrupeds in black, and red bands, on a grey ground; another jug is painted with birds in black, the details in red and white. A sort of cream-jug is decorated with water-plant patterns; a cylindrical jar with oblique wreaths; and a dish with seaweed. A funnel-shaped vase and a beak-mouthed jug are obvious prototypes of Mycenaean forms.

The chief differences from the Hissarlik vases are in the forms and methods of decoration, but resemblances may be noted in the long narrow necks, and the rings for suspension, as in the plastic forms when they do occur. That the fabric is a local one hardly admits of doubt, but it is interesting to note the occurrence of a bowl of white-slip ware from Cyprus in Thera, and conversely the appearance of a vase of Thera fabric at Mycenae. Thus we have evidence of extensive commercial relations. Some tombs of the Hellenic period seem to have been dug right down into the volcanic deposit, for they contained pottery with Geometrical decoration.

The discovery of primitive stone idols in Thera shows that it belonged to the Cycladic civilisation, which extended from 2500 to 1600 B.C., filling up the gap between Hissarlik and Mycenae. It has been suggested that these Cycladic peoples were Carians, subsequently driven to the Asiatic mainland by Minos, who typifies the rising power of Crete and the Mycenaean world. This Cycladic civilisation is also exemplified in the earliest finds from other islands, such as Amorgos, Syra, Paros, and Antiparos, and in other instances noted early in the century by the observant traveller Ross. The pottery from these sites is, however, less advanced than that of Thera, but varies in character. Painted patterns were found on vases from Amorgos and Syra, the latter in the form of brown foliage on yellow ground.

It would not be right to conclude this section without some notice of the remarkably interesting pottery excavated at Phylakopi in Melos  by the British School in 1896–99, which is important as forming a connecting link between the Cycladic wares and the fully-developed Mycenaean style. Space forbidsmore than a brief abstract of the results obtained, which have just been given to the world in an admirable publication. Mr. C. C. Edgar, to whom the task of studying the pottery was allotted, distinguishes four main groups:

1. (a ) Primitive pottery of the cist-tomb type, corresponding to that of Hissarlik; (b ) more advanced ware of the same kind.

2. Painted Geometrical wares.

3. Local pottery in Mycenaean style with spiral and naturalistic designs, falling into two divisions, earlier and later.

4. Imported Mycenaean pottery of the third and fourth styles.

Generally speaking the pottery is of local make, and Phylakopi seems to have been an important centre in the early Mycenaean period, having considerable intercourse with Crete. The earliest wares (class 1) include plain pottery, hand-made, with burnished brown surface or simple incised patterns; those of class 2 are painted in lustrous or matt black on a white slip, or in white on lustrous black or red, with simple patterns; they appear to be hand-made. The Mycenaean pottery is more or less akin to that found elsewhere in the Aegean.

Manufacture of Vases

The earliest glazed vases were made with the hand, but the wheel was an invention of very remote antiquity, as has been noted in our Introductory Chapter. It is generally supposed that its origin is to be attributed to Egypt. Its introduction into Greece may easily be traced by a study of primitive pottery from any site such as Crete, Cyprus, or Troy, where the distinction between hand-made and wheel-made vessels is clear. Thus in the tombs of Cyprus which belong to the Bronze Age, the earlier finds, dating from about 2500–1500 B.C., are exclusively of hand-made pottery. The latter part of the Bronze Age may be regarded as a transitional period, in which the tombs contain hand-made unglazed painted vases, together with pottery of a much more developed character, with a lustrous yellow glaze, bearing unmistakable evidence of having been turned on a wheel. This pottery appears to be largely imported, as opposed to the local wares, which are still hand-made, and its widespread distribution over the whole of the “Aegean” area marks an important epoch in the history of early ceramics (see Chapter VI.). It covers the period from 1500 to about 900 B.C., and it is to this time that we may attribute the general use of the potter's wheel in Greece, although it was known even earlier, as some isolated specimens prove.

Among the Greeks there were many contending claims for the honour of having invented the potter's wheel. Tradition attributed it to various personages, such as Daedalos, or his nephew and rival Talos; Hyperbios of Corinth; Koroibos of Athens; and Anacharsis the Scythian. Kritias, the comic poet, claimed the invention for Athens—“that city which ... invented pottery, the famous offspring of the wheel, of earth, and of fire.” There is also a familiar allusion to it in Homer,which is a fair testimony to its antiquity:—

“Full lightly, as when some potter sitteth and maketh assay
Of the wheel to his hands well-fitted, to know if it runneth true.”

As regards the traditions, even Strabo realised their absurdity, when he asked, “How could the wheel be the invention of Anacharsis, when his predecessor Homer knew of it?” On the other hand, Poseidonios adheres to the tradition, maintaining that the passage in Homer is an interpolation. Other allusions to the wheel are in the writings of Plato and the comic poet Antiphanes.


Among the Egyptians and Greeks the wheel took the form of a low circular table, turned with the hand, not as nowadays with the foot. The assumption that the wheel was turned with the foot is only supported by one passage in the Book of Ecclesiasticus; the evidence of Plutarch and Hippokrates tells decidedly against it. In 1840 some discs of terracotta, strengthened with spokes and a leaden tire, came to light on the site of the ancient potteries at Arezzo, and these had evidently been used as potter's wheels. The process is also represented on two or three vases, as on a Corinthian painted tablet of about 600 B.C. (Fig. 65), on a kylix in the British Museum (B 433), on a B.F. hydria in Munich (Fig. 67 b, below), and on a R.F. fragment from the Acropolis of Athens (Fig. 66), which shows a man modelling the foot of a large krater, while a boy or slave turns the wheel, as on the Munich vase. On the British Museum cup the potter is seated on a low stool, apparently modelling a vase which he has just turned into shape on the wheel.


In making the vases the wheel was used in the following manner:—A piece of paste of the required size was placed upon it vertically in the centre, and while it revolved was formed with the finger and thumb, the potter paying regard not only to the production of the right shape, but to the necessary thickness of the walls. This process sufficed for the smaller pieces, such as cups or jugs; the larger amphorae and hydriae required the introduction of the arm. The feet, necks, mouths, and handles were separately turned on moulds, and fixed on while the clay was moist. They are often modelled with great beauty and precision, especially the feet, which are admirably finished off, to effect which the vase must have been inverted. The modelling and separate attachment of the handle is represented in more than one ancient work of art (see Fig. 66). In many cases the joining of the handles is so excellent that it is easier to break than to detach them. Great technical skill was displayed in turning certain peculiar forms of vases, and generally speaking the Greeks with their simple wheel effected wonders, producing shapes still unrivalled for beauty.

In the case of the earlier vases, which are made by hand, after the clay was properly kneaded the potter took up a mass of the paste, and hollowing it into the shape of walls with one hand, placed the other inside it and pressed it out into the required form. In this way also the thickness of the walls could be regulated. When raised or incised ornaments were required, he used modeller's tools, such as wooden or bronze chisels. The largest and coarsest vases of the Greeks were made with the hand, and the large πίθοι, or casks, such as have been recently found in such numbers in Crete and Thera, were modelled by the aid of a kind of hooped mould (κάνναβος): see ibid.). The smaller and finer vases, however, were invariably turned on the wheel. On a Graeco-Roman lamp from Pozzuoli, in the British Museum, a potter is seen standing and modelling a vase before his furnace, in the manner no doubt employed at all periods.

Certain parts of the ancient painted vases were modelled by the potter from the earliest times—e.g. on those of the Geometrical period horses are occasionally found on the covers of the flat dishes moulded in full relief, and in other examples the handle is enriched with the moulded figure of a serpent twining round it. This kind of ornament is more suitable to works in metal than in clay, and suggests the idea that such vases were, in fact, imitations of metallic ones. On vases of all periods moulded bosses and heads, like the reliefs on metal vases, are sometimes found; even in black-figured vases the insertions of the handles of hydriae and oinochoae are occasionally thus enriched. In the later styles modelling was more profusely employed; small projecting heads were affixed to the handles of jugs at their tops and bases, and on the large kraters found in Apulia the discs in which the handles terminated were ornamented with heads of the Gorgon Medusa, or with such subjects as Satyrs and Maenads. These portions were sometimes covered with the black varnish used for the body of the vase, but frequently they were painted with white and red colours of the opaque kind.

A peculiar kind of modelling was used for the gilded portions of reliefs, introduced over the black varnish. When the vase was baked a fine clay was applied to the parts intended for gilding and delicately modelled, either with a small tool or a brush, a process similar to that adopted in the Roman red ware (en barbotine .). It may indeed have been squeezed in a fluid state through a tube upon the vase, and then modelled. As the gilded-portions are generally small, this process was not difficult or important. A vase discovered at Cumae has two friezes executed in this style, the upper round the neck, representing the Eleusinian deities, delicately modelled, coloured, and with the flesh completely gilded; the lower one consists of a band of animals and arabesque ornaments. Several vases from the same locality, from Capua and from the Cyrenaica, have wreaths of corn, ivy, or myrtle, and necklaces round the neck, modelled in the same style, while the rest is plain.

But the art of modelling was soon extensively superseded by that of moulding , or producing several impressions from a mould, generally itself of terracotta. The subject was in the first place modelled in relief with considerable care; and from this model a cast in clay was taken and then baked. The potter availed himself of moulds for various purposes. From them he produced entire parts of his vase in full relief, such as the handles, and possibly in some instances the feet. He also stamped out certain ornaments in relief, much in the same manner as the ornaments of cakes are prepared, and fixed them while moist to the still damp body of the vase. Such ornaments were principally placed upon the lips or at the base of the handles, and in the interior of the kylikes  or cups of a late style. A late bowl of black glazed ware in the British Museum contains an impression from one of the later Syracusan decadrachms having for its subject the head of Persephone surrounded by dolphins: it was struck about 370 B.C. by Euainetos.

The last method to be described is that of producing the entire vase from a mould by stamping it out, a process extensively adopted in Roman pottery. During the best period of the fictile art, while painting flourished, such vases were very rare; but on the introduction of a taste for magnificent vases of chased metal, the potters endeavoured to meet the public taste by imitating the reliefs of metal ware.

The most remarkable of these moulded vases are the rhyta  or drinking-horns, the bodies of which terminate in the heads of animals, produced from a mould. By the same process were also made vases in the form of jugs or lekythi, the bodies of which are moulded in the shape of human heads, and sometimes glazed, while the necks were fashioned on the lathe, and the handles added. These were coloured and ornamented on the same principle as the rhyta, the vase-portion being generally covered with a black glaze, but sometimes with a white slip, after the manner of the terracottas. Besides the rhyta, phialae , or saucers, were also moulded; fine examples of which process may be seen on the flat bossed saucers, or phialae mesomphaloi.

Amphorae and other vases of late black ware, the bodies of which are reeded, were also evidently produced from moulds, and could not be made by the expensive process of modelling. Of smaller dimensions, but also made by moulding, were the vases known as gutti , or “lamp-feeders”. They have reeded bodies, long-necked mouths, and circular handles; and on their upper surface a small circular medallion in bas-relief, with a mythological subject. Such vases are principally found in Southern Italy and in Sicily, and belong to the second century B.C.. After being moulded they were entirely covered with a black glaze. Other vases again are entirely moulded in human or animal forms, with a small mouth or spout. These are found at all periods, but chiefly in the archaic Rhodian and Corinthian fabrics, and again reviving in the later stages of vase-fabrics in Southern Italy. Examples may be seen in the First Vase Room (Cases 33–34 and F) and Fourth Vase Room (Case B) of the British Museum. Others again retain the form of the jug or lekythos , with a figure or relief attached to the front of the body and coloured or covered with a white slip, while the back is varnished black.

Many vases of the fourth century and later are entirely covered with a coating of black glaze, while rows of small stamped ornaments, apparently made with a metal punch, have been impressed on the wet clay before the glaze was applied. These decorations are unimportant in their subjects, which are generally small Gorgons' heads, tendrils, or palmettes, and hatched bands, arranged round the axis of the vase. This latter ornament was probably produced by rolling the edge of a disc notched for the purpose round the vase, in the same manner as a bookbinder uses his brass punch. When these vases came into use the potter's trade had ceased to be artistic, and was essentially mechanical. They are found on almost all sites from Cyprus to Italy.

After the vases had been made on the wheel they were duly dried in the sun and lightly baked, after which they were ready for varnishing and painting; it is evident that they could not be painted while wet and soft. Moreover the glaze ran best on a surface already baked. It is also probable that the glaze was brought out by a process of polishing, the surface of the clay being smoothed by means of a small piece of wood or hard leather. At all events this seems the most satisfactory interpretation of a vase-painting in Berlin (Fig. 67a), where a boy is seen applying a tool of some kind to the outer surface of a completed vase (kotyle ); that the vase is not yet varnished is shown by its being left in a red colour, while two others, varnished black all over, stand on the steps of an oven close by, probably to dry after the application of the varnish.


Many vases, whether decorated with designs or not, are varnished black throughout the exterior, except the feet and lips, and we cannot be certain whether or not any glaze had been previously applied to the surface; but in respect of the red-figured vases, it is clear from the method employed that they were originally glazed throughout.

This lustrous glaze is, like the black varnish, now quite a lost art. Seen under a microscope it has evidently been fused by baking; it yields neither to acids nor the blow-pipe. It is remarkably fine and thin, insomuch that it can only be analysed with great difficulty. No lead entered into its composition. It is however far inferior to modern glazes, being permeable by water; but it is not decomposed by the same chemical agents. On the later R.F. vases it is of decidedly inferior quality, and often scales away, carrying the superimposed colours with it.

A question that may be well asked by any visitor to a great museum is, What is the use of the study of Greek vases? The answer is, that no remains of Greek art have come down to us in such large quantities, except perhaps coins, and certainly none cover so long a period. Portraying as they do both the objective and subjective side of Greek life, they form perhaps the best introduction to the study of Greek archaeology in general. In no other class of monuments are the daily life and religious beliefs of the Greeks so vividly presented as in the painted vases. Their value to the modern student may be treated under four separate heads: (1) Ethnological; (2) Historical; (3) Mythological; (4) Artistic.

(1) Ethnological.—On this subject we have already touched in this chapter, pointing out that pottery has an exceptional importance, not only as one of the most universal and instructive illustrations of the early developments of a single nation, but for purposes of comparison of one nation with another. Sculpture, painting, architecture, and other arts have a more limited range, and tell us nothing of domestic life or social progress; but the common utensils of daily life, like flint implements or bronze weapons, are of incalculable value for the light that they throw on the subject, and the evidence which, in the absence of historical data, they afford. We have also called attention to the prevalence of universal laws acting on the development of the early art of all nations.

Thus in dealing with the early history of Greece, before historical records are available, we are enabled by the pottery-finds to trace the extent of the Mycenaean civilisation, from Egypt to the Western Mediterranean; we may see Homeric customs reflected in the vases of the Geometrical period from Athens; and in the decorative patterns of the succeeding period we may see signs of close intercourse with Assyria and a knowledge of Oriental textile fabrics. The finds in Rhodes, Cyprus, and the islands off Asia Minor also testify to a continued and extensive intercourse between the mainland of Greece and the Eastern Aegean.

(2) Historical.—The historical value of Greek vases rests partly on the external, partly on the internal evidence that they afford. In the former aspect those of historic times, like those of the primitive age, confirm, if they do not actually supplement, literary records of Greek history. Thus the numerous importations of vases from Corinth to Sicily and Italy in the seventh century B.C. show the maritime importance of that city and the extent of her commercial relations; while in the succeeding century the commercial rivalry between her and Athens is indicated by the appearance of large numbers of Attic fabrics in the tombs of Italy along with the Corinthian; the final supremacy of Athens by the gradual disappearance of the Corinthian wares, and the consequent monopoly enjoyed by the rival state. The fact that after the middle of the fifth century the red-figured Attic vases are seldom found in Sicilian or Italian tombs shows clearly the blow dealt at Athenian commerce by the Peloponnesian War, and the enforced cessation of exports to the west, owing to the hostility of Sicily and the crippling of Athenian navies; and the gradual growth of local fabrics shows that the colonists of Magna Graecia at that time began themselves to supply local demands. Instances might be multiplied.

But the internal evidence of the vases is of even greater value, not only for the political, but still more for the social history of Greece. By the application of painting to vases the Greeks made them something more than mere articles of commercial value or daily use. Besides the light they throw on the Greek schools of painting, they have become an inexhaustible source for illustrating the manners, customs, and literature of Greece. A Greek vase-painting—to quote M. Pottier— is not only a work of art, but also an historical document. Even when all artistic qualities are lacking, and the vase at first sight is liable to be regarded as a worthless and uninteresting production, a closer inspection will often reveal some small point which throws light on a question of mythology, or of costume or armour. Or, again, an inscription painted or even scratched on a vase may be of surpassing philological or palaeographical importance. For instance, the earliest inscription known in the Attic alphabet is a graffito  on a vase of the seventh century B.C. (see Chapter XVII.), which of itself would command no consideration; but this inscription is valuable not only as evidence for early forms of lettering, but from its subject-matter. It is true that it need not necessarily be contemporary with the vase itself, as it may have been scratched in after it was made, but this cannot detract from its importance or affect its chronological value.

Or, again, a fragment of a painted vase found at Athens bears the name of Xanthippos rudely scratched upon it; on the foot of another is that of Megakles (see below, p. 103). Both of these are undoubted instances of ὄστρακα, which were used for the banishment of these historical personages. They therefore provide a striking illustration of the institution of Ostracism, and bear out what we have said as to the importance of archaeological discoveries for the study of History. Historical or quasi-historical subjects are sometimes actually depicted on the vases, but this question must be reserved for fuller treatment in Part III., which deals with the subjects on vases in detail. In that section of the work we shall also deal with the relations of vase-paintings to ancient literature; and in the list of subjects taken from daily life it will be seen what ample information is afforded on such points as the vocations and pastimes of men, the life of women, war and athletics, sport and education.

(3) Mythological.—On this head reference must again be made to the chapters on Subjects, as affording ample evidence of the importance of the vases not only for the elucidation of Greek mythology and legend, but also for religious cults and beliefs. One other point, however, is worth noting here. Our knowledge of Greek mythology, if only derived from literary records, rests largely on the compilations of Roman or late writers, such as Ovid, Hyginus, and Apollodoros. It has been aptly pointed out by a recent writer [1] that in these authors we have mythology in a crystallised form, modified and systematised, and perhaps confused with Latin elements, and that our popular modern notions are mainly derived from these sources as they have been filtered down to us through the medium of Lemprière's Dictionary and similar works. But vase-paintings are more or less original and contemporary documents. Granted that it is possible to run to the opposite extreme and accept art traditions to the utter neglect of the literary tradition as derived from Homer and the Tragedians, the fact still remains that for suggestions , and for raising problems that could never have arisen through a literary medium, the evidence of vases is of inestimable value.

In regard to Greek religious beliefs, it should be borne in mind that with the Greeks art was the language by which they expressed their ideas of the gods. It was thus largely due to their religion that they attained supremacy in the plastic art, and their absolute freedom of treatment of their religious beliefs almost eliminated the hieratic and conventional character of Oriental art from their own, with its infinite variety of conceptions. The vase-paintings, almost more than any other class of monuments, reveal the universal religious sentiment which pervaded their life—the δεισιδαιμονία which prevailed even in Romanised Athens. Thus the vases constitute a pictorial commentary on all aspects of Greek life and thought.[2]

(4) Artistic.—(a Form. In the grace of their artistic forms the Greeks have excelled all nations, either past or present. The beauty and simplicity of the shapes of their vases have caused them to be taken as models; but as every civilised people has received from other sources forms sanctioned by time, and as many of the Greek forms cannot be adapted to the requirements of modern use, they have not been extensively imitated. Yet to every eye familiar with works of art of the higher order their beauty is fully apparent.

(b Decoration. It is at first difficult to realise how little we actually know of Greek painting. Our modern museums are so full of specimens of Greek sculpture, either originals or ancient copies of masterpieces, that we feel it possible to obtain an adequate idea of the genius of Pheidias or Praxiteles at first-hand, so to speak. But ancient literature clearly shows that painting was held by the Greeks in equally high estimation with sculpture, if not even higher. Consult the writings of the elder Pliny on ancient art. A considerable space is there devoted to the account of the great painters Zeuxis, Apelles, and Parrhasios, while Pheidias is barely mentioned, and the account of Praxiteles' works is far from complete. Yet we look in vain through most modern collections for any specimen of Greek painting on fresco or panel.

This is, of course, due to the perishable character of pictures and the destruction of the buildings on the walls of which the great frescoes were preserved. But the fact remains that we have to look in other directions for the evidence we require to find. We have here and there a painted Greek tombstone, a Pompeian fresco, or the decoration of an Etruscan sepulchre to give us a hint; but while the first-named are far too inconsiderable in number to give us any idea of the art of their time, the two latter are merely products of an imitative art, giving but a faint echo of the originals.

Now, in the vases we have, as noted in regard to mythology, contemporary evidence. It must never be forgotten that vase-painting is essentially a decorative art; but, as we shall see later in tracing its historical development, there is always a tendency to ignore the essential subserviency of design to use, and to give the decoration a more pictorial character. Many of the late vases are, in fact, pictures on terracotta. Again, there is a class of fifth-century vases with polychrome paintings on white ground which actually recall the method we know to have been employed by the great master of that century, Polygnotos. And with regard to the late vases we shall hope to show in a future chapter that, like the Pompeian paintings, they often reflect the spirit, if not the exact likeness, of some well-known painting of which we have record.

Many instances might be given of vase-paintings which reflect, or assist our knowledge of, the products of the higher arts. Even as early as the end of the sixth century the group of the Tyrant-slayers, the creation of Antenor and of Kritios and Nesiotes, is found repeated on a black-figured vase [3]; and the early poros  pediments from the Athenian Acropolis find an interesting parallel in an early Attic vase of about the same date.[4] So again in Ionia, the style of the sculptures of the archaic temple at Ephesos finds its reflection in some of the local sixth-century vase-fabrics.[5] Coming to the fifth century, the heads in Euphronios' paintings may be compared with some of the Attic heads in marble, like that of the ephebos from the Acropolis.[6] Combats of Greeks with Amazons and Centaurs on later R.F. vases often seem to suggest a comparison with the friezes of Phigaleia and Olympia; a figure from the balustrade of the Nike temple is almost reproduced on a R.F. vase,[7] and the riding youths of the Parthenon frieze on some of the white Athenian lekythi; and the Kertch vase with the contest of Athena and Poseidon (Plate L.) is of special interest as an almost contemporary reproduction of the Parthenon west pediment. In painting, again, the later R.F. vases in many instances reflect what we know of the style and composition of Polygnotos' paintings, and there are many instances on the vases of the subjects treated by him and Mikon.[8]

From Baumeister .

Athena and Poseidon Contending for Attica; Vase from Kertch (at Petersburg).

It is not necessary here to say more of the importance of a study of Greek vases on the several lines that we have pointed out. It is sufficient to say that specialists in all these branches of Archaeology instinctively turn to vases for the main source of their information.

1 .  Miss Harrison, Mythology and Monuments of Athens , preface, p. ii. The Introduction to this work contains some excellent examples of the modern method of using vase-paintings to elucidate mythology.

2 .  For the use of vase-paintings in illustration of Greek religious beliefs and customs, reference may be made to Miss Harrison's Prolegomena to Greek Religion  (Cambridge Press, 1903), containing many interesting interpretations of scenes on the vases which may bear on the subject.

3 .  See Chapter XIV ., ad fin.

4 .  Ant. Denkm. i. 57.

5 .  Cf. for instance Berlin 2154 (Endt, Ion. Vasenm. p. 29).

6 .  Collignon, Hist. de la Sculpt. Grecque , i. p. 362.

7 .  Gerhard, Auserl. Vasenb. 81.

8 .  As, for instance, the subjects of Odysseus and Philoktetes; Orestes slaying Aegisthos; the death of Polyxena; Theseus fetching the ring from Amphitrite. Cf. Huddilston, Lessons from Greek Pottery , p. 28.


We may distinguish three principal classes of painted pottery, of which one at least admits of several subdivisions:—

(1) Primitive Greek vases, with simple painted ornaments, chiefly linear and geometrical, laid directly on the ground of the clay with the brush. The colour employed is usually a yellowish or brownish red, passing into black. The execution varies, but is often extremely coarse.

(2) Greek vases (and Italian imitations) painted with figures. These may be subdivided as follows:—

(a ) Vases with figures in black varnish on red glazed ground;

(b ) Vases with figures left in the red glaze on a ground of black varnish.

(3) (a ) Vases of various dates with outline or polychrome decoration on white ground;

(b ) Vases (also of various dates) with designs in opaque colour on black ground.

Of these, the second group is by far the largest and most important, and the complicated and technical processes which it involved will demand by far the greater share of our attention in the following account of the methods of painting. In both the classes (a ) and (b ) the colouring is almost confined to a contrasting of the red glazed ground of the clay with a black varnish-like pigment, a contrast which perhaps more than anything else furnishes the great charm of a Greek vase.

This black varnish is particularly lustrous and deep, but varies under different circumstances. Great difference of opinion has always existed as to its nature, and the method by which it was brought to such perfection by the Greeks. The variations in its appearance are due partly to differences of locality and fabric, partly to accidents of production. It is seen in its greatest perfection in the so-called Nolan amphorae of the severe red-figure period; and at its worst in the Etruscan and Italiote imitations of Greek fabrics. On the vases found at Vulci it shows a tendency to assume a greenish hue, as opposed to the blue-black of the Nolan vases, while variations in the direction of red, brown, and (on late South Italy fabrics) grey are of frequent occurrence. It is probable that these gradations of quality are mainly due to the action of fire, according as a higher or lower temperature was employed. On the other hand, the ashen-grey hue which vases of all periods sometimes assume seems to be due to the direct action of fire in contact with them, and this may perhaps be explained by supposing that they had been burnt on a funeral pyre. This varnish also varies in the thickness with which it was laid on, as can be easily detected with the finger.

Although the chemical action of the earth sometimes causes the black varnish to disappear entirely, leaving only the figures faintly indicated on the red-clay ground, there has never yet been found any acid which has any effect upon it. Various opinions have been promulgated, from Caylus downwards, as to the elements of which it is composed. Brongniart has analysed it with the following results:—

Silicic acid 46·30 50·00
Clay earth 11·90
Iron oxide 16·70 17·00
Chalk 5·70
Magnesia 2·30
Soda 17·10
Copper traces.

It is unnecessary here to enter in detail into the numerous other theories of its composition, but so far it cannot be said that any certainty has been attained.

Turning now to the methods by which the black varnish was applied, we find it necessary to distinguish between the two classes of black-figured and red-figured vases; some vases, of course, are completely covered with it, having no painted design, but these do not enter into the question.

In the black-figured vases the figures are painted in black silhouette on the red ground of the vase, the outlines being first roughly indicated by a pointed instrument making a faint line. The surface within these outlines was then filled in with the black pigment by means of a brush, the details of anatomy, drapery, armour, etc., being subsequently brought out in part by further incising of lines with a pointed tool. In some of the finest vases, such as those of Amasis and Exekias, the delicacy and minuteness of these lines is brought to an extraordinary pitch of perfection. After a second baking had taken place, the designs were further enriched by the application of opaque purple and white pigments, usually following certain conventional principles, the flesh of women and devices on shields, for instance, being always white, folds of drapery always purple. A third baking at a much lower heat was necessary to fix these colours, and the vase was then complete.

It should here be noted that there are really two subdivisions of these black-figured vases, which may be termed for convenience “red-bodied” and “black-bodied.” In the former the whole vase stands out in the natural red colour of the clay; whereas in the latter the treatment approaches more nearly to the red-figure method which we shall presently discuss. The whole body of the vase is in these examples covered with the black varnish, with the exception of a framed panel of red, on which the figures are painted. This distinction may be well observed in the Second Vase Room of the British Museum, where most of the vases on the east side of the room belong to the former or “red-bodied” class, while all those on the west side are “black-bodied,” with designs in panels.

In the red-figured vases the black varnish is used as the background, and covers the whole vase, as in the “black-bodied” B.F. fabrics, the figures not being actually painted, but left red  in the colour of the clay. The process was as follows:—Before the varnish was applied the outlines of the figures were indicated, not by incised lines but by drawing a thick line of black with a brush round their contours. It is probable that a fine brush was used at first, especially for more delicate work, and then a broader brush producing a line about an eighth of an inch in thickness. The process, be it noted, is more akin to drawing  than painting; and it was as draughtsmen par excellence  that the red-figure artists excelled. The next stage was to mark the inner details by means of very fine black lines (corresponding to the incised lines of B.F. vases), or by masses of black for surfaces such as the hair; white and purple were also employed, but far more sparingly than on the earlier vases. In the late Athenian and South Italian vases a tendency to polychromy sprang up, but the main process always remained the same to the final decadence of the art. The figures being completed and protected from accidents by their broad black borders, the varnishing of the whole exterior surface was then proceeded with. This was of course a purely mechanical business. A fragment of a red-figured vase in the Sèvres Museum forms an excellent illustration of the method employed, as, although the figures are finished, the ground has never been filled in, and the original black border is plainly visible (Fig. 71).


The result of the second baking was to fix the varnish and cause it to permeate the surface of the clay in such a way as to become practically inseparable from it. The subsidiary colours, on the other hand, which were laid on over the black, are always liable to disappear or fade.

A very interesting representation of painters at work on their vases is to be seen on a hydria from Ruvo (Fig. 72). Three painters are seated at work with their brushes, of whom two are being crowned by Victories, while the third is about to receive a wreath from Athena, the protecting goddess of the industry. Their paint-pots are to be seen by their side. At one end of the scene a woman is similarly occupied.

From Blümner .


In class 3 (a ), or vases with figures on white ground, we have to deal with the process of covering the naturally pale clay with a white slip of more or less thick and creamy consistency, on which the designs were painted. In the archaic period this process is fairly common, especially in the earliest vases of Corinth and of Ionia, and at Kyrene and Naukratis. It was revived at Athens about the end of the sixth century (see pp. 385, 455). But when once the white slip was laid on, the technical process differed little from that in use on ordinary red-ground vases, except for the general avoidance of white as an accessory; it merely results that instead of a contrast of black and red, one of black and cream is obtained. The method was one also largely practised in early painting, as we see in the Corinthian pinakes and the sarcophagi of Clazomenae (pp. 316, 362).

But there is another class of white-ground vases to which we must devote more special attention, namely, those on which the figures are painted either in outline or with polychrome washes on the same white slip. The earliest instance of such a method is in the series of fragments found at Naukratis, dating from the beginning of the sixth century (see p. 348), which technically and artistically are of remarkably advanced character, and combine the two methods of painting in outline and in washes of colour. In the fifth century the practice was revived at Athens as a means of obtaining effective results with small vases, and became especially characteristic of one class, the funeral lekythi, which are elsewhere described (Chapter XI.). This, however, must serve as the most convenient place for a few remarks on their technique.

The vases, after they had left the wheel and were fitted with handle, etc., were covered with a coating of white flaky pigment, in consistency resembling liquid plaster of Paris, or, when dry, pipeclay. They received this coat of white while still on the wheel, and then a second coating, of the usual black varnish, was applied to such parts as were not required for decoration. Usually the white covered the cylindrical part of the body, and the shoulder up to the neck; black was applied to the mouth, neck, handle, base of body, and stem. The clay, it should be noted, is of the ordinary kind, but two varieties have been distinguished, one of pale red, for light thin vases, the other of a blackish-grey, for thicker and heavier ware. The natural colour appears on the inside of the lip and foot. Before being removed from the wheel the vases were finely polished, which gave to the white coating a sort of lustrous sheen; they were then fired at a low temperature.

The method of decoration was usually as follows:—A preliminary sketch was made with fine grey lines, ignoring draperies (hence the lines of figures are usually visible through  the draperies), but not always necessarily followed when the colours were laid on. This was done as soon as the first lines were dry, the colour being applied with a fine brush and in monochrome—black, yellow, or red—following the lines of the sketch more or less closely. In the later examples red was used exclusively, and at all periods at Athens; but in the vases attributed to Locri and Sicily, a black turning to yellow is used. This combination of black and yellow is also used on the best Attic vases for various details, such as eyes and hair. The outlines also served to indicate the folds of the draperies. For the surfaces of drapery and other details, polychrome washes were employed, the colour being spread uniformly by means of a large brush. All varieties of red from rose to brown are found, also violet, light and brownish yellow, blue, black, and green. Hair is sometimes treated in outline, sometimes by means of washes. It is noteworthy that in the later examples the wash-colours were often painted right over the red lines. On the bodies of the figures these washes are rare, but in some cases shades of brown are used for flesh colour, as on the figure of Hypnos on a lekythos in the British Museum (D 58).

At Athens this polychrome decoration was not indeed limited to the lekythi, but was extended to the kylix, the pyxis, and other forms, of which some beautiful examples exist in the British Museum and at Athens. In these, as in the best of the lekythi, the drawing of Greek artists seems almost to have reached perfection, and arouses our wonder yet more when we reflect that everything was done merely by freehand strokes of the brush. This technique is practically limited to the period 480–350 B.C.

The subsidiary ornamentation of the lekythi was put on either after the main design or before, this being immaterial. The lines above the design can be seen to have been painted on the wheel, as they go all round the vase; but the palmettes on the shoulder and maeander patterns above the design do not extend beyond it. After the colouring the vases appear to have been fired again, and in some cases the white slip was probably varnished. The details of their manufacture show that the lekythi were not intended for daily use; the shape is awkward for handling—the handles, for instance, are obviously not intended for practical use—and the delicate, lightly baked slip made them too porous for liquids. Everything tends in the direction of elegance and delicacy.

Our next sub-division consists of vases, chiefly of late date, in which the decoration is by means of opaque colours laid on the surface of a vase altogether coated with black varnish or glaze. The process is not indeed one absolutely unknown in earlier times, for there is the primitive Kamaraes ware of Crete, and also a small series of archaic vases belonging to the early part of the fifth century in which this principle is adhered to, the designs being painted in opaque red or white on the black varnish. The latter seem to show a development from the black-figure period, to the end of which they belong, and may have been intended to rival the new red-figure method, but failed to attain popularity.

We next meet with the process in Southern Italy, where it again appears as the last effort of a worn-out fashion to flicker into life with renewed popularity. The centre of this revival, which follows on after the Apulian vases of the third century, was Gnatia (Fasano), on the coast of that district. The vases arepartly modelled in relief, or have ornaments in relief attached; the decoration, in white and purple, is confined to one side only, and is very feeble and limited in its scope. An apparently local variety, perhaps made in Campania by native craftsmen, has the figures in opaque red, with details marked by rudely incised lines.

The Gnatia style was adopted by the Romans in the second century for a small series of vases inscribed with names of Italian deities, such as Juno and Vesta (p. ), and it appears in the method of decoration known as en barbotine  on the pottery of the Empire (see Chapters ., .).


The instruments which were employed for the painting of the vases were not, as formerly supposed, limited to a metal or reed pen, and a camel's-hair brush. It has been recently pointed out in a most illuminating article by Dr. Hartwigthat the lines of black bordering the figures on red-figured vases are usually double, the space in between being filled in with varnish thus: ornament. Practical experiments have shown that this can be obtained with a feather brush  or pen, drawing the lines separately, not concurrently, as might be done with a metal pen. The feathers of the snipe were specially suitable for this purpose, as were also those of the swallow. It is probable that we see the use of the ordinary brush on the Ruvo vase-painting already mentioned, but this was no doubt used for filling in the ground and all parts where the colour was laid on in large masses. Again, on a fragment from the Athenian Acropolis (Fig. 73) a man is seen covering the inside of a B.F. kylix with black varnish while he turns it on the wheel; this is also done with an ordinary brush. But there is a R.F. kylix, on the interior of which we see the undoubted use of the feather-brush or pen (Fig. 74). In his left hand the painter seems to hold the sharp tool for engraving the outlines of the figures, and with his right he manipulates the feather-pen which is seen to consist of a small feather inserted in a wooden holder.


It is not likely that this instrument was generally used before the introduction of the R.F. style; it would hardly have been required either for the silhouette figures of the B.F. vases or the outlines on the white ground. According to Hartwig, Andokides, one of the earliest R.F. artists (about 520 B.C.) was making experiments in the use of the feather-pen, and in the course of twenty years, in the vases of Epiktetos and his school, its use had become general. It is not indeed unknown on B.F. vases, and can be traced in the ornamentation where fine lines were required, as on the Amasis vase in the Bibliothèque Nationale. It was probably first used in the more developed Ionic pottery, but as we have seen had no chance of becoming generally used until the essentially linear R.F. style came into vogue. The artists who reached the height of skill in its use were Meidias and the painters of the delicate little vases of the latter half of the fifth century, this instrument being also admirably adapted for making the fine inner lines in which the painters of that period achieved such success.

Besides the painting-brush and the feather-pen, the other instruments used in the decoration of vases include the pointed graving-tools employed for incised lines, modelling-tools for the parts in relief, a stick for steadying the hand while at work, and a pair of compasses. The latter were employed for marking circles, as may be clearly seen on shields on the B.F. vases, where the mark left by the central point of the compasses is often visible.

The difficulties in the painting of Greek vases must have been numerous. In the first place, it was necessary for the artist to finish his sketch with great rapidity, since the clay rapidly absorbed the colouring matter, and the outlines were required to be bold and continuous, any joins producing a bad effect. Again, the vases were often painted while in an upright position, and the artist was obliged to stoop, rise, and execute his work in these difficult attitudes; nor could he remove the pencil from any figure which he had once begun. The eye must have been his only guide. Then, as he was obliged to draw his outline upon a damp surface, the black colour which he used was instantly confounded with the tint of the clay. The lines grew broad at first, and afterwards contracted themselves, leaving but a light trace, so that the artist could with difficulty discern what he had been doing. Moreover, the lines, once begun, could not be left off except where they met other lines which cut or terminated them. Thus, for example, the profile of a head must have been executed with a single continuous line, which could not be interrupted till it met the neck; and in drawing a thigh or leg, the whole outline must have been finished without taking off the pencil: proceeding from the top downwards, making use of the point to mark the horizontal lines, and afterwards rising upwards to finish the opposite side. The drawing was done entirely by the hand and no pattern used.

The outlines round the figures on R.F. vases were drawn strongly, in the manner described above, to prevent the background encroaching on the figure. That this was done while the clay was moist appears by the outlines uniting, which could not have taken place if the clay had been dry. It was so difficult to fill in the outlines without alteration, that they were frequently changed, and sometimes the ground was not reached, while at others it exceeded the line.

The ancient artists, notwithstanding these difficulties, observed all the laws of balance and proportion, especially ἰσομετρία, or the law of equal height of all figures; conveyed expression by means of attitude; and, by the use of profile, and the introduction of accessories, or small objects, into the background, contrived to compensate for the want of perspective.

This latter deficiency was due to the use of flat colours, which did not allow of shades, and the figures were consequently not seen in masses distinguished by light and shade, but isolated in the air. Hence, in order to make the figures distinct, and to express by attitude all the actions and sentiments required, the artist was compelled to use profile. The black colour, the choice of which may at first appear singular, is, after all, the most harmonious, and the best suited for showing the elegance and purity of the outline; whilst by its aptness to reveal any defects of shape, it compelled the artist to be very careful in his drawing.

The colours employed were, as we have seen, remarkably few in number. Of the black varnish which plays such an important part, and of its composition we have already spoken. Of the opaque accessory colours, the white is said by Brongniart to be a carbonate of lime or fine clay. It is evidently an earth of some kind, and gives no trace of lead under analysis. The creamy slip of the white-ground vases is of similar character, and appears to be a kind of pipeclay. It was probably of the same character as the earth of Melos used by Polygnotos. The deep purple or crimson, so largely employed on the Corinthian and early Attic B.F. vases, is known to be an oxide of iron, an element which entered largely into the red glaze. The yellow found on the white vases and those of Apulia as an accessory to white is of an ochrous nature. The red used for outlines on the white lekythi is probably not vermilion (minium ), but red ochre (μίλτοςrubrica ). Blue and green, which are rarely found, and only on vases of the later styles, were produced from a basis of copper. On vases from the time of Euphronios and Brygos (about 480 B.C.) onwards, gilding was occasionally employed, the process being one which we have already described. Good instances of this process are to be seen in the fourth-century vases from Capua, which are glazed black throughout and ornamented solely with gilding. But the gold leaf has often perished. Besides Capua, these vases are found chiefly in Athens and the Cyrenaica.

The earliest date at which public attention was directed to the painted vases was the end of the seventeenth century. In those days, it need hardly be said, systematic excavation was a thing quite unknown, while archaeology as a science was non-existent. Beyond a few sculptures which had been handed down at Rome or elsewhere through many vicissitudes, cabinets of gems which had been preserved by cardinals and other dignitaries who employed them for signet-rings, chiefly for ecclesiastical purposes, and some collections of coins of the Renaissance period, there were no specimens of ancient art preserved. During the seventeenth century, however, the fashion arose of making voyages to Italy or Greece, and bringing back any spoils that might attract the notice of the traveller. In this way the collection of Arundel Marbles at Oxford was made, and the nucleus of many of the famous private collections of England formed. But the painted vases, which for the most part lay buried in tombs, escaped notice almost entirely—and, perhaps even where specimens were preserved, they attracted little notice—until with Winckelmann arose a gradual hankering after the possession of artistic treasures and the formation of collections of antiques.

The earliest allusion to be found to painted vases is in the works of La Chausse (Caussius),[1] and in the Thesaurus  of Graevius,[2] while the oldest existing catalogue is that of the collection of the Elector of Brandenburg, compiled by L. Beger in 1696–1701.[3] Some few are illustrated in these works, while others were given later by Montfaucon,[4] Dempster,[5] Gori,[6] and Caylus.[7] Winckelmann published several vases in his Histoire de l'Art  (1764) and Monumenti Antichi  (1769), and the industrious Passeri in 1767–75 published, besides a supplement to Dempster, three volumes containing coloured engravings of vases in various collections.

Sir William Hamilton, who was for some time English Ambassador at Naples, formed there a considerable collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, mostly painted vases, which had been discovered in various tombs in Southern Italy and Etruria. All these he brought with him to England and sold to the newly instituted British Museum in 1767. A Frenchman named Hugues or D'Hancarville compiled a magnificent work in four volumes [8] illustrating the vases in this collection, with elaborate diagrams of the shapes; but the representations of the subjects are often marred by the imaginary ornamental borders in which they are framed, while the whole work, like others of the same period, is marked by a tendency to ignore all but the artistic interest, and instead of an accurate reproduction to aim merely at giving a pretty picture.

A second collection of vases belonging to Hamilton was mostly lost at sea, but a record of it has been preserved in Tischbein's work, Vases d'Hamilton [9] in four volumes, which is more accurate and useful than that of D'Hancarville. It is believed that many of these vases are now in the Hope collection at Deepdene, which is unfortunately inaccessible to archaeologists.

The Hamilton collection formed, as we have said, the nucleus of the magnificent array of vases in the British Museum. Most of them, it is true, belong to the later period or decadence of vase-painting, and were not only found, but had also been manufactured, in Italy. Although the time for a scientific study and classification was not yet to be for some sixty years, the interest in the subject was decidedly on the increase, and many English noblemen and gentlemen were forming collections, as well as such foreigners as the Duc de Blacas, the Duc de Luynes, and M. Millin. It became the fashion to produce large folio works embodying the contents of these collections in series of coloured illustrations, and thus we have, besides those already mentioned, the imposing publications of Millin,[10] Millingen [11], Laborde [12], and others. On the same lines, but mostly of later date, are the publications of De Rossi [13], Christie [14], Moses [15], Inghirami [16], Lanzi [17], Böttiger [18], Micali [19], Raoul-Rochette [20], Stackelberg [21], and the Duc de Luynes [22], who published either their own vases, as De Luynes, or some well-known collection like that of the Duc de Blacas, or some particular class of vases: e.g. Micali, those found in Etruria; Raoul-Rochette and Inghirami, those illustrating Homer; and Stackelberg, those found in tombs in Greece Proper. Few of these, it will be seen, were published in England, where neither public patronage nor private enterprise were found prepared to rival the achievements of the Continent.

In most of these works the vases are styled “Etruscan” as a matter of course. Even nowadays it is a very common experience to hear vases spoken of as “Etruscan” or even as “Etruscan urns,” as if every vase was used as a receptacle for the ashes of the dead. This error has lasted, with all the perseverance of a popular fallacy, for over a century, and cannot now be too strongly denounced. But at the beginning of the last century the Etruscan origin of painted vases was most strongly maintained by erudite scholars, chiefly Italians who desired to champion the credit of their own country, and the controversy raged with varying force till Greece was able to substantiate her own case by the numbers of vases that came forth from her tombs to proclaim their Hellenic origin.

The “Etruscan” theory was first promulgated by Montfaucon, Gori, Caylus, and Passeri, between 1719 and 1752; their arguments being based on the plausible ground that up till that time the vases had been found almost exclusively in Etruria. So the term “Etruscan vase” passed into the languages of Europe, and has survived in spite of a century of refutation. But in 1763 Winckelmann, the father of scientific archaeology, conceived the idea that the spirit and character of the vase-paintings were wholly Greek; and he proposed to call them Italo-Greek or Graeco-Sicilian, indicating Magna Graecia as the true place of their manufacture. This was a step in the right direction, and he was supported later by Lanzi, Millin, Millingen, and others (1791–1813). A further attempt was made to define the particular places of their fabric, and Nola, Locri, and Agrigentum were suggested as the most important centres. Meanwhile, the discoveries of vases in Attica, at Corinth, and elsewhere in Greece, and subsequently the publication of Stackelberg's work, helped to confirm the position of Winckelmann's followers.

In 1828 came what M. Pottier terms “an objectionable revival of Etruscomania,” with the extensive and marvellously fruitful excavations at Vulci under the direction of the Prince of Canino, Lucien Bonaparte, on whose estates most of the tombs were found. Several thousand vases were the yield of this site, mostly of the best periods of Greek art. This was a great epoch in the history of the study of Greek vases. A flood of fresh light was thrown on the subject by the mass of new material, and a whole new literature arose in consequence. Hitherto vases of the archaic and fine periods had only been known in isolated instances, and the bulk of the existing collections was formed of the florid vases of the Decadence; but now it became possible to fill up the gaps and trace the whole development of the art from the simplest specimens with decorative patterns or figures of animals down to the very last stages of painting.

These discoveries prompted Prince Lucien Bonaparte to revive the theory of Etruscan origin, in which he was supported by D'Amatis and De Fea. It is probable that all three were animated more by patriotic motives than by intellectual conviction. At any rate their arguments appealed but little to scholars, although not a few inclined to take a middle course, and maintained that there existed, not only in Etruria but also in Southern Italy, various local centres of manufacture under Greek superintendence and in close connection with Athens and her influences. These ideas were upheld by Gerhard, Welcker, the Duc de Luynes, and Ch. Lenormant. But the preponderating arguments were to be found on the other side, from Kramer (1837), who attributed all vases but those of the Decadence to an Attic origin, O. Müller, who limited this to the finer examples from Vulci, and Raoul-Rochette, who pinned his faith to Sicily, to Otto Jahn [23], who may be said to have founded the modern comparative study of Greek ceramics on its present basis (1854).

Jahn pronounced decisively for the Greek origin of all but the later fabrics, and his principles have been adopted by all succeeding archaeologists, with the exception of Brunn, and one or two of the latter's disciples, who have swung back to the Italian theory in some respects. Up to his time all had been in chaos, and each writer worked on his own particular line without regard to others, both as regards the origin of the vases and the subjects depicted thereon; but Jahn, in his epoch-making catalogue of the vases at Munich, was the first to make a serious and scientific attempt to reduce the chaos to order, not only by adopting a rational system of interpretation, but by systematising and reducing to one common denominator all previous contributions to knowledge.

We may say that the study of Greek vases has passed through three main stages: (1) Artistic; (2) Epexegetic; (3) Historical.

(1) Artistic  (1690—1770).—In the first stage, as we have seen, the artistic merit of the vases and the aim of producing a pretty picture were alone regarded. Hence, too, arose the fashion of making copies of Greek vases, and many specimens were produced by Wedgwood [24], bearing, however, no more than a superficial likeness to the originals.

(2) Epexegetic  (1770—1854).—In the second stage it seems to have been suddenly discovered that the figures on the vases were not mere meaningless groups, like the Watteau shepherds and shepherdesses on Dresden china, and many strange theories were at first promulgated as to the purposes for which the vases were made and the subjects thereon depicted. Three main lines of interpretation seem to have been adopted by the writers of this period:—

(a ) Passeri, Millin, Lanzi, and Visconti supposed that allusions were made to the life of the deceased person in whose tomb they were found; allegorical representations were given of his childish games, his youthful pastimes, or the religious and social ceremonies in which he took part.

(b ) Italynski, in his preface to Tischbein's work, enunciates the strange notion that they allude to events of Greek and Roman history: for instance, three draped men represent the three chief archons of Athens, or three women conversing, Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus, with her daughter and daughter-in-law, considering whether she should appear as a suppliant before her son. The utterly fantastic and unscientific nature of these explanations was self-evident; the writers of the first group at any rate had a sounder basis for their theories, and on the analogy of the sculptured Greek tombstones might well have been near the truth.

(c ) Another theory, which attained great popularity, and was even adhered to partially for some years afterwards by Panofka, Gerhard, and Lenormant, was that the subjects bore allusion to the Mysteries, more particularly the Eleusinian. The vases were regarded as presents given to the initiated, and the reason why their interpretation was so difficult was that they related to the secrets unfolded in those ceremonies. Many attempts were made to unlock those secrets and to show the mystic moral purport of the pictures; but all is the merest guesswork. The height of fantastic explanation is perhaps reached by Christie, whose work is quite worth perusal as a literary curiosity. Panofka, on the other hand, turned his attention to the inscriptions on the vases,[25] and discerned a symbolical meaning in these, reading into the names of artists rebuses on the subjects over which they were inscribed, e.g. Douris is indicated by Athena with a spear (δόρυ) or Hermaios by a figure of Hermes.

(3) Historical.—The historical or scientific method of studying Greek vases consists mainly in classifying them according to different periods, and within that period to different schools. To these main considerations the artistic merits of the vases and the explanation of the subjects are subordinated. The reason for this is obvious. The artistic and mythological interest of the vases is soon exhausted, and receives no new impetus from new discoveries. Now, with the comparative study of vases this is not the case. Any day may bring forth a new discovery which will completely revolutionise all preconceived theories; hence there is the constant necessity for being “up-to-date,” and for the adjustment of old beliefs to new.

But the historical method is not entirely of modern growth. As long ago as 1767 the first attempt was made by D'Hancarville [26] to classify vases according to their age. Taking such scanty data as were available, he divided Italian vases into five classes, ranging from “some centuries before the foundation of Rome” down to the reigns of Trajan, the Antonines, and Septimius Severus, which “announc'd the total decadency of the Art.” The earlier vases he sought to fix more precisely by reference to the history of painting as told by Pliny.

The Duc de Luynes, writing in 1832,[27] hesitates to define the exact age of the various styles, though he arranges them generally in six classes, ranging from the “Doric” or “Phoenician” vases down to barbaric imitations by the natives of Italy. According to him the red-figured vases lasted from the time of Perikles down to that of Pyrrhos. Millingen was content with three periods only, his division [28] being: (1) ancient style, 700–450 B.C.; (2) fine style, 450–228 B.C.; (3) late style, 228 to Social War. Kramer distinguishes five epochs: (A) Egyptian style, 580–500 B.C.; (B) older style, 500–460 B.C.; (C) severe style, 460—420 B.C.; (D) fine style, 420–380 B.C.; (E) rich style, 380–200 B.C.[29] Gerhard [30] surmisedthat the earliest vases might date from the ninth or tenth century B.C., the fine style extending over the fifth and fourth, while the decadence culminated in the second, and in the first century fictile vases were entirely supplanted by those of metal.

De Witte made a more detailed classification, extending to nine groups, and based rather on technical differences, as several of the groups are contemporaneous; but his classification is essentially a practical one, and may be regarded as forming a sound basis for all succeeding catalogues and treatises, as also for the arrangement of museums.

Jahn in his Introduction is content with four main headings, which for a general classification of a large collection is convenient enough, and has, in fact, been adopted in the Vase Rooms of the British Museum. Under this system the four divisions are: (1) Primitive; (2) Black-figured; (3) Red-figured; (4) Vases of the Decadence. In the Louvre, on the other hand, the arrangement is mainly geographical, according to the sites from which the vases have come.

It is recognised by modern archaeologists,[31] working on the lines laid down by Jahn in the three main divisions of his Introduction, that in dating and classifying a vase or series of vases three points must be taken into consideration: (1) circumstances of discovery; (2) technique and style; (3) inscriptions (when present). The various questions with which the modern study of vase-paintings has mainly to deal will be fully investigated in subsequent chapters, and it is not necessary to say more on this head. But we trust that sufficient attention has been drawn to the many-sided interests presented by—it is not necessary to say a collection of vases, but—a single vase [32].

It may be worth while here to turn aside for a moment and study the rise and growth of the various great vase-collections of Europe. We may with pardonable pride regard the British Museum as standing at the head of these collections, possessing as it does the most representative collection of any, if not the largest. Hardly any known fabric is unrepresented, nor the work of any known artist; though here and there another museum may have the advantage—as, for instance, the Louvre in early black-figured fabrics, Naples in vases of Southern Italy (especially the large specimens), or Athens in various fabrics peculiar to Greece, such as the early vases of Thera and Melos, or the marvellous specimens of “transitional” handiwork found on the Acropolis of Athens.

The nucleus of the British Museum collection was, as has been indicated, formed by the vases obtained from Sir W. Hamilton in 1767, supplemented by those of Towneley and Payne Knight (1805–24): these are nearly all vases of the late period from Southern Italy. Between the years 1837 and 1845 a large quantity of fine black-figured and red-figured vases was acquired from the Canino collection, having been found on that estate at Vulci, and in 1836 acquisitions from M. Durand's sale had helped to swell the number of vases representing that site, including some very fine examples. In 1842 came the Burgon collection, mostly of small vases from Athens and the Greek islands; in 1856 the bequest by Sir William Temple of his collection, formed at Naples, added greatly to the value of the collection of later vases. In 1860–64 large numbers of vases of all periods from 700 B.C. to 400 B.C. were excavated by Salzmann and Biliotti at Kameiros in Rhodes; and from Ialysos in the same island came a number of Mycenaean vases by the generosity of Prof. Ruskin in 1870. Meanwhile, the Blacas collection, purchased in 1867, had added a large number, chiefly of red-figured and Italian vases, and in 1873 many more fine specimens from Capua, Nola, and elsewhere were acquired from M. Castellani. Of late years the chief additions have been from Cyprus, beginning with a few vases from Cesnola in 1876 down to the Turner Bequest excavations in 1894–96, and from the Egypt Exploration Fund's excavations at Naukratis and Daphnae (1884–86). Other acquisitions have been mostly in the form of isolated purchases, especially of the white lekythi and similar classes; some have come from important collections, such as those of Forman, Tyszkiewicz, and Van Branteghem.

In 1870, when the old Catalogue was completed, the collection must have numbered over 2,000 painted vases, besides 1,000 undecorated; at the present day the total cannot be computed at less than 5,000, of which about 4,000 may be described as painted vases.

The Louvre collection in Paris [33] started life about a century ago under the first Napoleon, who established a ceramic section about 1797. Other vases were added from the Vatican and Naples; and meanwhile the Royal collection went to form the present Cabinet of Antiquities in the Bibliothèque Nationale. In 1818 the very limited collection was augmented by 564 vases from M. Tochon, and in 1825 came a magnificent acquisition of about 2,000 vases (mostly painted) from M. Durand. From this time till 1863 the growth was very slow, and the Louvre does not seem to have profited like other museums by the excavations at Vulci. In the latter year, however, another splendid collection of 2,000 painted and 1,400 unpainted vases was acquired from Count Campana, which necessitated the building of new galleries. The early B.F. fabrics, in which the Louvre is so pre-eminently rich, were all in this collection. During the last thirty years the only acquisitions of importance have been representative specimens from Greece and Cyprus; but the total number is now reckoned at 6,000.

The growth of the Berlin collection has been much more slow and consistent.[34] Its nucleus was derived from the collection of the Elector of Brandenburg described by Beger in 1701. Up to 1830 most of the vases acquired were from Southern Italy and Campania, including 1,348 from the Koller collection in 1828. In 1831, 442 vases and 179 specimens of Etruscan plain ware were acquired from the Dorow collection, and from 1833 to 1867 the activity of Gerhard procured fine specimens from time to time, while 174 were bequeathed by him at his death. When Levezow's Catalogue was published in 1834, it included 1,579 specimens; the next one by Furtwaengler in 1885 describes more than 4,000. Of late years many valuable specimens have been derived from various parts of Greece.

These three may be regarded as the typical representative collections of Europe; those of Athens, Munich, Naples, and Petersburg are all of great merit and value, but chiefly strong in one particular department—Athens in early vases and Attic lekythi, Petersburg in late red-figured vases, and Naples in the fabrics of Southern Italy. Many of the finest specimens, however, are to be found in the smaller collections in the Paris Bibliothèque, at Florence, Vienna, Madrid, and in Rome. Of late years Europe has found a formidable rival in America, especially in the Museum of Fine Arts at Boston, which, backed by almost inexhaustible private benefactions, is gradually acquiring a large proportion of the signed vases and other chefs-d'œuvre  which from time to time find their way into the market. The Metropolitan Museum at New York, on the other hand, rests its claim to distinction on the possession of General Cesnola's enormous collections of Cypriote pottery of all periods.

The gradual centralising of vases into public museums is a noteworthy feature at the present day. The private collections formed by so many amateurs at the beginning of the century have nearly all been long since dispersed and incorporated with the various national collections [35]; and those formed more recently are rapidly sharing the same fate. Hardly a year passes now without seeing the dispersion of some notable collection like those of M. Sabouroff, M. van Branteghem, Colonel Brown (Forman collection), or M. Bourguignon; and almost the only important one that still remains intact is that of Sig. Jatta at Ruvo (consisting almost entirely of South Italian vases). Now that the days are past when it was the custom for rich collectors to publish magnificently illustrated atlases of their possessions, this tendency to centralisation can only be welcomed both by artists and students. For the latter now it only remains to be desired that a scientific and well-illustrated catalogue of every public museum should be available.

1 .  Museum Romanum , Rome, 1690, fol.

2 .  Thesaur. Antiq. Rom. xii. 955.

3 .  Thesaur. regii Brandenb. vol. iii.

4 .  Ant. Expliq. iii. pls. 71–77 (1719).

5 .  Etr. Regal. 1723, fol.

6 .  Mus. Etr. 1737–43.

7 .  Recueil , 1752–67 (especially vols. i.–ii.).

8 .  Antiqs. Étr. Gr. et Rom., tirées du Cabinet de M. H., fol. 1766–67.

9 .  1791–1803. Plates for a fifth volume were prepared, but never regularly published (see Reinach,Répertoire des Vases Peints , ii. p. 334).

10 .  Peintures des Vases Antiques , edited by M. Dubois-Maisonneuve, in two volumes, with Introduction (1808–10); now re-edited by S. Reinach (1891).

11 .  Vases Grecs , Rome, 1813; Vases de Coghill , Rome, 1817; Ancient Uned. Monuments , London, 1822; the two former now re-edited by S. Reinach, 1891 and 1900.

12 .  Vases de Lamberg , Paris, 1813–25; re-edited by S. Reinach, 1900.

13 .  Vasi de Blacas. This was never actually published: see Reinach, Répertoire , ii. p. 383.

14 .  Disquisitions on the Painted Vases , 1806.

15 .  Coll. of Antique Vases , London, 1814.

16 .  Vasi Fittili , 4 vols. 1833; Mon. Etruschi  (1824), vol. v.; Gal. Omerica , 3 vols. 1831–36, etc.

17 .  De' vasi antichi dipinti , 1806.

18 .  Gr. Vasengemälde , 1797–1800.

19 .  Monumenti per servire alla storia degli ant. pop. ital. 2nd edn. 1833; Monumenti inediti , 1844.

20 .  Mon. Inéd. 1828.

21 .  Gräber der Hellenen , Berlin, 1837.

22 .  Descr. de quelques vases peints , 1840.

23 .  Die Vasensammlung zu München , Introduction.

24 .  He gave the name of Etruria to the place in Staffordshire where he set up his pottery, after the supposed origin of the ancient vases.

25 .  Namen der Vasenbilder , 1849.

26 .  Vol. ii. p. 108.

27 .  Ann. dell' Inst. 1832, p. 145 ff.

28 .  Peintures , p. viii.

29 .  Der Stil u. Herkunft der gr. Vasen , p. 46 ff.

30 .  Rapporto Volcente , in Ann. dell' Inst. 1831, p. 98 ff.

31 .  The names of the chief modern writers on the subject are given in the Bibliography, and in the notes to the Historical Chapters (VI.-XI.), where also brief bibliographies are given.

32 .  The writer is indebted to the Introduction to M. Pottier's admirable little Catalogue of the Vases in the Louvre for many ideas worked up in the foregoing pages.

33 .  See Pottier's Catalogue, i. p. 59.

34 .  See the Introduction to Furtwaengler's Catalogue.

35 .  Cf. the lists given by Jahn, Vasens. zu München , pp. xi, xiv, with (for instance) the notes appended to the pages of Reinach's Répertoire .

Before dealing with Greek vases in further detail, it may be as well to say something of the circumstances under which, and the localities in which, they have been discovered. And further, we must clearly define the limits of our subject, both historically and geographically.

(1) Historical.—It may seem somewhat paradoxical to doubt whether the primitive pottery found on Greek soil ought, strictly speaking, to be called Greek. In a succeeding chapter we shall have occasion to touch upon the question of the ethnological origin of this pottery, which, in the opinion of some authorities, is not the product of Greeks as we understand the term, but of some Oriental nation, such as the Phoenicians. It is, however, enough for our present purpose that it has been found on Greek soil, and that it forms a stage which we cannot omit from a study of the development of Greek pottery, seeing that its influence can be plainly traced on later fabrics.

Turning to the other limit of the subject, we find that nearly all the latest vases, belonging to the period of the Decadence, were manufactured in Southern Italy or Etruria. But nearly all bear so unmistakably the stamp of Greek influence, however degenerate and obscured, that we can only regard them as madeby Greek artists settled in the colonies of Magna Graecia, or at any rate by native workers in direct imitation of the Greeks.

We may roughly define our historical limits as from 2500 B.C., the approximate age of the early pottery of Crete, Cyprus, and Hissarlik, down to 200 B.C., when the manufacture of painted vases came to an end under the growing dominion of Rome. It was formerly supposed that the senatorial edict of 186 B.C., forbidding the performance of Bacchanalian ceremonies in Italy, was the means of putting an end to this industry, but this is hardly borne out by facts; it rather died a natural death owing to the growing popularity of relief-work both in terracotta and in metal (see Chapters XI. and XXII.).

(2) Geographical.—Having defined our historical limits, it remains to consider the extent of Greek civilisation during that period, as attested by archaeological or other evidence. Besides the mainland of Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea, the whole of Asia Minor may be regarded as in a measure Greek, although practically speaking only a strip of territory along the western coast became really Hellenised, and we shall not be concerned with pottery-finds in any other part of the country.[48] To the north-east, Greek colonisation penetrated as far as Kertch and other places in the Crimea, known to the ancients as Panticapaeum and the Bosphoros respectively. In the Eastern Mediterranean the island of Cyprus will demand a large share of our attention. Egypt, again, has yielded large numbers of vases, mostly from the two Greek settlements of Naukratis and Daphnae; and farther to the west along the north coast of Africa was the Greek colony of Kyrene, also a fruitful site for excavators.

The rest of the ground is covered by the island of Sicily and the peninsular portion of Italy from Bologna southwards. Greek vases have occasionally turned up in Spain, Gaul (i.e. France and North Italy), as at Marseilles (Massilia), where primitive Greek pottery has been found, and also in Sardinia;but the Western Mediterranean sites are chiefly confined to Southern Italy and Etruria. In fact, till recent years these regions were almost our only source of information on Greek pottery, as has already been pointed out.

Generally speaking, it may be said that all Greek vases have been found in tombs, but the circumstances under which they have been found differ according to locality. We propose in the succeeding section to say something of the nature of the ancient tombs, and the differences between those of Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and other sites.

Of finds on the sites of temples and sanctuaries it is not necessary to say much here; the explanation of such discoveries will receive some attention in Chapter IV., and the individual sites will also be noted in the next section of this chapter. It is a rare occurrence to find complete vases under these circumstances, as they generally owe their preservation to the fact that they have been broken in pieces and cast away as rubbish into holes and pits. The most notable instance is the remarkable series of fragments discovered on the Acropolis at Athens.

Greek tombs are not usually very remarkable in character,[49] being for the most part small and designed for single corpses; this may possibly account for the comparatively small size of the vases discovered on most Hellenic sites. In the earlier tombs at Athens and Corinth the pottery was found at a very great depth below the soil. The six shaft-graves in the circle at Mycenae are of great size, and contained large quantities of painted pottery; an exact reproduction of the sixth, found by M. Stamatakis in 1878, with its contents, is in the National Museum at Athens. Here also are reproductions of two typical fifth-century Greek tombs containing sepulchral lekythi,[50] and showing how the vases were arranged round the corpse.[51]

Rock-graves are seldom found in Greece, the normal form of tomb being a hole or trench dug in the earth, either filled in with earth or covered with tiles (as at Tanagra). The rock-grave is almost exclusively Asiatic, but some fine specimens were found at Kertch in the Crimea.[52] Some large ones have also been found in Rhodes,[53] but the most typical form of tomb there is a square chamber cut out of the hard clayey earth, approached by a square vertical shaft and a door. They generally contained single bodies, round which were ranged vases and terracotta figures. Sir A. Biliotti, in his diary of the excavations at Kameiros (1864), also records the finding of tombs cut in the clay in the form of longitudinal trenches, covered with flat stones forming a vaulted roof. Others were merely troughs cut in the surface of the rock and covered with stones and earth. In the shafts of the first type of tomb large jars or πίθοι were often found containing the bones of children (see page 152). Nearly all these tombs have yielded Greek vases of all dates. In the island of Karpathos [54] Mr. J. T. Bent found tombs containing early pottery, consisting of two or three chambers with stone benches round the sides.


The tombs of Cyprus are especially interesting for two reasons: firstly, that they exhibit types not found elsewhere; and, secondly, that they vary in size and character at different periods of the island's history. In the earliest tombs of the Bronze Age period (down to about 800 B.C.) we find a very simple type, consisting of a mere oven-like hole a few feet below the surface of the ground, with a short sloping δρόμος leading to it (Fig. 2 ). These tombs have very rarely been found intact, and in most cases are full of fallen earth, so that exact details of their original arrangement can seldom be obtained. Each tomb generally contained a few exported Mycenaean vases and a large number of local fabric, usually hand-made and rude in character. The rich cemetery of Enkomi is, however, an exception, for here we find large built  tombs, with roofs and walls of stone. Sometimes the Bronze Age tombs were in the form of a deep well.[55]

From Ath. Mitth.


In the Graeco-Phoenician period (about 700–300 B.C.) the “oven” type of tomb is preserved, but on a larger scale and at a greater depth, and often reached by a long flight of stone steps. These tombs usually contain large quantities of the local geometrical pottery, as many as eighty or a hundred vases being sometimes found in one tomb. At Curium and elsewhere, where the tombs contain Greek painted vases, they are sometimes in the form of narrow ramifying passages.

The tombs of the Hellenistic period are of a very elaborate character, especially those of Roman date, with long narrow δρόμος leading to a chamber some ten by twenty feet or more, round the walls of which are sarcophagi and niches; but these tombs seldom contain any but plain and inferior pottery, the manufacture of painted vases in the island having come to an end, as in the rest of Greece.

Frequently a tomb was found to contain pottery of widely different periods, especially in cemeteries such as Amathus and Curium, where the finds are of all dates, showing that the tombs were used again and again for burials.[56]

The tombs in the Cyrenaica, which were explored by Mr. Dennis and contained many Greek vases, he describes as follows [57]: “The great majority of the tombs were sunk in the rock, in the form of pits, from 6 to 7 feet long, from 3½ to 4½ feet wide, and from 5 to 6 feet deep.... Vases were sometimes placed in all four corners of the sepulchre, but this was rare; they were generally confined to two corners, often to one. The most usual place was the corner to the right of the head, and this was the place of honour; for here a Panathenaic vase in the tomb of a victor, a ribbed amphora of glazed black ware, or more commonly an ordinary wine-diota , would be deposited upright, with a number of smaller vases within it, or at its foot, either figured or of black or plain ware, according to the circumstances of the deceased. Occasionally small vases, or sometimes terracotta figures, were placed along the sides of the tomb, between the head and feet of the corpse; but I do not remember ever to have found vases deposited on the breast, or under the arms of the deceased, as was often the case in the Greek tombs of Sicily.”

Mr. Arthur Evans has given an interesting account of the tombs at Gela (Terranuova) in Sicily, from which he has excavated many fine vases for the Ashmolean Museum.[58] Chronologically the limits of their date can be ascertained, between the foundation of Gela in 589 B.C. and its depopulation by the Carthaginians in 409 B.C., but a few tombs belong to the subsequent period down to 284 B.C., when it was finally destroyed by the Mamertines. In the early graves containing B.F. vases skeletons were found; these tombs were in the form of terracotta cists with gabled covers and tiled floors. The next stage, containing R.F. vases, has vaulted roofs made of two pieces of stone. During this period cremation-pits containing ashes and bones are sometimes found; the burnt bones were placed in kraters and covered with shallow vessels. In these were found white lekythi, in some respects rivalling those of Athens; but the subjects are domestic rather than sepulchral, and they are probably, like many of the B.F. and R.F. vases, local fabrics. Some of the tombs with B.F. vases are in the form of chambers with vaulted cement roofs. In the earlier tombs the disposition was usually as follows: a kylix on the left side of the head, an alabastron under the right arm, and a lekythos under the left (Fig. 3 .). The tombs of Selinus, which are all of early date, have been described by a local explorer.[59]

From Ashmolean Vases .


We next review the types of tombs in Italy from which vases have been obtained. Those at Vulci, and in the Etruscan territory generally, from which the finest and largest vases have been extracted, are chambers hewn in the rocks. The early tombs of Civita Vecchia and Cervetri are tunnelled in the earth; in Southern Italy, especially in Campania, they are large chambers, about two feet under the surface. In D'Hancarville's work (see p. 17 ) an illustration is given [60] of a tomb in Southern Italy, which is constructed of large blocks of stone, arranged in squared masses, called the Etruscan style of masonry, in contradistinction to the Cyclopean. The walls are painted with subjects, the body is laid upon the stone floor, and the larger vases, such as the kraters, are placed round it. The jugs are hung upon nails round the walls. Fig. 4 . gives an example of a tomb of this kind from Veii. A full account, with illustrations, of the tombs excavated in the Certosa at Bologna about thirty years ago, has been given by Signor Zannoni.[61] The tombs of Southern and Central Italy were made upon the same plan, and the same description applies to both sites.[62]

The most ordinary tombs were constructed of rude stones or tiles, of a dimension sufficient to contain the body and five or six vases; a small one near the head and others between the legs, and on each side, more often on the right than on the left side. An oinochoe and phiale were usually found in every tomb; but the number, size, and quality of the vases varied, probably according to the rank or wealth of the person for whom the tomb was made. The better sort of tombs were of larger size, and constructed with large hewn stones, generally without, but sometimes completed with, cement; the walls were stuccoed, and sometimes ornamented with painted patterns.

In these tombs, which were like small chambers, the body lay face upwards on the floor, with the vases placed round it; sometimes vases have been found hanging upon nails of iron or bronze, attached to the side walls. The vases in the larger tombs were always more numerous, of a larger size, and of a superior quality in every respect to those of the ordinary tombs, which had little to recommend them except their form.

Many of the larger and more important Etruscan tombs have also been described and illustrated by Dennis in his work on Etruria, especially those of Vulci and Corneto, which are famous both for their contents and for the paintings which adorn their walls.[63] In the basement of the British Museum may be seen large models of Etruscan tombs in which the arrangement is carefully reproduced.

The vases, as we have already mentioned, are often ranged round the dead, being hung upon or placed near the walls, or piled up in the corners. Some hold the ashes of the deceased; others, small objects used during life. They are seldom perfect, having generally either been crushed into fragments by the weight of the superincumbent earth, or else broken into sherds, and thrown into corners. Some exhibit marks of burning, probably from having accompanied the deceased to the funeral pyre. Sometimes they are dug up in a complete state of preservation, and still full of the ashes of the dead.[64] These are sometimes found inside a large and coarser vase of unglazed clay, which forms a case to protect them from the earth.


Almost all the vases in the museums of Europe have been mended, and the most skilful workmen at Naples and Rome were employed to restore them to their pristine perfection. Their defective parts were scraped, filed, rejoined, and supplied with pieces from other vases, or else completed in plaster of Paris, over which coating the restored portions were painted in appropriate colours, and varnished, so as to deceive the inexperienced eye. But either through carelessness, or else owing to the difference of process, the restorations had one glaring technical defect: the inner lines are not of the glossy hue of the genuine vases, and there is no indication of the thick raised line which follows the original outline in the old paintings. Sometimes the restorer pared away the ancient incrustation, and cut down to the dull-coloured paste of the body of the vase. Sometimes he even went so far as to paint figures in a light red or orange oil paint on the black ground, or in black paint of the same kind on orange ground. But in all these frauds the dull tone of colour, the inferior style of art, and the wide difference between modern and ancient drawing and treatment of subjects, disclose the deception. The calcareous incrustation deposited on the vases by the infiltration into the tombs of water, containing lime in solution, can be removed by soaking the vases in a solution of hydrochloric acid.[65]

In other cases vases with subjects have been counterfeited by taking an ancient vase covered entirely with black glaze, tracing upon it the subject and inscription intended to be fabricated, and cutting away all the black portions surrounding these tracings, so as to expose the natural colour of the clay for the fictitious ground. When red figures were intended to be counterfeited, the contrary course was adopted, the part for the figures only being scraped away, and the rest left untouched. Vases, indeed, in which the ground or figures are below the surface should always be regarded with suspicion, and their genuineness can only be determined by the general composition and style of the figures, and by the peculiarities of the inscriptions. The latter also are often fictitious, being painted in with colours imitating the true ones, and often incised; indeed, nearly all inscriptions incised after the vase has been baked are liable to give rise to suspicion. The difference of style in the composition of groups, and especially small points in the drawing, such as the over-careful drawing of details, the indication of nails, and various other minute particulars, are also criteria for detecting false or imitated vases. Water, alcohol, and acids will remove false inscriptions, but leave the true ones intact.

Greek vases are not so easy to imitate as terracotta figures, the main difficulty being the black varnish, which can never be successfully reproduced. Acids or alcohol will always remove modern counterfeits, but cannot touch the original substance. Since the discovery in Greece of white-ground vases forgers have had a better chance, and they have often ingeniously availed themselves of genuine ancient vases on which to place modern paintings. But the antique drawing is exceedingly difficult to imitate. In former times Pietro Fondi established manufactories at Venice and Corfu, and the Vasari family at Venice, for fictitious vases,[66] and many such imitations have been made at Naples for the purpose of modern decoration.

The first to make such an attempt in England was the famous potter Wedgwood, whose copy of the Portland Vase is well known. His paste is, however, too heavy, and his drawings far inferior to the antique in freedom and spirit. At Naples, chiefly through the researches and under the direction of Gargiulo, vases were produced, which in their paste and glaze resembled the antique, although the drawings were vastly inferior, and the imitation could be at once detected by a practised eye. They were, indeed, far inferior in all essential respects to the ancient vases. Even soon after the acquisition of the Hamilton collection by the public, the taste created for these novelties caused various imitations to be produced. Some of the simplest kind were made of wood, covered with painted paper, the subjects being traced from the vases themselves, and this was the most obvious mode of making them. Battam also made very excellent facsimiles of these vases, but they were produced in a manner very different from that of the ancient potters, the black colour for the grounds or figures not being laid on with a glaze, but merely with a cold pigment which had not been fired, and their lustre was produced by a polish. In technical details they did not equal the imitations made at Naples, some of the best of which deceived both archaeologists and collectors.

Sometimes illustrations of vases which never had any real existence have appeared in publications. One of the most remarkable of these fabricated engravings was issued by Bröndsted and Stackelberg in a fit of archaeological jealousy. A modern archaeologist is seen running after a draped woman called PHÊMÊ, or “Fame,” who flies from him exclaiming, ΕΚΑΣ ΠΑΙ ΚΑΛΕ, “A long way off, my fine fellow!” This vase, which never existed except upon paper, deceived the credulous Inghirami, who too late endeavoured to cancel it from his work. Other vases, evidently false, have also been published.[67]

M. Tyszkiewicz, the great collector, in his entertaining Souvenirs ,[68] gives some interesting illustrations of the methods of Italian forgers of vases, of which he had frequent experience. “The Neapolitans,” he says, “excel above all others in this industry; and it is in ancient Capua, now Sta. Maria di Capua Vetere, that the best ateliers  for the manufacture of painted vases are situated.” But “even the famous connoisseur Raimondi, who was considered the master of his art at Sta. Maria—even he could never invent altogether the decoration of a vase so as to make it pass for an antique. Only if this talented artist could get just a few fragments of a fine vase, he was clever enough to be able, by the aid of illustrations of vases in museums or in private collections, to reconstruct the whole subject. He replaced the missing parts, and threw such an air of uniformity over the vase that it was almost impossible to tell what was modern. But if you tried to wash a vase faked up in this manner, in pure alcohol chemically rectified, you would find that the modern portions would vanish, while the ancient paintings would remain. Neither Raimondi nor any one else could ever manage to discover the secret of the ancient potters—how to obtain the background of a brilliant black colour, improperly known as the varnish of Nola . To disguise their failure in this respect, the forgers are obliged, when the vase is entirely reconstructed and repainted, to cover it all over with a varnish of their own invention; but the surface of this varnish, although brilliant, lacks the freshness and brightness of that used by the ancients. Relatively this surface appears dull, and vanishes the moment it is washed with alcohol.”

At Athens also, says M. Tyszkiewicz, laboratories have been established for making vases, of which he was acquainted with three. These forgers excel in turning out the white-ground vases, which, even when antique, cannot resist the action of alcohol. For the same reason they apply gilding to their black-and-red vases, because this also yields to its action. The large prices fetched by the white vases (see below) have stimulated their activity in this direction, and their efforts have not been without artistic merit, though failing in technique.[69]

On the subject of forgeries in relation to Greek vases the literature is very scanty; but reference may be made to Prof. Furtwaengler's Neuere Fälschungen von Antiken , which raises some very interesting questions in regard to forgeries, though his conclusions may sometimes be thought rather arbitrary.

Of the prices paid for painted vases in ancient times, no positive mention occurs in classical authorities, yet it is most probable that vases of the best class, the products of eminent painters, obtained considerable prices. For works of inferior merit only small sums were paid, as will be seen by referring to the account of the inscriptions which were incised underneath their feet, and gave their contemporary value. In modern times we have no information about the prices paid for these works of art till about seventy years ago, when they began to realise considerable sums. In this country the collections of Mr. Towneley, Sir W. Hamilton, Lord Elgin, and Mr. Payne Knight all contained painted vases; but as they included other objects, it is difficult to determine the value placed on the vases. The sum of £8,400 was paid for the vases of the Hamilton collection, one of the most remarkable of the time, and consisting of many beautiful specimens from Southern Italy. The great discoveries of the Prince of Canino in 1827, and the subsequent sale of numerous vases, gave them, however, a definite market value, to which the sale of the collection of Baron Durand, which consisted almost entirely of vases, affords some clue. His collection sold in 1836 for 313,160 francs, or about £12,524. The most valuable specimen in the collection was the vase representing the death of Kroisos, which was purchased for the Louvre at the price of 6,600 francs, or £264. The cup with the subject of Arkesilaos brought 1,050 francs, or £42. Another magnificent vase, now in the Louvre, with the subject of the youthful Herakles strangling the serpents,[70] was only secured for France after reaching the price of 6,000 francs, or £240; another, with the subject of Herakles, Deianeira, and Hyllos,[71] was purchased for the sum of 3,550 francs, or £142. A krater, with the subject of Akamas and Demophon bringing back Aithra, was obtained by Magnoncourt for 4,250 francs, or £170.[72] An amphora of the maker Exekias (B 210) was bought by the British Museum for £142. The inferior vases of course realised much smaller sums, varying from a few francs to a few pounds; but high prices continued to be obtained, and the sale by the Prince of Canino in 1837 of some of his finest vases contributed to enrich the museums of Europe, although, as many of the vases were bought in, it does not afford a good criterion as to price. An oinochoë with Apollo and the Muses, and a hydria, with the same subject, were bought in for 2,000 francs, or £80 each. A kylix, with a love scene, and another with Priam redeeming Hektor's corpse,[73]brought 6,600 francs, or £264. An amphora with the subject of Dionysos, and the Euphronios cup with Herakles and Geryon, sold for 8,000 francs, or £320 each. A vase with the subject of Theseus seizing Korone, another by Euthymides with the arming of Paris, and a third with Peleus and Thetis, sold for 6,000 francs, or £240. The collector Steuart was offered 7,500 francs, or £300, for a large krater, found in Southern Italy, ornamented with the subject of Kadmos and the dragon; £120 was paid by the British Museum for a fine krater ornamented with the exploits of Achilles [74]; £100 for an amphora of Apulian style, with the subject of Pelops and Oinomaos at the altar of the Olympian Zeus.[75] For another vase, with the name of Mousaios, £120 was paid, and £100 for the well-known Athenian prize vase excavated by Burgon.[76] At Mr. Beckford's sale the Duke of Hamilton gave £200 for a lekythos representing a procession of Persians, which is now in the British Museum (E 695). At Naples the passion for possessing fine vases outstripped these prices; 2,400 ducats, or £500, was given for a vase with gilded figures discovered at Capua. Still more incredible, early in the nineteenth century, 8,000 ducats, or £1,500, was paid to Vivenzio for the vase now in the Naples Museum representing the sack of Troy; 6,000 ducats, or £1,000, for one with a Dionysiac feast; and 4,000 ducats, or £800, for the grand vase with the battle of the Amazons, published by Schulz.[77] Another vase, for which the sum of £1,000 was paid, was the so-called Capo di Monte Vase, purchased by Mr. Edwards, at Naples.[78] For the large colossal vases of Southern Italy from £300 to £500 has been given, according to their condition and style. But such sums will not be hereafter realised, now that their place in the estimation of the connoisseur has been rightly taken by the fine red-figured or white ground vases, which, owing to the stringency of modern laws, seldom now find their way into the market. The vases with white grounds and polychrome figures have also been always much sought after, and have realised large prices, the best-preserved examples fetching as much as £70 or £100.[79] Generally the highest prices have been paid for artistic merit, but these have been surpassed in the case of some vases of high literary or historical value. As a general rule vases with inscriptions have always been most sought after, especially when the inscriptions are the signatures of the names of potters or artists, or names of historical interest. The inferior kinds have fetched prices much more moderate, the kylikes averaging from £5 to £10, the amphorae from £10 to £20, the hydriae about the same; the kraters from £5 to £20, according to their general excellence, the oinochoae about £5, and other shapes from a few shillings to a few pounds. The charming glaze and shapes of the vases discovered at Nola have often obtained good prices from amateurs. Those of Greece Proper have also fetched higher prices than those of Italy, on account of the interest attached to the place of their discovery.[80]

48 .  Curiously enough, the relative proportions of Greek and Oriental civilisation in Asia Minor are almost exactly the same at the present day as in the sixth century B.C. The Greeks are mostly to be found in towns like Smyrna, and the adjoining islands, while the central part of the country is almost entirely Turkish.

49 .  See for references to descriptions of tombs Hermann, Lehrbuch d. Antiq. iv. (1882), p. 377.

50 .  Room K, Cases 69–72.

51 .  For specimens of typical Athenian tombs see Stackelberg, Gräber der Hellenen , pl. 7. Fig. 1 . gives a reproduction of a cist full of vases from ibid. pl. 8. For an admirable description of the tombs of the Dipylon, see Ath. Mitth. 1893, p. 74 ff.

52 .  Compte-Rendu , Atlas, 1859, pls. 5–6; Macpherson, Antiqs. of Kertch passim.

53 .  Arch. Zeit. 1850, p. 209, pl. 19.

54 .  Journ. Hell. Stud. vi. p. 237.

55 .  See for illustrations of tombs at Agia Paraskevi, near Nicosia, Ath. Mitth. 1886, xi. p. 209 ff., and Suppl. pl. 2, from which Fig. 2 . is taken.

56 .  For specimens of Cypriote tombs of all periods the reader is referred to Cesnola's Cyprus; Brit. Mus. Excavations in Cyprus , 1893–96; Journ. Hell. Stud. ix. p. 264 (Paphos) and xi. p.19 ff. (Poli).

57 .  Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit. 2nd Ser. ix. (1870), p. 162.

58 .  Gardner, Cat. of Vases in Ashmol. Mus. p. vii.

59 .  Cavallari in Bull. della Comm. di Antich. in Sicil. 1872, v. p. 10, pl. 3.

60 .  Vol. ii. p. 57, vignette. Models of this tomb exist in cork, and specimens may be seen in the Winchester College Museum and Eton School Library.

61 .  Scavi di Certosa , 1875, text and plates.

62 .  For tombs at Ruvo see Jatta, Cat. del Museo , p. 53 ff.

63 .  Reference may also be made to Martha, L'Art Étrusque , p. 183 ff.

64 .  For an example in the B.M. see E 811 in the Fourth Vase Room, Cases 6–7. A plain jar of late date, from Halikarnassos, full of calcined bones, is in the Terracotta Room of the B.M., Case 20.

65 .  See also Rathgen, Konservirung von Altertumsfunden , p. 67.

66 .  Westropp, Epochs of Painted Vases , p. 17.

67 .  Inghirami, Vasi Fittili , i. pl. 13; a false vase is also published in Passeri, 300, and others in D'Hancarville, ii. 71, 84. The worst specimen is perhaps that engraved by Millin, Peintures , ii, pls. 54–5 (reproduced in Reinach's edition), which yet for a long time found general acceptance. As a curiosity and a warning it deserves perpetuation.

68 .  Eng. transl. p. 180 ff.

69 .  Curiously enough there was in M. Tyszkiewicz's own collection a white-ground cup with the subject of Phrixos (Sale Cat. pl. 35), which is certainly open to suspicion·

70 .  Gaz. Arch. 1875, pl. 14.

71 .  Reinach, ii. 62 (in Louvre).

72 .  B.M. E 458.

73 .  Munich 404.

74 .  B.M. E 468.

75 .  B.M. F 331.

76 .  B.M. B 130.

77 .  See Reinach, Répertoire , ii. p. 277.

78 .  Millin-Reinach, i. pl. 49; now at Deepdene (?).

79 .  This has been especially the case of late years, as in the sale of M. van Branteghem's collection in 1892, when a small kylix signed by Sotades cost as much as £400, and two others slightly less.

80 .  Some account of the prices paid for vases will be found in De Witte's Description des Antiquités et Objets d'Art qui composent le cabinet de feu M. le Chev. E. Durand , Paris, 1836; and in the same author's Description d'une collection de vases peints et bronzes antiques provenant des fouilles de l'Étrurie , Paris, 1837.

Distinctions of Types

In the earlier vase-paintings deities are often not only indistinguishable from one another, but even from kings and other mortal personages, attributes and subtle distinctions of costume being ignored; and in the period of decline a similar tendency may be noted, due in this case not so much to confusion of ideas as to a general carelessness of execution and indifference to the meaning of the subject. In the former vases it was, doubtless, largely the result of conventionality and limitation in the free expression of forms; but it is a peculiarity not confined to painting, and may be observed not only in the minor arts, in terracotta and bronze figurines, but even in sculpture of a more exalted kind—as, for instance, in the female statues from the Athenian Acropolis. Thus, all the deities are draped, and their costume differs in no respect from that worn by mortals; all alike wear the chiton, himation, or chlamys, and ornamentation of the drapery with embroidered patterns is no mark of distinction. It is only as the art advances in the B.F. period that the necessity for differentiation makes itself felt, and each deity becomes individualised by some peculiarity of costume or special attribute which makes it possible to recognise them without difficulty. To give a brief survey of these characteristic marks will be the object of the following pages.

Among the Olympian deities, Zeus  is generally bearded, and fully draped in long chiton and mantle; on R.F. vases he wears a laurel-wreath. He fights the giants from his chariot, but otherwise is standing, or seated on a throne, which is often carved and ornamented with figures. He usually holds a thunderbolt, or a sceptre, surmounted by an eagle or otherwise ornamented; in one or two cases the termination is in the form of a lotos-bud, curiously conventionalised. Hera  is distinguished by the stephane  or broad diadem, often ornamented, and covered with the bridal veil, the edge of which she draws forward with one hand in the attitude considered typical of brides. Her sceptre is sometimes surmounted by her emblem—the cuckoo.

Poseidon , on the Corinthian and Attic B.F. vases—on which he is but a rare figure—is often hardly to be distinguished from Zeus, the approximation of the types extending even to their emblems. Where he holds in addition a dolphin or tunny-fish, there is, of course, no doubt as to his presence; nor, again, in the Gigantomachia, where he wields a rock but his trident, which subsequently becomes the unmistakable evidence of his identity, often assumes (as on the Corinthian pinakes) the form of a sceptre ending in a lotos-bud, which is typical of Zeus, and, indeed, of Olympian deities generally. The other sea-deities are, however, of a more clearly defined type. The essential feature of Triton  is the fish-tail in which his body terminates. Nereus , on the other hand, is represented as an old man, bald and grey-bearded. In this form he contends with Herakles, and it may be that the differentiation was necessary to avoid confusion with the Triton type. As attributes he often holds a dolphin or tunny-fish, and a trident or sceptre. The winged deity with a long sinuous fish-tail seen on early Corinthian vases is probably Palaemon ; but in one case this deity is feminine.Amphitrite , as the feminine consort of Poseidon, holds a sceptre or tunny-fish, and Thetis  and the Nereids  appear in ordinary female form. The former, however, in her struggles with Peleus, is accompanied by lions, serpents, and other animals, which indicate the transformations she was supposed to assume. Skylla  appears as described in Homer, with fish-tail and the fore-parts of dogs issuing from her waist, which is encircled by a fringe of scales or feathers.

Demeter  and Persephone  are not always distinguishable from one another, both having the same attributes—a torch or ears of corn (cf. Plate LI.). Their identification depends rather on the nature of their respective actions in the scenes where they appear. Triptolemos  is always seen in his winged two-wheeled car (sometimes drawn by serpents), and usually holds ears of corn or a libation-bowl; on B.F. vases he is bearded. The other Eleusinian deities, on the late R.F. vases where they occur, are marked by the large torches which they hold.

Apollo  on the B.F. vases almost invariably occurs in his character of Kitharoidos, the lyre which he holds being of the form known as kithara  (on later vases it is a chelys ); he is therefore, like all musicians, fully draped in long chiton, and his hair falls in curls on his shoulders, or is gathered in a κρώβυλος. Unlike most gods, he is at all times youthful and beardless. He is also represented holding a laurel-branch, shooting an arrow from his bow, or riding on a swan or Gryphon, or accompanied by a hind or other animal. His sister Artemis  is draped in long chiton and mantle, and often wears a high cap on B.F. vases; it is not until the later R.F. period that she appears in hunting costume, with knotted-up hair, short chiton, and high laced-up hunting-boots or endromides ; sometimes also a fawn-skin. She is usually distinguished by her bow and arrows, and is accompanied by a hound, deer, goat, or other animal.

Hephaistos  is usually bearded, and often appears in the workman's dress of the exomis  or short chiton covering one shoulder, and high conical cap; his craft is further symbolised by a hammer or tongs, or by the axe with which he brings Athena forth from the head of Zeus. In the Gigantomachia he uses his tongs with savage violence against an unfortunate opponent. Ares  is the typical Greek fully-armed warrior, bearded, with helmet, short chiton, cuirass, and greaves, sword, spear, and shield; but is not otherwise to be distinguished. Hermes , as the messenger of the gods, appears in appropriate costume of chlamys and petasos  (the Greek travelling-hat), and carrying the caduceus or herald's staff; he usually wears high boots, and on the earlier vases a short chiton in addition. He is occasionally winged, but it is more usual to find the wings attached to his petasos or boots. On B.F. vases he is always bearded, but not after the sixth century. Hestia , who but rarely occurs on vases, forms a pair to Hermes in assemblies of the gods, but is not distinguished further than by the Olympian lotos-sceptre.

Athena  on the earlier B.F. vases is not always distinguished from an ordinary woman; later, the helmet, spear, shield, and aegis become inseparable adjuncts of her costume, the shield being always circular in form. The spear, which is sometimes her only characteristic, is usually brandished or couched in her right hand, and sometimes she holds her helmet in her hand. Her costume consists of a long girt chiton, over which the peplos  or small mantle is thrown, and the aegis round her chest. The latter is covered with scales and has a fringe of rearing serpents, and sometimes, on later vases, the Gorgon's head in the centre of the front. On the Panathenaic amphorae she is always represented in the Promachos attitude, at first to left, but later to right, brandishing her spear. At either side of her are columns surmounted by an owl, a cock, or other emblems. On the later specimens her figure is greatly elongated, and her drapery is often elaborately embroidered with patterns in purple and white. Her statue when represented is usually a mere reproduction of the living type; but on some later vases there seems to be a reminiscence of the Parthenos or other statues.

Aphrodite  is less individualised than any other deity, at any rate on the earlier vases, on which she is invariably draped in the ordinary manner. She sometimes carries a lotos-headed sceptre (as in Judgment of Paris scenes). Occasionally she is represented armed. On the later vases the influence of fourth-century sculpture becomes apparent in the treatment of this, as of other deities. She now first appears nude (when bathing or washing), scantily clad or half draped, and in transparent Coan draperies, through which the outlines of her form are visible. She has no characteristic attribute, but is frequently represented with a dove or other bird. The types of Eros  have already been fully discussed; briefly it may be said that on the Attic R.F. vases he is a full-grown nude youth with wings; on those of Southern Italy the type is more boyish, though never the child or putto  of the Hellenistic Age, and in Apulia the androgynous type, with hair arranged in feminine fashion and jewellery profusely adorning his person—earrings, necklace, chains, and anklets—is invariable.

Dionysos  is distinguished primarily by the ivy-wreath which crowns his head; he generally wears a long chiton and mantle, but on the latest vases is frequently nude. On all B.F. vases, and often on those of the R.F. period, he is bearded, and it is only on those of Southern Italy that he appears as a somewhat effeminate youth, half draped like Apollo, with rounded and graceful limbs. His attributes are the rhyton or keras (only on B.F. vases), the kantharos, a form of drinking-cup specially associated with him, a vine-branch, and the thyrsos; he is accompanied by panthers and other animals, or swings the limbs of a kid (χιμαιροφόνος). Usually he maintains a calm and unmoved attitude amid the wild revelries of his followers. Ariadne  is undistinguished except by her association with him. Pan , who only occurs on later vases, is almost invariably represented as a beardless youthful figure, with goat's horns, but human legs; when, however, he has goat's legs or feet, he is usually called Aegipan, and in this aspect he assumes a somewhat dwarfish and more bestial aspect.

Satyrs  are either elderly and bearded, or youthful; in all cases with pointed ears and horses' tails, and undraped except for the fawn-skins which they frequently wear. They carry a thyrsos, drinking-cups, or musical instruments, according to the circumstances in which they are depicted. In Ionic art the Satyrs invariably have horses' feet as well as tails, and are usually of repulsive appearance. The Seileni  are really aged Satyrs, depicted as bald or white-haired, but not otherwise differentiated, except in the case of Papposeilenos , who is covered with shaggy skin. The Maenads  are often represented (especially on B.F. vases) as ordinary draped women, or only with the addition of a fawn-skin or panther-skin over their chiton; they carry the thyrsos , or frequently on later vases a large tambourine (tympanon ).

Of the personages associated with the under-world, Hades  is usually an elderly bearded deity of the Zeus type. He carries a sceptre, often with ornamented top, and sometimes from his Chthonian association with Dionysos holds a kantharos, vine-branch, or cornucopia. Kerberos  has three heads only on two Cacretan hydriae and the Apulian under-world vases; his usual number is two, but once or twice he has only one. Hekate  has torches for her customary attribute, and the Furies , who only occur on South Italian vases, wear short chitons with cross-belts and have rough hair, in which and round their arms serpents are intertwined. Charon  the ferryman is represented as an elderly man in short chiton and conical cap, but the grim Etruscan Charun  is a repulsive and savage hook-nosed demon, wielding a hammer. Thanatos  and Hypnos , the two Death-deities, are both winged men, but only the former is bearded; there is usually nothing forbidding in his appearance. The question of the representation of ghosts or souls (εἴδωλα) has been fully discussed; most commonly they are diminutive winged figures, and in other cases they appear as in ordinary life, but possibly they sometimes appear in the form of birds.

Gaia  is represented half rising out of the earth, a beautiful but not young woman, with long hair; or, as Pandora, her head alone is seen. Kybele  occasionally appears, with her attendant lion, and an even rarer figure is Asklepios , with his serpent. The Eileithyiae , who attend at the birth of Athena, are ordinary women, distinguished by the appropriate gestures of their hands. Iris , the female messenger of the gods, appears winged, with short chiton to allow of rapid movement, and carrying the caduceus or herald's staff; Hebe , on the other hand, is an ordinary woman. Nike  is usually to be distinguished from Iris by her long flowing draperies, even when in flight; the various attributes usually associated with her have already been dealt with in detail.

Among personifications, Helios  is a youthful figure in a chariot, usually with rays round his head; in one or two cases his head is surmounted by a white disc; Selene  appears on horseback, and is sometimes indicated by a crescent moon; where Helios is accompanied by a goddess in a chariot, it is probable that Nyx  (Night) is intended. The Stars  are represented as nude youths. The Aurae  or breezes appear as girls floating through the air; the Hyades  or rain-Nymphs are identified by their water-pitchers. A group of winged gods and goddesses is formed by Eos, Agon (the masculine counterpart of Nike), Eris, Lyssa (Frenzy), and the various wind-gods, such as Boreas and Zephyros. These are found at all periods, but the types vary. Eris , who is only found on B.F. vases, resembles the Gorgons (see below), a somewhat grotesque figure with wings, rough hair, and short girt chiton; Lyssa only occurs on Apulian vases, and is akin in type to the Furies—in two instances her figure is enclosed in a circle of rays of light, perhaps to express the blinding effect of her action, and she holds a goad.Oistros , a kindred figure, rides in a car drawn by serpents, and carries torches. The type of Agon is assimilated to that of Eros on R.F. vases; on those of earlier date (if this is the correct interpretation) he wears a short girt chiton and holds a wreath. The Wind-gods  on B.F. vases wear the petasos and high boots, and short girt chiton; Zephyros  is represented as a youth; and Boreas , who only occurs on R.F. vases, wears Thracian costume; he is bearded, and his hair is often rough and shaggy. But these winged deities cannot always be identified with certainty. Among other personifications, Geras  is a somewhat ugly old man; the Muses  are distinguished by their various musical instruments; and Cities and Countries  are occasionally individualised. For instance, Thebes, on a vase by Assteas, wears a turreted crown; Sparta appears as a Nymph on horseback; and, generally speaking, their presence is usually indicated not only by inscriptions, but by their relation to the scene depicted. River-gods , such as Acheloös, appear as human-headed bulls, with horns, but the last-named on a stamnos by Pamphaios (E 437 in B.M.) has a fish-tail.

Kastor  and Polydeukes  usually appear on horseback and in hunting costume, with petasos, chlamys, and spears; on later vases they sometimes wear the pileus, a conical cap which often appears as their emblem on coins. Herakles  on earlier vases is always bearded, and wears the lion's skin fastened round his waist with a belt, the forepaws knotted round his throat; the head covers his head like a cap, leaving his face only exposed, and under it he wears a short girt chiton; he is armed with his club, or bow and quiver, and sometimes with a sword. On R.F. vases he is often nude, or only wears the skin in chlamys fashion. On the earlier vases he is often less characterised, and the same applies to the later R.F. vases, on which he is frequently beardless; in many cases he is only to be identified by his club. Theseus always appears as a youth, and on the R.F. cups usually wears a short loose chiton of crinkly material; his arms are a sword, or sometimes a club. Perseus  wears the winged petasos or cap of darkness and high boots (the shoes of swiftness), sometimes winged; he carries the wallet or κίβισις, and sometimes the ἅρπη or curved sword with which he slew Medusa. Pelops  on the Apulian vases is usually characterised as an Oriental, with richly embroidered costume and a tiara or embroidered cap. The Homeric heroes are only to be identified by inscriptions, or by the actions in which they take part, but Paris  is usually in Oriental costume; in Judgment scenes he holds a lyre, but when he takes part in combats he is attired as an archer, with bow and quiver, Phrygian cap, jerkin, and trousers. Kekrops , the mythical king of Athens, usually ends in a serpent's tail, to denote his autochthonous origin; Midas  has ass's ears; Orpheus  is recognised by his lyre, and sometimes wears, as a musician, feminine costume.

Of other mythological types the Amazons  are, of course, always armed, frequently in the Oriental fashion, with Phrygian cap or kidaris  and trousers; their weapons are the crescent-shaped shield or pelta , and a peculiar type of battle-axe, the sagaris . The Giants  on B.F. vases are ordinary armed warriors, not even of exceptional size, but in later times they often end in serpents, as on the Pergamene frieze.Typhon  appears in this form on a Chalcidian vase. Geryon  is represented in the manner described by Pausanias (vi. 19, 1), as “three men joined together,” with distinctive arms and legs; on Chalcidian vases he has four wings, and is only triple from the waist upwards. The Centaurs  on the more archaic vases, as on those of Ionia, appear as men with the body and hind legs of a horse attached behind; by the middle of the sixth century they appear in the familiar form of a human bust conjoined with a horse's body. The Gorgons  are always rendered in grotesque fashion, with grinning faces and dishevelled hair intertwined with serpents; they wear short girt chitons and high winged boots, and have four wings, the upper pair recurved; usually on B.F. vases they appear in what is known as “the archaic running attitude,” or, as the Germans more expressively phrase it, “Knielaufschema,” the figures being represented as if kneeling on one knee. The same grotesque type of face, with the protruding tongue and teeth, appertains to the Medusa's head or Gorgoneion, which is at all periods such a favourite decorative motive on vases, either as the interior design of a B.F. kylix, or as a medallion in relief on late vases. The more beautiful type of Medusa head is a creation of later date than most of the painted vases, but in the medallions on Italian vases much of the grotesqueness has disappeared.

Much confusion at one time existed between the conceptions of the Harpy  and the Siren , both names being indiscriminately applied to the female-headed bird so common on vases of all periods. But there is ample evidence for the representation of the Harpy more in the style of the Gorgons, as a purely feminine type, with the short chiton suited for rapid movement, high boots, and wings, and often in the conventional running attitude. In this form they appear in one instance as feminine counterparts of the male Boreades. The Siren types vary at different times, the earlier Sirens frequently having human arms. The Sphinx  is always a woman-headed winged four-footed beast; sometimes on Corinthian and Ionic vases she wears a high head-dress. The Gryphon  is a winged lion with eagle's beak, and often with erect ears; the winged Pegasos  and the bull-headed Minotaur  require no description.

Turning now to personages concerned in events of every-day life, we find great variety of costume and equipment, especially at different periods and under different circumstances. The vases, in fact, may be said to supply the most instructive locus classicus  for Greek dress and ornament, as well as for minor details—such as weapons, implements, and furniture—of which they provide contemporary illustrations.

Kings  are usually distinguished by dignified flowing robes, by the wearing of a wreath or head-dress, or by the sceptre which they hold. Oriental potentates wear the costume of their country, with lofty ornamented tiaras, or the Persian kidaris  or kyrbasia —a peaked cap decorated with fringes and lappets. Their dress is often very elaborate on the later vases. Actors  and musicians  both wear appropriate costumes. The former, who hardly occur except on the Italian vases, wear the dress of the Old Comedy, with grotesque mask, padded stomach, loose jerkin, and trousers. Tragic actors are seldom represented; but it has already been pointed out that in the setting of the mythological scenes on the vases of Southern Italy there is an unmistakable reflection of the tragic stage, especially in the elaborate and somewhat exaggerated details of costume. Musicians invariably wear a long chiton, over which on R.F. vases they sometimes wear a short loose garment called the ὀρθοστάδιον, embroidered with patterns. There are also a few instances of male performers (recognisable by their beards) in distinctively feminine costume.

Athletes  are invariably nude when performing their exercises, except in the case of the armed foot-race; in the torch-race they seem to have worn high crowns; on the reverse of late R.F. vases they appear inactive, wrapped in mantles and conversing in groups. Hunters  wear a distinctive costume of petasos and chlamys, and usually carry two spears. Boys on horseback are usually represented nude, and on Ionic vases have their hair tied in a tuft behind. Charioteers  are always attired in a long girt chiton reaching to the feet, which on Attic B.F. vases is painted white. They usually hold a goad in the right hand, the reins in the left. Heralds  wear the attributes of Hermes—the petasos, caduceus, and high boots, with a chlamys or short girt chiton. Warriors  on the early and B.F. vases are equipped in a fashion which tallies to some extent with the descriptions of Homer. Their armour usually consists of a crested Corinthian helmet, a metal cuirass, under which is a short chiton, and greaves, to which are sometimes added the thigh-coverings known as parameridia . Some peculiarities may also be noted—such as the hooked projection on the front of helmets on the Ionic vases of Daphnae and the Clazomenae sarcophagi, the linen cuirasses (indicated by white paint) sometimes worn on Attic B.F. vases,or the heavy helmets with large cheek-pieces seen on the Caeretan hydriae (Plate XXVI.). The R.F. vases often represent the fully armed Athenian hoplite equipped in the same fashion as the B.F.; but in these, and more especially in the Italian vases, there is a tendency to omit much of the defensive armour. Cuirasses on R.F. vases are often decorated with patterns of scales or panelling. Helmets on Italian vases often assume a local character, with conical crowns and two or three lofty plumes.

Of offensive armour, the full equipment consists of sword, spear, and shield. The two former call for no comment, but the shields, which are of two forms, the circular Argive or the indented oval Boeotian, present one feature of great interest—the devices with which they are adorned. Investigations have failed to discern in these any symbolical or heraldic significance; they are not appropriated to particular personages, and all that can be noted about them is that they usually seem to suggest rapid movement. Thus we find an eagle or other flying bird, wheels, balls, chariots, a bent leg, a serpent, Pegasos, and so on. The passage in the Septem  of Aeschylus (387 ff.), in which the shield-devices of the combatants are described, is of course familiar, and similar allusions are not wanting in Greek writers. They are universal on B.F. vases, being painted in white on black ground, and are often found on the earlier R.F. vases in black on red; but they seem to disappear at an early stage of the R.F. period. Sometimes they consist only of letters of the alphabet, as on a Panathenaic amphora, where Athena's shield has the letters Α to Θ; on a B.F. vase in the British Museum are the letters ΑΘΕ. Other peculiar subjects are a winged boar, two rams butting, a figure of Artemis, a white-bordered square, and a ladder. Some of those on R.F. vases are somewhat elaborate—a Seilenos, a fox eating grapes, an armed runner, or a warrior blowing a trumpet. A variation is when the device takes the form of an object in relief—a Satyr-mask, Gorgoneion, mask of Phobos (Panic), or a Gryphon, or a rearing serpent; or when a shield is surrounded by a fringe of serpents. Shields frequently have a piece of fringed and embroidered stuff suspended from them, which seems to have served as a protection to the legs.

Archers  are depicted in Oriental costume, wearing peaked caps with long lappets and a close-fitting dress of leather, consisting of jerkin and trousers, usually embroidered with various patterns. The different barbarian types which appear on vases—Persians, Scythians, Arimaspi, and Thracians—are more or less individualised, especially on the R.F. vases. Such subjects, indeed, were not really popular until the Persian wars. The details of Oriental costume have already been noted. Thracians on R.F. vases wear a long loose cloak known as the zeira  and a cap of foxskin (alopeke ) with long flaps, which dress is also worn by Boreas (see above). In the first half of the fifth century Oriental costumes seem to have had a period of popularity among the fashionable young men of Athens, especially the knights; and they are often depicted riding in the zeira  or striped and embroidered dresses of outlandish style. Egyptians are often realistically rendered, with shaven heads, as are negroes and Aethiopians. The latter, like all barbarians on vases, usually wear trousers. On the vases of Southern Italy details of local (Osco-Samnite or Messapian) costumes often appear, especially in the case of helmets and breastplates worn by warriors on Campanian vases.

On the earlier vases, down to the end of the B.F. period, there is frequently no distinction between the dress of men and women, and to this fact may have been due the practice of painting the latter white to differentiate them. Both wear the long Doric chiton, with a mantle or himation thrown over it; but men often wear the smaller chlamys over the shoulders in place of the himation. Women, again, on the earlier B.F. vases, often appear without the himation, and wear a long chiton tightly girt at the waist, with a short apoptygma  or fold falling over the breast. On R.F. vases the Doric chiton is sometimes worn by women, open down one side (known as the χίτων σχιστός). Men in the “strong” R.F. period wear a short loose chiton of fine crinkly linen. Generally in the R.F. period there is greater freedom of costume and variety of material and arrangement. The Ionic chiton is introduced about 500 B.C., but its vogue does not seem to have lasted long at Athens. In place of the apoptygma  women sometimes wear a loose over-garment, known as the diplois . On the earliest vases men are often nude, with the exception of a loin-cloth or pair of tight-fitting “bathing-drawers.” Women are practically never nude on vases, except when occupied in bathing or washing, or in the case of hetairae  and jugglers.

The draperies, especially the chitons, are often richly embroidered with patterns, represented by incising and purple and white colours on the B.F. vases, by black paint on the R.F. On the former the women's chiton is often covered with a sort of diaper pattern of squares, filled in with circles and stars, or the dresses (both of men and women) are covered with groups of dots and flowers in white and purple. In the late fine R.F. period and on the vases of Lucania and Apulia the patterns become exceedingly rich and varied: chequers, wave-pattern, palmettes, stars, egg-pattern, maeander, and all kinds of borders are introduced. A further extension of the principle is seen in the introduction of borders of figures, the most notable instances of which are on the François vase and the Hieron kotyle. On the former the technique is remarkable as a kind of anticipation of red figures on black. Aristotle speaks of a garment made for Alkimenes of Sybaris on which deities were represented between borders decorated with Oriental figures, the subjects being the sacred animals of the Medes and Persians. We may also cite the remarkable statue of Demeter found at Lykosura in Arcadia, the drapery of which is decorated with inlaid borders of figures, and the mantle of Jason described by Apollonius Rhodius.

The hair of women on B.F. vases, and frequently also that of men, usually falls loose or in tight curls on the shoulders, with a fringe over the forehead. On the early R.F. vases men often wear their hair looped up behind in the fashion known as the κρώβυλος, which, as we know from Thucydides, went out about 480 B.C. Women, on the other hand, have theirs knotted up and confined under a cap. On later R.F. vases and on those of Apulia their hair is usually gathered up in the opisthosphendone , or in a broad coif or fillets, and arranged in bunches of curls in front and behind. On late R.F. vases a radiated diadem, painted white, is often seen. Men are seldom represented with long hair after 480 B.C., but they usually wear a wreath or plain fillet. Head-coverings are rarely worn by ordinary persons, with the exception of the traveller's and huntsman's petasos ; but Oriental personages usually wear a high cap of some kind (see above, under Barbarians). Jewellery—such as necklaces, earrings, armlets, or anklets—is comparatively rare on B.F. vases, but becomes more and more common, until it reaches profusion on those of Apulia. Bracelets and anklets are often in the form of serpents. Various forms of sandals or shoes are seen on later vases, but on the black-figured the only kind of footgear is the high boot or endromis , with a curved tag in front.

The extent to which physiognomical expressions are rendered on vases varies at different periods; but it is not true, as has sometimes been thought, that the artists altogether ignored such expressions in their figures; it was only in the earlier phases that this was the case, and even during the fifth century the advance was timid and slow, much more so than in sculpture. As a rule, in the same vase all the faces are alike, and no physiognomical distinction can be drawn between gods and heroes, or even between men and women, except (on the Attic vases) in the treatment of the eye. On the B.F. vases the ordinary type of face has a long nose, with a tendency to turn up, a pointed chin, deep rounded jaw, and large eyes, while the limbs are sinewy, angular, and tapering. Beards of some length are invariable for grown or elderly men; otherwise distinctions of age are hardly observed until the R.F. period. And as in sculpture of the archaic period all figures have the same conventional smile, so on the B.F. vases gods, heroes, and mortals alike all pursue the actions in which they are engaged with the same unvarying expression. The contrast of violent action and calm unmoved physiognomy is often quaint, and almost grotesque.

Indications of expression or sentiment are, in fact, rather implicit than explicit. They are given in a sort of shorthand fashion, just as Polygnotos in his great paintings, by some subtle touch—by a change of attitude or the action of a hand—indicated the emotion he wished to convey. In the different treatment of the male and female eye there is, no doubt, an attempt to give to the man a more lively expression by means of the round pupil, while the oval form of the woman's eye gives her a softer and less intense look. The neglect of this principle on Ionian vases, where the male eye is oval, seems to be a reflection of the effeminate tendencies of the Ionian races. At an early date we may observe a special treatment of the eye to represent it as closed, in the case of a blind or dying person. Thus the Phineus of the Würzburg cup has merely an angular mark in place of an eye, representing the fall of the upper eyelid over the lower, or the eye is represented as a vacant space without pupil. The mouth is sometimes open to express pain or anger, as in the Nessos of the Proto-Attic vase, or the quarrelling heroes on a vase in the Louvre (F 340). It is also used to express the agony of a dying or injured person, as on a vase with the outraged Polyphemos, with which we may compare the dying warrior of the Aegina pediment. But all these are rather exceptions than the rule on B.F. vases.

After the time of Polygnotos the influence of painting makes itself felt, and we may recall that he perfected the advances of Kimon in this respect. Not only did the vase-painters learn from him how to dispose figures en face  or in three-quarter view, but they also learned how to mark different expressions. It has also been observed that the influence of tragedy must have been strong at this time. The krater from Orvieto in the Louvre is a good instance of the progress made in the fifth century in this direction. On one side of the vase we have a dying Niobid and a youth with face to the front and eyes closing; on the other, in the Argonautic scene, a warrior holding his knees, with lower lip fallen, giving him a melancholy expression, and Herakles with a face of sadness, marked by wrinkles. Other figures show exactly in what direction they are looking (compare Kimon's figures “looking down or upwards”). In the later developments of the Apulian vases, with their scenes drawn from tragic themes and represented in such dramatic fashion, there is plenty of ability to represent emotion, and in several cases it is accurately expressed, as in some of the scenes from the sack of Troy. But in other cases, as on the Assteas vase in Madrid; much of the old quaintness and grotesqueness is apparent.

It is also necessary to treat of the methods adopted by the artist for indicating locality or landscape in his pictures, a thing which is often done in the briefest and most cursory manner. The germs of this principle are perhaps to be observed in the floral ground-ornaments of the Corinthian and other early vases. In the more developed vase-paintings a sort of shorthand system is customary, a system which in some degree probably prevailed on the Greek stage, as on that of the Elizabethan drama. Thus a temple or a house is represented by a column, or two columns supporting a pediment, a wood or grove by a single tree, water by two dolphins swimming in the lower part of the design, and so on. A notable exception is in the palace depicted on the François vase, in which Thetis awaits the arrival of the bridegroom Peleus. So much of the building is given in detail that it is even possible to attempt a restoration. On the same vase the walls of Troy are depicted, with a double door studded with nails. In the Hydrophoria scenes considerable attention is paid to the architectural details of the well-house, which was probably in the form of a small temple, perhaps circular, surrounded by a colonnade. The water issues from spouts in the form of lions' heads, and statues are often depicted in different parts of the building. The François vase also gives an illustration of a well-house, with portico supported by columns. The architecture is almost invariably Doric. In outdoor scenes rocks occasionally appear, but only where they are necessary to the subject, as in the ambuscade of Achilles for Troilos. The branches of trees which frequently cover all the vacant spaces of the design on later B.F. vases, especially in Dionysiac scenes, may be mainly intended for decorative effect.

In the R.F. period more and more attention is paid to landscape and architectural detail as the style develops, but there is still a strong tendency to adhere to the shorthand system—a tendency which increases rather than disappears, especially on the white-ground vases. The artist's object was always to make his figures stand out, as far as possible, clear against the background, and he therefore deliberately avoided anything likely to interfere with the desired effect. Landscape proper, with indications of ground-lines, rocks, and trees, was only introduced when the Polygnotan influence became strong, and the Orvieto krater in the Louvre may be once more cited as a good and early instance of a new development. Scenes in architectural settings are rare, but an exception may be noted in the case of some of the late R.F. vases with scenes in women's apartments, where careful attention is paid to the details of the door-ways, even to the locks and key-holes. For the rest, it usually sufficed to indicate the palaestra by a strigil or oil-flask suspended, or a pair of jumping-weights; musical gatherings by a lyre or a flute in a case; banqueting-rooms by cups and other vases hung up, or by rows of boots. Similarly, women's apartments are represented by a window, door, or column, or by sashes, hoods, mirrors, wreaths, and wool-baskets scattered about.

In the vases of Southern Italy this principle is carried almost to excess. Not only is the old idea of rosettes and flowers scattered about the scene revived, but the whole surface of the design is often covered with miscellaneous objects, such as balls, sashes, and mirrors. On the Apulian vases the use of a double line of white dots to indicate the ground is invariable, and loose stones are scattered about where it is intended to be rocky. Flowers grow about in rich profusion. In the mythological scenes an elaborate architectural background is frequent, and altars, tripods, and columns serve the same end; the heroa  or shrines and other forms of tomb in the sepulchral scenes have already been described. In athletic scenes, especially on the reverse of the kraters, a ball, a stylus and tablets, or a pair of jumping-weights are suspended in the air to indicate the palaestra; and on Lucanian vases subjects of a military nature are suggested by a suspended shield only partly visible. The “courting-scenes” on Apulian vases usually have a representation of a window in a corner of the design.

Ornamental Patterns

Although by far subordinate to the subjects in point of artistic or archaeological interest, the ornamental patterns which are employed on the vases are by no means without their value in both respects. They are, indeed, intimately interwoven with the subjects themselves, which they frame in, relieve, or embellish. Numerous vases are decorated with ornaments only, even in the advanced stages of the art; and this is, of course, an extremely common occurrence in the earlier fabrics, such as the Geometrical and Rhodian. Others, again, are only ornamented in the simplest fashion, with plain bands of red left to show through the black varnish round the body or foot. That the artist took a pride even in this form of ornamentation is shown by the fact that some potters, such as Nikosthenes and the “minor artists,” have left their names on vases only decorated with simple patterns.

From the very beginning of Greek vase-painting there may be observed an endeavour to dispose the ornamental patterns in accordance with some system; and even though in some cases, as in the Cypriote Geometrical vases, there is an offence against the canons of art, yet at all periods the prevailing effect is one of symmetry and taste. It may be thought that in some respects there is a poverty in the variety of ornaments employed—as compared, for instance, with mediaeval art; but it should be remembered that—as their architecture shows—the Greek principle was to achieve the highest results within a limited sphere. Their system was conventional, but its conventions are forgotten in the artistic effect that it produces.

It is on the earliest vases that the greatest variety and richness of ornament occurs; as the art is developed the ornamentation becomes more and more subsidiary, until on the vases of the finest R.F. period it has almost disappeared. But in the later phases it again comes to the fore, tending more and more to obscure and finally to supersede the subjects. To set forth as briefly as possible the growth and development of Greek ornament, both as a whole and in the case of individual motives, will be the object of the succeeding summary. It will be found advisable to treat the subject in a twofold aspect,—firstly, dealing with individual forms and their development; and, secondly, in their relation to the decoration of the vases and their subjects, as exemplified in the different periods and fabrics.

Various theories have been propounded as to the origin of the ornaments found on Greek vases. Some have seen in the patterns architectural adaptations, suggested by the ornamentation of the different members of a temple, such as the maeander, egg-and-tongue pattern, or the astragalus, just as the disposition of the subject is often a reminiscence of the frieze or metopes. But this is no real explanation. In the first place, the patterns are found on vases at a period when they were hardly as yet used in architecture; and, secondly, their use on vases and in architecture must undoubtedly be traced to a common source. Others, again, have regarded them as conventional symbols, the kymation or wave-pattern representing water, a flower or rosette the ground on which the figures stand, and so on. Or, again, it has been thought that they were originally derived from textile patterns, being produced mechanically by the ways in which the threads ran in the loom, whence they were applied with deliberate artistic intention to the surface of a vase.

It is, in fact, impossible to put forward any one theory which will account for the whole system of decorative ornament. As has been pointed out in our introductory chapter, many of these patterns are not only spontaneous, but universal in their origin among primitive peoples; every nation has begun with its circles, triangles, spirals, or chevrons. We are also, in regard to the Greeks, met with the remarkable fact that in its earliest form their painted pottery presents a very elaborate and highly developed system of ornamentation—purely geometrical, it is true, yet none the less of an advanced character. It is a composite system, formed partly from Mycenaean and pre-Mycenaean local elements, and partly from the decorative ideas introduced by the Dorians from Central Europe; subsequently the range of Greek vase-ornament was yet further enlarged by the introduction of vegetable patterns, the palmette, the lotos-flower, and the rosette, which are due to the growth of Oriental influences, both from Egypt and from Assyria.



In order to deal with the various ornaments and patterns in detail, it may be found convenient to divide them under three heads—rectilinear, curvilinear, and vegetable or floral. Of the first class the most consistently popular is the typically Greek pattern known as the maeander , key, or fret pattern. It first appears with the Geometrical style, in which it plays an important part, often covering a large proportion of the surface of a vase, arranged in broad friezes. Three varieties are found—a simple battlement pattern (Fig. 139), and the slightly more elaborate forms, Fig. 140. In the Boeotian Geometrical, Phaleron, and Proto-Corinthian fabrics it is seldom found, or only in a debased form, as maeander but one or two forms occur in the “Rhodian” and “Samian” fabrics of Ionia; one of these is given in Fig. 141, and another consists of squares of the same alternating with crosses or stars in panels. We meet with a most interesting development of the latter variety in the vases of the so-called Pontic class and on the Clazomenae sarcophagi, where an elaborate maeander pattern, usually in two rows, is interspersed with stars or rosettes (Fig. 142). It thus becomes almost a distinguishing characteristic of the later Ionian fabrics.



In the Attic B.F. vases there is a return to simplicity. Here we find it for the most part in the form Fig. 140 above, and its usual position is below the designs on the red-bodied amphorae; but it is sometimes found on other vases, as above the panels on the bodies of hydriae or oinochoae. In the R.F. period its development is most important for determining the succession of the kylikes, on which it almost becomes a date-mark, so regular is its evolution. This has, however, been already dealt with in the chapter on the history of the style. After the severe period it is of frequent appearance on all forms of vases, the kylix, amphora, krater, and pelike in particular; the usual arrangement is a group of three to five maeanders, either of the simple Fig. 140 type, or of a more complicated form (Fig.143), divided by rectangular panels or squares composed of chequers, or of crosses (diagonal and vertical) with dots or strokes between the arms. A curious variety of the maeander is used by Duris; it consists of a double intersecting maeander interspersed with squares (Fig. 144).


The invariable place for this ornament is below the design on the large vases, and it is usually continued the whole way round (except on the earlier Nolan amphorae); it is also found on the R.F. and white lekythi along the top of the design. It is always painted in black on the clay ground.


A similar form of maeander prevails on the vases of Southern Italy (except in Campania); it is found on the krater, amphora, lebes, kotyle, etc., and is almost invariable. But there is one unique variety which is occasionally found on the great Apulian kraters, as on F 278 in the British Museum; the type is that of the pattern in Fig. 144, but the maeander is represented in perspective , being painted inwhite on the black, the shaded edges left in the colour of the clay.

Of patterns akin to the maeander, the so-called swastika  or hook-armed cross, 16 21swastika occurs in panels on the Geometrical vases, but subsequently it is only found as a ground-ornament in the field, as frequently at Naukratis, in Rhodes, and elsewhere. It is, strictly speaking, to be regarded as a fragmentary piece of maeander, without any of the symbolical meaning which it bears in the art of northern nations, with whom it was the emblem of the Scandinavian god Thor. Another pattern, 16 63maeander or 16 90maeander which may be called a variety of the maeander, is frequently found as a continuous border on early vases, such as the Phaleron and Proto-Corinthian wares, and occasionally in the B.F. period.

Next there is the chevron , zigzag, or herring-bone pattern, consisting of systems of V-shaped patterns, arranged in two ways, either 20 15chevron or 16 64zigzag these patterns are practically only found on the earlier fabrics of Greece and Cyprus, or on the native wares of Apulia. On the incised vases of the early Bronze Age found at Hissarlik and in Cyprus this is the prevailing motive, the lines of zigzag being either single, or arranged in groups of four or five parallel:

On the Geometrical vases such patterns are of very frequent occurrence, and panels or bands of chevrons arranged vertically, 20 15chevron or 20 22zigzag occur in many instances (Fig. 83). These groups of chevrons or zigzags are also a distinguishing mark of the Boeotian Geometrical fabrics (cf. Fig. 85); they occur to a lesser extent on the Melian, Proto-Corinthian, and Early Corinthian vases, and even in the Chalcidian fabrics. They are either employed as ground-ornaments to fill in spaces, or as panels forming part of the subsidiary decoration. A variation, or rather development, of the chevron, sometimesemployed as a ground-ornament on early Ionic vases, is composed of a cross, 22 21cross with sets of chevrons between the arms.


Diagonally or directly intersecting lines  form another universal element of early decoration, varying from a simple arrangement of cross lines 22 54mesh to an elaborate diaper-pattern, and in such forms found even in later times. Beginning with the simple intersecting lines, or bands filled in with hatching, of the primitive incised vases, further developed in the white slip ware of Cyprus, we next come to their use on the vases of the Geometrical period, both in Greece and in Cyprus. The variety of these patterns is so great that they can hardly be described in any detail; the usual method of treatment is in a band or panel of lozenges, squares, or triangles, filled in with a reticular pattern formed by the short intersecting lines. Sometimes dots are inserted in the spaces to enrich the general effect. Some very good examples of these patterns are to be seen in the Geometrical vases of Apulia. In the B.F. period plain bands or panels of intersecting lines are not infrequent; sometimes small amphorae or lekythi are decorated entirely in this fashion. A variation of the motive is the border of network which often surrounds the panels on hydriae or oinochoae, in which the points of intersection are ornamented with studs, resembling the knots of a net (Fig. 145). It is also frequently found on the later Corinthian vases. Chequer-patterns  are often used with great effect, at all periods from the Geometrical vases down to the fourth century, their usual position being on the neck of a vase (Fig.146).



The circle  as an ornament occurs comparatively rarely, but there are two exceptions. In the Geometrical vases we find a use both of concentric circles and of rows of single circles joined by straight lines forming tangents, a motive which is obviously derived from the Mycenaean spirals (Fig. 147). Secondly, in the Graeco-Phoenician pottery of Cyprus, especially in its later phases and in the smaller vases, such as the jugs and lekythi, the decoration is practically confined to systems of concentric circles, of a character quite peculiar to this fabric. The chief feature of these systems is that the ordinary principles of vase-decoration are entirely ignored, and the circles, arranged in series of five or six, forming a band about three-quarters of an inch in width, are placed not only at right angles to the axis of the vase, but parallel to it. The illustrations in Plate XIII. and Fig. 75 will give a better idea of the arrangement than any description; it is clear that the circles were easily produced by applying a fine brush to the vase while turning on the wheel, first in its natural position and then on its side. Artistically, of course, the principle is a wrong one, and this is most glaringly conspicuous in the barrel-shaped lekythi, in which the axis of the vase is regarded as horizontal rather than vertical. Groups of small concentric circles are also arranged vertically or otherwise on the bodies and necks of vases.



The spiral , which forms such a conspicuous element in Mycenaean decorative art, appears again prominently in a class which, as we have seen, owes much to that source—the Melian amphorae. Systems of spirals are arranged to fill the spaces at the sides of the design, especially in combination with floral ornaments and reticulated lozenges; and the same feature may also be observed in the Proto-Attic vases. It occurs similarly, combined with a flower, on the Samian or Fikellura vases. In later times the spiral passes from the sphere of inorganic to that of organic ornament, being combined in various ways with vegetable patterns, and merging in the tendril or volute. But it occasionally reverts to its old form, notably in the red-bodied amphorae of Exekias, who, in place of the usual palmette-and-lotos ornament under the handles, contrives an elaborate system of large spirals to fill the space between the designs (Fig. 148). A variation of this is the figure-of-eight ornament, 15 34figure-eight sometimes continuous, 15 61continuous figure-eight which is found on vases of the Proto-Attic class, such as the Burgon lebes in the British Museum (Fig. 87).


The wave-pattern  or kymation moulding, shown in Fig. 149, is one which constantly occurs in Greek architectural decoration, but on the vases at any rate seems to be found only at a late period. On the Campanian vases it is the regular border below the design; it is also found on those of Lucania and Apulia. The crescent  is only found on early Ionic vases, including those which have been attributed to a Samian origin, and some of the Daphnae and Naukratis fragments, which probably borrowed it from Samos; it is arranged in bands alternating in colour, black or purple and white. Another typically Ionic ornament is the scale-pattern , which occurs on many of the so-called Rhodian vases, and also on those from Daphnae (Fig. 150). In the former it is produced by means of incising on the black varnish, the alternate scales being often coloured purple; but in the latter it is painted in outline. Curiously enough, it also occurs in the incised form on an early group of Corinthian vases (Plate XIX. fig. 3). Like other patterns, it can be traced to a Mycenaean origin, being very common in that style. Subsequently it occurs but rarely, but is sometimes employed on the neck or shoulder of a vase. It differs from most other patterns in that it does not lend itself to the panel or frieze, but covers a surface of indefinite extent. It is also known as the “imbricated” pattern, from its likeness to overlapping tiles (imbrices ).




The guilloche  or plait-band (Fig. 151) is characteristic of early fabrics, such as those of Naukratis and Samos, the Clazomenae sarcophagi (Plate XXVII.), and the small Proto-Corinthian lekythi, but is not often found in later times. It is typically Ionic, and seems to be derived from Mycenae (cf. A 209 in B.M.). Lastly, there is the so-called tongue-pattern , which is exclusively used as an upper border to designs. On its first appearance in the Geometrical vases it is rectilinear in form, 15 63tongue-pattern and formed of alternating bars; but from the beginning ofthe sixth century onwards it assumes a curvilinear form, all the tongues pointing downwards, broader, and close together, as in Fig. 152. In the Daphnae vases and the later Corinthian wares it is treated in polychrome fashion, black, purple, and white alternately. On the lip and shoulders of Caeretan hydriae it appears in an exaggerated form, painted red, with black edges, as on Plate XXVI. In the Attic B.F. vases it forms the invariable upper border of the designs, below the necks of the amphorae and hydriae, and is also used as a border to the interior designs of the kylikes; here, too, purple is often applied to the alternate tongues. Occasionally the rectilinear form reappears. In the R.F. period it changes its character again, and the tongues become short and semi-oval in form, with black centre and narrow outlined edge; in this form it is usually described as an egg-pattern  (Fig. 153). It is found in the smaller hydriae, and in many other shapes above or below the designs; also round the lip of the vase. The same form and arrangement obtain in the South Italian vases, especially in Apulia and Lucania, except that a dot is often placed between each pair of tongues. In some cases it approximates closely to the egg-and-dart, as on F 179 in the British Museum. Both tongue and egg-patterns are often ranged round the base of the handles. The egg-and-tongue, with its variants, is a typically Ionic architectural pattern; hence its non-appearance in Attic vases before the fifth century. In later Roman pottery it becomes very common. The variety known as the Lesbian kymation is found in a few late instances.

Having surveyed the various types of inorganic patterns, whether rectilinear or curvilinear, we now come to the consideration of those which are not only derived from vegetable ornament, but still preserve, in greater or less degree, a naturalistic character. To begin with the simple leaf-ornament,which is of too conventional a type to associate with any particular plant, this occurs most frequently in the form of of a calyx , placed round the lower part of the body, immediately above the foot, so that the leaves radiate from the foot, pointing upwards. This ornament begins at a very early period, and is found in most fabrics, continuing down to the latest stages. It is, however, specially associated with the B.F. period, in which it is invariable on the large vases with a more or less marked stem, the amphorae, hydriae, and kraters. On the smaller ones, however, it does not occur. In the “affected” B.F. amphorae the calyx is double, with two tiers of rays.

An arrangement of four leaves saltire-wise in a panel sometimes occurs on the Geometrical vases, a remarkable instance of vegetable ornament in this style; an analogous pattern is also found on many early Corinthian aryballi , the leaves not being united at the base, and usually interspersed with reticulated or other motives.


Another form of leaf-pattern is of rare occurrence, and is found now and then on Attic vases; in this small leaves are joined together in a sort of ribbon or chain-pattern (Fig. 154). The peculiarity of this ornament is that even in the B.F. period it is red-figured in technique, being left in the colour of the clay with a background of black.


The ivy-leaf  was not adopted as a decorative pattern before the middle of the sixth century; it seems to be Ionic in origin. Single large leaves occur on the necks of B.F. lekythi, on late Ionic B.F. vases, and to a considerable extent on the imitations made in Etruria. These are usually treated in a very naturalistic manner. Double rows of smaller leaves, forming a straight wreath, constantly occur as borders to the panels on B.F. hydriae, kraters, and oinochoae (Fig. 155); and similar ivy-wreaths are found along the flat edges of the flange-shaped handles on the larger panel-amphorae, as well as on the volute-handles of kraters. These patterns preserve their vogue in the R.F. amphorae of the earlier period, and in the kraters of Lucania, and it should be noted that they are always painted in the B.F. method (black leaves on red ground) except in the vases of Apulia and Paestum. But as a rule on the South Italian vases the ivy-leaf is treated in a naturalistic manner, with tendrils and berries, occupying a large panel on the necks of the column-handled kraters, or forming a border on the lip of the vase (Fig. 156). The vine as an ornament is very rare, but there is a good instance on a late phiale  in the British Museum (F 503), where it is treated in a very naturalistic manner, forming the sole decoration of the interior; it is also of frequent occurrence on the vases from the Kabeirion at Thebes. The pomegranate occurs only on the Cyrenaic cups (Fig. 93), where it forms a continuous frieze of buds round the exterior, united by interlacing lines. The acanthus is only introduced quite late (except where it appears as an ornament on the top of a stele ), and is found on the necks of kraters and other large Apulian vases, forming a rich and luxuriant mass of foliage, often with a flower in the centre, on which rests a female head. Myrtle or olive-wreaths occur at all times, especially on the flat rim of the mouth of a vase; the myrtle seems to be a typically Ionic motive, and is found at Daphnae, Samos, Rhodes, and on the Caeretan hydriae. In the Rhodian vases it is either roughly painted in black on red, or else in red and white on a black ground. It was also adopted at Athens—e.g. by Nikosthenes. Laurel-wreaths form the regular decoration of the neck in the bell-shaped kraters and wide-bellied amphorae of the late R.F. period and the decadence (Fig. 157). These wreath-patterns on the late vases, it should be noted, are either treated in R.F. technique or painted in opaque white on the black varnish. They are often drawn with great care and accuracy.



The history of the development of the palmette  (or honeysuckle), the lotos-flower and bud , and of continuous foliated patterns in general, has been skilfully treated by Riegl. To write a complete account of this class of ornamentation would be impossible within the limits of the present work; only a few main features can be noted, to show the form the patterns assume at different periods, so universal is their appearance on vases of all shapes and dates. The lotos-flower or bud is, of course, a motive of purely Oriental origin, which found its way into Greece probably through the medium of Phoenicia; the palmette, on the other hand, is purely Greek, although it may possibly be derived from a Mycenaean prototype, the Vallisneria spiralis plant , which is so frequently found on Mycenaean vases (Fig. 158). They are found not only as single motives, isolated or repeated, but also combined together, or forming part of elaborate systems of floral ornament, with stems and tendrils often conventionalised, which link them together, either in continuous bands or in groups occupying a limited space, on the neck or under the handle.



In the Graeco-Phoenician pottery of Cyprus the lotos-flower often appears in a purely Egyptian form (Fig. 159, from C 165 in B.M.), but it is more often combined with and almost merged in some elaborate system of patterns too complicated to describe or define by any name. But in Greek vase-paintings, in which it first makes its appearance in the seventh century, it is always more or less conventional. It is thus found on the Melian amphorae in combination with systems of spirals; though on the shoulder of the example given by Riegl there occurs a band of lotos-flowers alternately upright and inverted, linked together by scrolls, where the form is almost that of Egyptian art, except that the cup of the flower is rounder, the petals shorter and blunter. It is obviously as yet in the transitional stage. Next we meet with it in the vases of Ionia, especially in those of the so-called Rhodian and earlier Naukratite styles, which have friezes of lotos-flowers alternating with closed buds or with palmettes, connected by tendrils (Fig. 160). A similar pattern, on an exceptionally large scale and treated in polychrome (white and purple), surrounds the lower portion of the body on several of the later Caeretan hydriae (cf. Plate XXVI.). But in most of the fabrics of the sixth century the bud seems to have been preferred to the open flower of the ornament. Rows of lotos-buds linked by tendrils, upright or inverted, are found on the Cyrenaic cups, on the vases of the Chalcidian type, and on the later Ionic fabrics, such as the Rhodian kylikes in the British Museum (B 379–81). Sometimes, too, a single bud appears in the design itself, overhanging the scene or rising from the ground. On the so-called Pontic vases the buds are isolated, and placed alternately upright and pendent. In the Corinthian and early Attic fabrics the lotos-flower is found, combined in various ways with palmettes and tendrils, as a neck-ornament, or above a panel, or under the handles, and also as a centre in heraldic compositions (Fig. 161); but subsequently the buds resume their sway, and are found bordering the panels of black-bodied amphorae (as in Fig. 162), forming a lower border to the designs on the red-bodied, and also on the shoulder of lekythi. These motives linger on in the earlier R.F. amphorae and hydriae, and in the column-handled kraters; rows of buds of a degenerate elongated form, on the lip, neck, or shoulder, are continued well into the period of the South Italian fabrics.






The palmette or honeysuckle ornament is not usually found as an independent ornament before the middle of the sixth century. Its development in this direction really belongs to the R.F. period. But in combination it is found, as we have seen, in Corinthian and Attic B.F. vases, and also in Chalcidian. Before the Athenian unification of styles it usually appears linked with lotos-flowers in a sort of double chain, each pattern being alternately upright and reversed, as in Fig.163; in this form it is usually found on the neck, or as an upper border to the design. This type of ornament is favoured in the Proto-Attic, Corinthian, and Corintho-Attic vases, and the earlier panel-amphorae; the palmette is here regarded as the foliage of the lotos-flower, which at first always predominates. Subsequently the palmette gains the upper hand, as on the necks of the red amphorae (see Fig. 165), and the lotos-flower is gradually ousted altogether. It, however, returns occasionally on R.F. hydriae and amphorae. Another variety, which may be described as a metope-like treatment, compared with the frieze-like treatment above, consists of an interlacing arrangement filling the space of a square, with two palmettes and two lotos-flowers respectively opposed, or a symmetrical arrangement of palmettes and lotos-flowers, connected by tendrils, as in Fig. 164. This is found under the handle, or on the neck, or in the middle of a frieze of the Corinthian “heraldic” type.On the red-bodied B.F. amphorae the universal neck-ornament is a band of large palmettes vertically opposed, linked by a continuous chain passing between them and separated by elongated lotos-flowers (Fig. 165); this is also found on the Panathenaic vases and the earlier R.F. amphorae. Towards the end of the sixth century, however, there is a tendency to drop these composite ornaments, and attention is devoted to the palmette alone. The method of its application to the kylikes as a handle-ornament, linked thereto by a scroll, has already been treated in detail; it first appears on the Cyrenaic cups, and is usually employed by the “minor artists” of the B.F. period. The chief feature of the new advance is that the palmette is no longer a stiff upright design with straight unenclosed petals, the form to which it adheres down to the end of the sixth century; but now assumes a more flexible and graceful form, being encircled and linked to its fellows by means of slender scrolls or tendrils, which thus form a series of elliptical or oval forms capable of great variety of arrangement and position (Fig. 166). This framed palmette is first found in the Fikellura or Samian ware. It occurs in the form of a frieze, with linking scrolls, on the later B.F. hydriae. The number of leaves or petals of which the palmette is composed is usually limited to seven. Another important and very effective improvement is achieved by placing opposed pairs of palmettes no longer vertically, but obliquely, forming an upper or lower border to the design (Fig. 167). These are frequently found on the krater and hydria, and appear constantly on the vases of Apulia and Lucania, especially on the lip. Great attention is paid to the effective grouping of the framed palmettes in the spaces under the handles, the object aimed at being more and more naturalism rather than symmetry.





In the later R.F. period, on the other hand, there is a certain reaction in the direction of conventional ornament, combined with exaggeration and lack of refinement. The palmette under the handle returns to the old erect unframed type, and increases enormously in size, so that one or at most two vertically opposed suffice to fill the space. In this form it appears on the bell-shaped kraters and hydriae of Southern Italy, and especially those of Campania, surrounded by elaborate scrolls and tendrils. In the latter fabric the palmette, which has become almost gross and ugly, is usually flanked by two large convolvulus or other flowers rising from the ground, and drawn in profile (Fig. 168). In the Apulian and Lucanian vases there is no rule as to the number of the palmettes, and sometimes the effect is exceedingly rich and elaborate. Speaking generally, there is no ornament which prevails so universally and in such varied forms and systems on Greek vases, but to give an exhaustive account of all its uses would be far beyond the limits of this work.


There remains only to be discussed the rosette , which, in spite of its often purely formal character, may be reckoned as in its origin a floral motive, even if it is not obvious that it is derived from any particular plant. It may be said to have two distinct forms, the star and the disc, the former consisting of an indefinite number of radiating arms or leaves, the latter of a simple disc surrounded by a row of dots. In both forms it is found at all periods, not so much as a formal pattern in bands or groups, but as a decorative adjunct to surfaces within or without the field of the design, especially as a ground ornament on Ionic, Corinthian, and other early fabrics, or as an embellishment of the draperies worn by the figures on the vases.



In the Mycenaean period it is found usually in the dotted disc form, as a ground ornament, but the star form is by no means rare. In later Cypriote pottery the star-shaped rosette sometimes occurs in a band of ornament, left in the colour of the clay on a black background; but the other type is more common in conjunction with the concentric circles. In Hellenic pottery the rosette at first appears exclusively as a ground-ornament, and this function it fulfils both in Corinthian and early Ionic pottery to a large extent, as well as in some of the smaller groups. In the Rhodian and Naucratite wares it assumes very varied forms (e.g. Fig. 169, from the Euphorbos pinax), intermingled with hook-armed crosses and bits of maeander; in the early Corinthian wares it takes the shape of an approximately circular flower of six petals, which covers every available vacant space over the area of the design; these are often rendered with great carelessness, the artist's only object being apparently to insert a patch of colour where it would fill in a space. Subsequently the rosettes become both more symmetrical and at the same time fewer in number, and by the beginning of the Attic B.F. style have altogether disappeared. Occasionally they are employed for a band of ornament on the lip, neck, or handles of a B.F. vase. Lost sight of for a period of some two hundred years, the rosette springs again to life in the vases of Apulia, resuming its old functions as a ground-ornament, and also being employed in bands on the neck or elsewhere. It usually appears in the form of a star-shaped flower of six or eight petals, in red edged with white on the black ground (Fig.170).

It may also be found convenient to treat the ornamentation of Greek vases from a different point of view, in order to give an outline of the decorative system adopted in each of the principal styles, and as considered appropriate to the various forms.

In the vases of the prehistoric period, from the primitive incised wares down to the end of the Mycenaean style, there is an entire absence of anything like rule or formalism. The principle observed in the very early classes, such as the Cypriote relief and white slip wares, is the imitation of other substances, of metal or leather. The object of the artist was to cover the surface of the vase as far as possible with decorative designs; and if, as was generally the case, his artistic capacity restricted him to linear or simple vegetable patterns, the utmost he could achieve was to adapt these to the whole of the space at his disposal—i.e. the whole body of the vase. Mycenaean vases, however, are usually only decorated on the upper part, as far as the middle of the body, which was encircled with one or more plain bands of black. Thus there remained a sort of panel between the handles, of varying extent.

In the Geometrical period, however, a great change takes place, which from the artistic point of view is a reaction in the direction of formalism, but nevertheless forms the basis of the decorative systems of later times. Here we see for the first time a regular partition of the surface of the vase by means of bands and panels of ornaments, without indeed any restriction of particular patterns to any part of the vase, but yet a deliberate endeavour to establish a decorative system. With the increase of animal and human subjects the ornament becomes more subsidiary, merely a framework to the design, but even in the succeeding Proto-Attic and Melian classes it plays a very important part. In the Melian vases the system is Geometrical, but the ornamentation is curvilinear and Mycenaean. The ground-ornaments, however, are derived from the former source as well (hook-cross and zigzags in conjunction with rosettes). In both these classes the space under the handles is selected for the display of a grouping of ornamental motives, such as spirals or palmettes, or the two combined in a series of heart-shaped motives or panel-compositions; similar patterns cover the neck and the lower part of the body. The ornamentation of Phaleron and Proto-Corinthian vases is an echo of the Geometrical system. The ground-ornaments are the hook-cross, rosettes of dots, and bits of maeander; the bands of pattern consist of zigzags, chequers, double rows of dots, and toothed patterns. The early Ionic vase-painters treat the subsidiary ornamentation as they do their principal subjects, adopting the frieze principle in most cases; the only exception is in the Rhodian pinakes, where it is usually confined to simple patterns round the rim, with a sort of fan-pattern in the exergue below the central design. The ground-ornaments are really the chief feature of Rhodian ornamentation, as in Corinthian vases. The decoration of the Fikellura or Samian ware is very characteristic, and demands separate mention. The patterns are highly developed, and suggest a late date—as, for instance, the scroll, the ivy-leaf, and the framed palmette. In later Ionic vases the ornamentation is not very prominent, except in the Caeretan hydriae, in which the broad bands of palmette-and-lotos ornament, and the exaggerated tongue-pattern on the lip and shoulder, occupy a proportion of the surface unusual at this period. Besides the typical ground-ornaments (rosette and hook-crosses) of the earlier vases, the favourite Ionian patterns are the maeander, the guilloche, and wreaths of ivy and myrtle. At Corinth, as we have seen, for a long time ornament is confined to the ground-filling rosettes, with some simple motives, such as zigzag lines or tongue-pattern, on the mouth and shoulder, or bordering the design; even in the later examples, when the rosettes have disappeared, it is practically confined to the interlacing palmette-and-lotos pattern on the neck, above the design, or inserted in the subordinate friezes of animals. The same principle applies in the Corintho-Attic and Chalcidian fabrics.

In Athenian B.F. vases we at last find a stereotyped system of ornament for each kind of vase, from which there is little or no variation. Generally the system is as follows:—On the panel-amphorae, an interlaced palmette-and-lotos pattern or a row of inverted lotos-buds above the panel, and a calyx of leaves round the foot, those with flanged handles having also ornaments thereon, ivy-leaves or rosettes. On the red-bodied, a chain of double palmettes round the neck, tongue-pattern on the shoulder, a grouping of palmettes, tendrils, and lotos-flowers under the handle, and a row of three or four narrow bands of ornament below the design (lotos-buds upright or inverted, maeander, zigzags), terminating with the calyx round the foot. The Panathenaic amphorae have the same neck-ornament as the red-bodied, with tongues above the panel, and thick rays round the foot; the fourth-century examples have palmettes on the neck, with elongated tongue-pattern immediately below. On the hydriae, tongue-pattern above the shoulder-design, borders to the panels (maeander above, ivy or network down the sides, lotos-buds or framed palmettes below), and calyx round the foot. On the oinochoae, panel-borders like those of the hydriae, but on the olpae  only two or three rows of chequer, maeander, etc., on the neck above; on the lekythi, lotos-buds, ivy-leaves, and palmettes on the shoulder, and a double row of dots above the design. The kylix-ornament is practically limited to the handle-palmettes of the “minor artist” class, and a circle of straight-edged rays, alternately black and outlined, round the stem on the later varieties (together with the large eyes).

In the R.F. period the same system of appropriate patterns for each form of vase is in the main adhered to, but with greater freedom; there is also a wide difference between the earlier amphorae and hydriae, which cling to the old panel-system with its ornamental borders, and the vases of the fine period, in which there is an absence of all restraint on the one hand, and a tendency to dispense with ornament almost entirely on the other (as in the Nolan amphorae). On the kylix, the ornament is throughout confined to the palmettes under the handles and the maeander encircling the interior design, which have been dealt with already. The earlier amphorae and hydriae, as we have seen, have panels with borders as in the B.F. period, usually in the older technique; those of the fine style (including the wide-bellied amphorae) have a short noncontinuous border, such as egg-pattern or maeander, above and below the figures, with similar patterns on the lip and round the bases of the handles. The stamnos has egg-patterns round the lip and handles, tongue-pattern round the shoulder, and a system of palmettes between the designs. The red lekythi have egg-pattern or palmettes on the shoulder, and maeander-pattern (with crosses) above or below the design; the white have black rays on red ground or black and red palmettes on white on the shoulder, and maeander above the designs. The bell-krater and wide-bellied amphora of the late R.F. period, as also those of Southern Italy, have a band of oblique palmettes or a laurel-wreath round the top, maeander with crosses below the design, palmettes grouped under the handles, and egg-pattern round their bases. The column-handled krater, on the other hand, adheres throughout to the B.F. system of ornamentation, with ivy-wreaths and elongated lotos-buds on the rim, similar lotos-buds on the neck, panels bordered with tongue-pattern and debased ivy-wreaths, and the calyx round the foot. The wide-bellied lekythi have palmettes or egg-pattern above the design, and maeander below.

In the vases of Southern Italy there is, as a rule, no system observed in the ornamentation; in the large vases of Lucania and Apulia it is used with great profusion and variety, chiefly in bands on the neck. In the smaller Apulian vases and in those of Campania it is often confined to a wave-pattern below the designs; the Campanian hydriae usually have in addition a wreath of myrtle or laurel round the shoulder. Generally speaking, the large vases, such as the bell-krater, the hydria, and the wide-bellied amphora, continue the principles adopted in the R.F. period. The systems of palmette-patterns under the handles have already been discussed, and for other details the reader is also referred to what has already been said in discussing the individual patterns.

Rise of Vase-Painting in Greece

§ 1. The Geometrical Period

The Dorian invasion of Greece, which is generally supposed to have taken place in the twelfth century—the traditional date is about 1100 B.C.—was, like the contemporaneous Etruscan immigration, only an episode in the general displacement taking place throughout Europe. In Greece it caused a dispersion of the Achaean race, chiefly in the direction of Asia Minor, which, as we have already seen, probably gave rise to the stories of the Trojan War and subsequent adventures of the Achaean leaders. In other words, the Mycenaean civilisation was driven to seek a new home elsewhere, and to lay the foundations of a new artistic development in the cities of Aeolis and Ionia. But its disappearance from Greece was not complete, and Hellenic Greece was from the beginning an amalgam of the old and new elements, the Achaean (or Ionian) and the Dorian, in which one or the other had at different times or in different places the pre-eminence. The Ionian element represents the civilisation of the Mediterranean, succeeding to that of the Mycenaean world; the Dorian, the influence of Central Europe.

It has hitherto been a truism of archaeology that the Dorians brought with them from Central Europe a new form of art, of which the chief characteristic is that of rectilinear and geometrical decoration , forming, it is obvious, a marked contrast to the curvilinear and naturalistic Mycenaean designs. This new principle was thought to be most conspicuously illustrated by the pottery which now replaces the Mycenaean. But certain recent discoveries have given occasion for some scepticism in regard to the acceptance of this idea as conveying the whole truth; and even if they do not radically alter preconceived ideas, they are at least worthy of consideration.

At Aphidna in Attica a find has been made of very rude pottery, without glaze or varnish, but with decoration of a Geometrical character, sometimes painted. Although earlier than any other pottery in Attica, it need not be pre-Mycenaean in date; it seems more likely to be a contemporary survival . Early wares have also been found in the islands, as in Aegina, with Geometrical ornament in matt -colour; nor must we forget that the Geometrical principle was known in Cyprus and the Cyclades, as also at Hissarlik, at a very remote age. From these data Dr. Wide has ingeniously drawn the conclusion that the Geometrical style was always indigenous in Greece, pointing out that it was more likely and more in accordance with historical precedent that the Dorians, like Rome in later days, accepted the art of the people they conquered than that they introduced their own and forced it upon the subjugated race. This theory has the additional merit of disposing of a difficulty which had always been felt. If the Geometrical pottery was Dorian, how do we account for its reaching its height in Attica, which was never at any time Doric, or influenced by Doric characteristics? But if it can be shown to be indigenous in Attica, the difficulty disappears.

Again, it is necessary to explain the varying character of Geometrical pottery in different parts of Greece, as compared with the homogeneity of the Mycenaean wares. If, as was supposed, the Geometrical style came full-grown into Greece, why should this be? Dr. Wide therefore maintains that there were in Greece concurrently  a Bauernstil  or domestic art, aboriginal and industrial, which produced the rude geometrical fabrics, and a Herrenstil  or art de luxe , exotic and ornamental, which we know as Mycenaean. With the upheaval and dispersion of the Achaean aristocracy this art practically died out, but the humbler industry held its ground, and gradually forged its way to comparative excellence, perhaps learning much from Mycenaean technique.

The real novelty of the developed Geometrical pottery which now manifests itself in Greece consists in its evolution as a style , and the combination of the patterns into an artistic system, with a continuous progress towards symmetry and rhythm. Geometrical patterns are indeed the property of all primitive peoples, and are no less spontaneous and universal in their origin than the folk-lore stories which we find adopting the same or similar forms in all parts of the world. In Greece, no doubt, the cultured traditions of Mycenaean art had in course of time their due effect, and both in technique and in ornament left their impress on the inferior fabrics, as we have seen to have been the case, especially in the Greek islands. It is an influence which is not confined to the pottery, but made itself felt, for instance, in architecture. It can hardly be doubted that in the Lion Gate of Mycenae we find the prototype of the Doric column; and the parallel with the Geometrical pottery can be further followed up when we consider that Doric architecture also became the common property of Continental Greece, and also realised its highest perfection at Athens.

The Geometrical pottery has been found in great numbers in Attica and Boeotia, in the islands of Aegina, Melos, Thera, Rhodes, and Crete, in Argolis and Laconia, in Sicily and Etruria, and also isolated specimens in Cyprus and the Troad. That found in Italy and Cyprus is certainly exported from the mainland. It has been observed that each region has its own peculiar variety of the style, and this is especially conspicuous in the examples from Attica and Boeotia. The first writer who attempted to deal with it scientifically was Conze, but owing to its clearly-defined characteristics it has always been more or less correctly treated by the older schools of archaeologists. But with a more extended outlook over the fabrics of early Hellas, many problems have arisen in connection with it which have called for more recent discussion, and the writings of Kroker, Böhlau, and Wide in particular should be studied.

At Mycenae fragments of Geometrical pottery were found both on the surface and in the palace, among the débris of the huts built on its site; while in the island of Salamis there is a cemetery of distinctly transitional character, containing false amphorae with linear decoration and combinations of the spiral with the maeander. It may be noted that a similar transitional cemetery was found by Mr. Paton at Assarlik in Caria, and that the “sub-Mycenaean” pottery of Cyprus has been shown to exhibit the same combination of features. These facts fall into line with what has already been said as to the survival of Mycenaean art in these fabrics.

From the fact that large quantities of this ware have been obtained from the tombs of the Kerameikos near the Dipylon Gate of Athens, chiefly between 1870 and 1891, it has frequently been styled Dipylon ware ; but it is questionable whether this title should not be reserved for varieties peculiar to this site. These Dipylon tombs were in the form of deep quadrangular trenches, and the bodies had been sometimes inhumed, sometimes cremated, the bones being placed in vessels of bronze or clay, containing smaller objects. Above the trenches was a layer of earth mixed with burnt offerings, on the top of which, outside the tombs , were placed the large painted vases (representing the tombstones or stone sepulchral vases of later times) which now form a prominent part of the collections at Athens and in the Louvre.

Turning to treat of their general characteristics, we note that the vases are all wheel-made, of a carefully-prepared red clay covered with a lustrous and impermeable yellow slip, on which the designs are painted in the same lustrous black as the Mycenaean wares. Later, but rarely, white is introduced as an accessory. As regards the shapes, there is less variety than in Mycenaean pottery. They include the typical forms of Dipylon vases, a large wide-mouthed krater  on a high stem, and an amphora  with cylindrical neck and side-handles; also the lebes , the cylindrical jug or olpe , the wide bowl or skyphos , and the pyxis  or covered jar. Open-work stands for vases are often found in the Cyclades. On the covers of the pyxides  a group of two or three rudely-modelled horses sometimes forms the handle. In considering the forms generally, it is permissible to say that the potter of the day was in advance of his Mycenaean predecessor, although the painter was not.

The decoration follows a development which permits of the division of Geometrical vases into three periods, in which we follow Kroker: (1) for a long time it is exclusively limited to Geometrical patterns, and (2) even when quadrupeds and birds are introduced they are still only decorative (as in Boeotia); (3) finally, while the animals take a subsidiary place, human figures and large compositions spring into prominence. But this final development is chiefly characteristic of Athens. Wide distinguishes four varieties of the Dipylon ware: (a ) amphorae, with black varnished bodies and designs only on the neck; (b ) “black Dipylon ware,” mainly varnished, but more decorated than (a ); (c ) large vases, with linear decoration or figures all over in horizontal friezes (the tomb-amphorae); (d ) as the last, but with vertical panels, divided like metopes. His view is that these represent a continuous development, but that the style did not last long in Attica. Returning to Kroker's classification, it must be borne in mind that the three classes are not successive in point of time , only in artistic development; the plain linear decoration survived throughout, and is often found in tombs contemporaneously with the figure subjects.

The patterns are mainly, though not exclusively, rectilinear, and sometimes extremely elaborate. The favourite are a large bold maeander, chevrons, chequers, and arrangements of hatched lines; also squares, with diagonals and much ground-ornament. Among the simpler motives are lines of dots, triangles, lozenges, and various forms of crosses; but concentric and “tangent” circles occur not infrequently, the latter being clearly derived from the Mycenaean spiral, and one vegetable motive appears in the form of a conventionalised leaf, later developed into a rosette. M. Perrot gives a very instructive diagram of the typical scheme of ornamentation on the neck and body of a vase, including most of the principal varieties. It should also be noted that these patterns occur frequently on the field of the designs as ground-ornaments, to cover the vacant spaces.

In the arrangement of the patterns an architectural instinct is clearly at work, the influence of the Doric metope being especially prominent. They are usually arranged, as the diagram (Fig. 83) shows, in horizontal bands round the neck and body, like the bands of painted ornament on the entablature of a temple. The metopes and triglyphs are represented by large square patterns of ornament, separated by narrow vertical strips of simpler motives (cf. Fig. 84). The introduction of the frieze principle proper is a later development. Generally speaking, there is an invariable tendency towards symmetry and refinement in the arrangement. When figure subjects begin to be introduced, it betokens a great advance in decorative art, especially over the Cypriote and other varieties of the style. In the tendency to a horror vacui , the style is inferior to Mycenaean, as also in the figure-drawing, of which more anon. The absence of any plant-ornament is most characteristic, as showing the great change from the Mycenaean spirit; but it was not long before this element was destined to reappear and virtually usurp the field of decoration.

From Perrot's Hist. de l'Art .

In regard to its ornamentation the Geometrical style may be said to have attained success. It is not so, however, with its representations of living form, least of all those of human beings. But this is only in accordance with the principle which M. Pottier styles the hierarchie des genres , a principle which is universal in all early development of Greek art, and to which we have already referred. Briefly it is this: first, the predominance of pure ornament  and the perfecting of the same; secondly, the employment of animal  forms and the relegation of ornament to a subsidiary place; thirdly and lastly, the rise and development of human  forms, the other animals ceasing to form the main theme of decoration, and sinking to the level of mere decorative adjuncts.


Hence we find that figures of animals when first introduced on Geometrical vases are of a conventional and ill-drawn character, but show a gradual progress and development. Human forms again, which now appear for the first time, are only seen in a very rude and undeveloped stage, from which there is continuous development throughout the archaic period till perfection is reached in the fifth century. Their original extreme conventionality may be the result of a training in Egyptian canons of art.

The favourite animal motives are the horse, the deer, and water-fowl. The first also appears in a plastic form, surmounting the covers of vases and forming a sort of handle. Usually a single animal is seen in a metope-like panel (cf. Fig. 84), and the frieze system is seldom found at this period. A curious conception is that of a lion or wolf devouring a man, whose legs are seen protruding from its mouth, and this appears to have been adopted by the Etruscans, on whose archaic bronze-work and bucchero vases it sometimes occurs. The lions on the Geometrical vases, it may be noted in passing, are obviously drawn without knowledge, and borrowed from Asiatic art; the same conventional type obtains at a later date, as in the Burgon lebes.

Human figures are almost confined to the large vases from the Dipylon cemetery, which are evidently a purely local product; almost the only exceptions are two from Boeotia and one from Rhodes in the British Museum (A 439). The infantile and barbarous style of the figures recalls in a measure the primitive marble idols from the Cyclades; there is seldom any actual distinction of sex, the narrow waist, wide hips, and tapering limbs being apparently common to both. The figures being painted in plain silhouette, there is no attempt at rendering features. Where it is intended to represent a warrior, the body is completely hidden behind a shield of the Boeotian type Boeotian shield, a ready resource of the artist for avoiding anatomical difficulties, which was also adopted later by his seventh-century Corinthian successors, except that in the latter case the shield is circular.

The subjects include battles and naval scenes, dances of women hand in hand, and funeral processions. From the combination of ships with funeral scenes, it would seem that they were sometimes used for carrying the dead. A remarkable lebes recently acquired by the British Museum is decorated with a large ship-of-war with two banks of rowers (bireme), and appears to represent a warrior landing therefrom on shore. The funeral scenes on the great Dipylon vases are exceedingly elaborate, and exhibit a corpse drawn on a bier, accompanied by chariots and bands of mourning women beating their heads. By a conventional attempt at perspective the figures are often placed above the central group when they are supposed to be on its farther side, just as, in the fresco from Tiryns, and an “Island-gem” of the Mycenaean period, a man leading a bull is represented over its back.

Two very interesting specimens of Geometrical fabrics are in the museum at Kopenhagen, late indeed and almost transitional in character, but still typical. One is a deep two-handled cup or bowl with long panels on either side, in two tiers; the upper ones are filled with ornaments and animals, and in the lower are several subjects—combatants, lyre-players, a dance of armed men with shield and spear, two lions devouring a man (see above), and men with jugs and lustral branches preparing for some religious rite. The other is a jug, with very little ornamentation except on the background of the designs, which also include several subjects. On the neck is a man holding horses; on the shoulder, dogs pursuing a hare; and on the body, combats on land and sea.

In the range of subjects a general correspondence with epic poetry is to be noted, as in the funerals and combats; but there are some important discrepancies, such as the quadriga  in place of the Homeric biga , the types of the ships, and in the appearance of horsemen, which are of course unknown to Homer.

The Geometrical vases found in Boeotia form an important and distinct local variety, which calls for separate treatment. The existence of this local style was first suspected by Furtwaengler in 1878 on seeing the first finds made at Thebes, and it has since been studied with great care and detail by Böhlau. Among these finds were, in addition to the recognised local pottery, ordinary (imported) Dipylon vases, and later Proto-Corinthian and Corinthian wares, as well as bronze fibulae and terracotta figures, to which subsequent reference must be made. Similar pottery was also found in large numbers on the site of the temple of Apollo at Mount Ptoös in 1885–91, and other examples have turned up at Tanagra. It has been suggested, though on somewhat slight grounds, that Aulis was the centre of the local fabric; and, further, it was supposed by Böhlau, who is supported by Perrot, that the Boeotian wares represent a primitive phase of the Geometrical pottery, anterior to the Dipylon, and consequently that Boeotia is the original home of the style as a whole. But in view of what has been said above, and generally of the relation of the Boeotian pottery to the Dipylon, and to the later Proto-Corinthian, it seems doubtful if this view can be maintained. Moreover, it has been pointed out by M. Holleaux, in discussing the Ptoös finds, that the pure Geometrical vases were found at a lower level than the typical local wares, and were never found either with them or with the analogous terracotta figures. This certainly points to the later origin of the Boeotian pottery.

The local clay differs from that of Athens both in nature and appearance, being less well levigated and of a reddish-yellow colour, as compared with the warm brown of the Dipylon. Further, the designs are not laid directly on the clay, as in the latter, but on a thin creamy-yellow slip, as in Mycenaean and Ionian pottery. The technique is, generally speaking, inferior, as is also the black pigment used; the work is rough and hasty, the drawing careless and inaccurate.

The vases are mostly small, at least compared with those of the Dipylon, and the favourite shape is the kylix , with or without a stem. Out of seventy-two examples given by Böhlau, no less than fifty-five take this form. He traces its development from a deep bowl with “base-ring,” which seems to be related to the Cypriote white-slip one-handled bowls; but the Boeotian type has at first two small finger-pieces in place of handles, afterwards replaced by a single handle for hanging up. The majority, however, have no less than four handles, and that they were still intended for suspension is shown by the method of decoration which can only be properly seen in this position (cf. Fig. 85).

From Jahrbuch .

There is a wearisome uniformity in the patterns, and indeed in the decoration generally. Only two examples are known from Boeotia with human figures, and the rest belong to the intermediate class, with its combination of animals and decorative patterns. On the exterior is usually a broad frieze, divided by bands of ornament into four or five fields, in which are birds or palmette patterns; these panels are not necessarily arranged with reference to the position of the handles. The patterns comprise rows of vertical zigzags, dotted lozenges, chevrons, latticed triangles, rosettes, and scrolls, the first-named being specially characteristic of Boeotia. It is to be noted that the typical Athenian motives, the maeander and the ornamented square, do not occur; in fact, these bowls have no analogies in the Dipylon ware. But it is also interesting to observe the appearance of a new vegetable element in the form of friezes of palmettes and lotos-flowers. The importance of this feature is due to the extensive part it was destined to play in the ornamentation of Greek vases all through the sixth century. Some of the palmettes are remarkably advanced, and the whole pattern is even emancipated from the confinement of the frieze, and treated freely without regard to space. Böhlau, in his analysis of the ornament as a whole, notes its independence of the Athenian vases, though remaining a parallel and closely-related development.

Individual vases do not call for much comment, but there is a curious coffer of terracotta from Thebes in Berlin (Fig. 86), painted with figures in this style. The subjects include the Asiatic Artemis, a hare-hunt, a woman leading a horse, a horse tied up, and two serpents erect, confronted. The ground is filled in with rosettes, crosses, and other ornaments, such as the so-called swastika .

From Jahrbuch .

While on the subject of the Boeotian vases it is worth while to call attention to the remarkable parallels presented by two other classes of objects also found in that region: bronze fibulae and terracotta statuettes. The former may be regarded as important chronological evidence, inasmuch as their development can be clearly traced from their first appearance at the end of the Mycenaean period (about the tenth century), and similar types have been found in Rhodes, at Olympia, and elsewhere. The characteristic of the Boeotian fibulae is the flat plate which forms the foot (in some cases the central part or bow), and is generally of a quadrangular form, decorated with an engraved subject, usually animals or birds of a similar type to those painted in the panels on the vases. More rarely ships or human figures are found.

The terracotta figures on the other hand, bear a different relation to the pottery. They are flat board-like figures (σανίδες), known to the modern Greek digger as “Pappades,” the high head-dress which they wear suggesting to him the well-known hat of the orthodox “Papas” or priest. The flat surface of the body gives scope for ornamentation representing embroidered robes, and the patterns employed are just those which are seen on the vases; and, moreover, the method of painting is the same, the figures being covered with a buff slip, the patterns in black with purple details. It should be remarked that some of these figures are comparatively developed in style, and that they are practically later imitations  of the decoration of the vases.

In considering the Geometrical vases as a whole, we are struck with the laudable aspirations of the artist, who, though unable to execute his new ambitions with complete success, yet shows in his work the same promise of the future that is latent in all early Greek art. His best achievement is in the ornamentation. Oriental influences as yet count for very little, though they are perhaps to be discerned in the human figures, as already noted; Kroker also thinks that the nude female figures on the larger vases are due to Oriental art. In any case they are not to be traced until late in the period, and first, as might be expected for geographical reasons, in the fabrics found at Kameiros in Rhodes.

The question of chronology must next be considered. That the developed Geometrical style succeeds to the Mycenaean, and forms a link between it and the early Attic attempts at black-figured ware, of which we shall subsequently treat, is sufficiently clear. It may also be laid down that the Dipylon ware represents the last stage of Geometrical decoration, being in point of fact too far advanced to be regarded as a purely typical Geometrical ware. Such data as the finding of iron in the tombs, or the evidence of finds at Troy, also tend to place the beginning of the style at least as early as the tenth century. It has also been noted that the figures correspond closely with the bronzes of Olympia which are dated about the ninth century, and this, if accepted, necessitates placing the simpler linear decoration back as far as the tenth. The lower limits of the style may be roughly fixed by the evidence from the tombs of Etruria at about 700 B.C.

Next, there is the evidence afforded by the ships, which it should be noted are all of the bireme or διήρης form, with two banks of oars. The invention of the trireme, as we learn from Thucydides (i. 13, 5), was due to Ameinokles, about the year 704 B.C. Hence Kroker's dating of the Dipylon vases about the year 700 can hardly be accepted. But the eighth century may be taken as representing the latest period of the Geometrical pottery, both in Attica and Boeotia. The curious inscription engraved on a Dipylon vase from Athens is dealt with elsewhere; undoubtedly the earliest known Attic inscription, its value as evidence is limited to that of a terminus ante quem , from the fact that it was probably engraved at a subsequent time to the manufacture of the vase.

The question of centres of manufacture is one that has already been the subject of some discussion,the result of which has been to show that there is no complete homogeneity in the wares from different sites, and consequently no one central fabric. The colossal funerary vases, which, it may be remarked in passing, stand at the head of a long line of funerary fabrics and show the Athenian fondness for this class of vase, were not, and could not have been, generally exported, in spite of the notable exception at Curium. The ordinary wares might have been made in some one place (probably a Dorian centre, not Attica or Boeotia); but we have seen that most finds, as in Rhodes, present local peculiarities. Athens at this period was not sufficiently advanced to become the centre of large potteries, and did not become so, as we shall see, before the age of the Peisistratidae; such vases as were made were strictly confined to special purposes. It is a curious fact that very little Geometrical ware was found on the Acropolis.

The Geometrical pottery of Cyprus has already been discussed in its relation to that of Greece; but there is yet another region which passed through a Geometrical period similar to that of Greece, and that is Etruria. It is, however, better illustrated by the metal products of the Villanova period, such as the bronze discs and large cinerary urns, than by the local pottery, which never reached the same level as in Greece; in the former the same combinations of elaborate ornament with rude animals and yet ruder human figures may be witnessed, and it is possible that importations from Greece may have had a share in influencing these products. They cover the period from the tenth to the eighth century B.C.

§ 2. Attica, Boeotia, and Melos

Following on to the Geometrical vases both in chronological and artistic sequence is a small class of Athenian vases, which, more for convenience than with regard to strict accuracy, have been styled Proto-Attic . The term has this much of truth in it, that the group may be said to stand at the head of, and in direct relation to, the long series of painted vases produced in the Athenian potteries for some two centuries afterwards. It is only of late years that a sufficient number of these vases has become known for them to be studied as a separate class, and even when Böhlau first drew attention to them, in 1887,only two or three were known. The list up to date is as follows (the order being roughly chronological):—

1.Athens 467
(Couve's Cat.)Amphora Kerameikos Ath. Mitth. 1892, pl. 10.
2.Berlin 56 Amphora Hymettos Jahrbuch , 1887, pl. 5.
3.Athens 468 Hydria Analatos (Phaleron)ibid. pls. 3, 4.
4.Athens 464 Lebes Thebes ibid. pl. 4.
5.Athens 469 Amphora Pikrodaphni Bull. de Corr. Hell. 1893, pls. 2, 3.
6.Athens Mus.Amphora Kynosarges J.H.S. xxii. pls. 2–4.
7.Athens 650 Fragment Aegina Benndorf, Gr. u. Sic. Vasenb. pl. 54.
8.Athens 657 Amphora Kerameikos Ant. Denkm. i. pl. 57.
9.Athens 651 Amphora Peiraeus Ἐφ. Ἀρχ. 1897, pl. 5.
10.Berlin 1682 Lebes Aegina Arch. Zeit. 1882, pls. 9, 10.
11.B.M. A 535 Lebes Athens Rayet and Collignon, p. 43 = Fig. 87.

We may also add to this list Athens 652–664, a vase from Aegina (Ath. Mitth. 1897, pl. 8), B.M. A 1531 (Bull. de Corr. Hell. 1898, p. 285), and another at Athens (ibid. p. 283).

It will be noticed that the majority are of the amphora form, and that all without exception have been found in or near Athens, which leaves little room for doubt as to their origin.

A close connection with the Dipylon vases may be observed in the first three, not only in shape and technique, but in decoration. In No. 2, which we may take as typical of the oldest form of the Attic amphora, a combination of Geometrical and Mycenaean ornament is to be observed, but the figures of the warriors are purely Hellenic, like those of the Euphorbos pinax. The shape of No. 3 is typical of the Geometrical vases, with its long neck and slim body, and it is perhaps more accurately called a three-handled jug than a hydria, though at the same time it is clearly the prototype of the later Attic hydria. The panel on the neck of the vase (also seen in No. 6) is also a Geometrical feature, and the figures therein are quite in the Dipylon style. On the other hand, in the arrangement of the designs in continuous friezes without vertical divisions we trace the incoming influence of a foreign style—the Rhodian or Ionian. Other motives again, such as the birds and the vegetable ornaments, have nothing of the Geometrical or Ionian about them, and may perhaps be directly derived from Mycenaean vases. But the typically Geometrical lozenges, zigzags, etc., still hold their own. In No. 6 Mr. Cecil Smith notes that the ornamentation covering the field of the design is partly rectilinear and geometrical, partly floral and of Mycenaean origin. The spiral pattern which here closes the design, and is also seen on No. 1, is again an instance of Mycenaean influence, and is a motive which became exceedingly popular. In another seventh-century class, the so-called Melian vases, it is absolutely overdone, but the more restrained Attic tradition is preserved for many years as an appropriate decoration for the division of the designs under the handles, especially in the red-bodied amphorae of the developed B.F. style. This vase has some other unusual features, such as incised lines, which are also found on some early Attic fragments from the Acropolis, but seem to appear equally early at Corinth, so that it is impossible to say certainly if the process is an Attic invention. At all events it is not Ionian, as its place is taken on the east of the Aegean by lines of white paint (e.g. in the Clazomenae sarcophagi). Curiously enough, in this same vase (No. 6) may be noted attempts at this very process, here, no doubt, as on the Ionian vases, due to Mycenaean influence; but it is unique in early Attic work. The peculiar treatment of the eye and hair is also worthy of attention.

To sum up the characteristics of the Proto-Attic vases, it may be said that they represent the transformation of the Attico-Dorian element into the Attico-Ionian, just as we shall see in the next stage a further transformation under new influences into Attico-Corinthian. The Ionian influence brings with it into Attica not only a revival of Mycenaean elements, but also traces of Orientalism.The general appearance of the decoration links it with the Geometrical, but closer examination shows the admixture of spirals, rosettes, and lotos-flowers with the lozenges and zigzags, while the Geometrical animal-types are combined with new ones from Ionia, such as the lion, and the funeral scenes and combats are supplanted by Centaurs and winged genii of Assyrian character. Further, there is a distinct tendency to get rid of the old silhouette and to draw in outline, a practice typical of Ionia and a direct heritage from Mycenaean vase-paintings. As in the Rhodian vases, the bodies are rendered in full colour, the heads in outline; while the practice of covering the field with ground-ornaments is also a peculiarly Rhodian characteristic. These latter, however, gradually disappear, as do the Geometrical conventions in the drawing of the figures.

The amphora-type develops steadily onwards from the Berlin Hymettos amphora, which, as has been pointed out, is the oldest Attic variety. In some of the forms, as in No. 5, there are traces of a metallic origin, shown by the open-work handles and other details. Generally speaking, there is a tendency towards the colossal, and towards emphasising the figure-decoration, not only by increasing the size of the figures, but by confining the subject to one side. M. Pottier thinks that this is due to architectural influences, and suggests a comparison with a temple-façade. But the local traditions are still strong, and in spite of the influence of the lively and original Ionic style, the vases remain “continental” at bottom, the drawing always soberer and more powerful throughout. In many respects there is, as we shall see, a close parallelism with the so-called Melian fabrics.

No. 11, the large Burgon lebes in the British Museum (Fig. 87), is one of the latest representatives of the Proto-Attic class; its Ionic-looking lions and “Rhodian” wealth of ground-ornaments seem to suggest Asiatic influences, the presence of which has been accounted for above. Moreover, the loop-pattern on the reverse is distinctly Proto-Attic, and finds its parallels on vases found at Eretria, as well as on others of the class under consideration.


Another interesting point in connection with the Proto-Attic vases is the introduction of mythological subjects, as on No. 6 (Herakles and Antaios), No. 8 (Herakles and the Centaur Nessos), No. 10 (Perseus and Athena, and a Harpy). The only parallel to this early appearance of myths on vases is to be found in the Melian class (see below, the Aristonoös krater (see below) and the Euphorbos pinax, which, however, is of later date. It will be seen that they only occur in the later group of the Attic vases.


From Wiener Vorl.
The Aristonoös Krater (in the Vatican).

On two of these it is to be noted that inscriptions occur, identifying the figures (Nos. 8 and 10). These are the oldest painted inscriptions on Attic vases, but henceforward they increase in number, at least in the Athenian and Corinthian fabrics; they are always more characteristic of the mainland than of Asia Minor. There are two early signed vases which may possibly represent the work of Athenian artists prior to the time of the François vase, the cup by Oikopheles at Oxford, and the famous vase of Aristonophos, Ariston of Kos (ὁ Κῷος), Aristonothos, or Aristonoös as various scholars interpret the name. The former, however, is somewhat archaistic in character, with careless rather than incompetent drawing, and hardly earlier than the sixth century; and the latter has been claimed with much probability as Ionian work, on account of the treatment of certain details, as well as on the ground of the name Ariston of Kos (if this interpretation be accepted). The inscription is not conclusive either way, and it may also be here remarked that the krater has several points of resemblance with the well-known “Warrior” vase of Mycenae (Fig. 88), which is probably later in date than the rest of the pottery from that site, being found outside the Acropolis. The Aristonoös vase (Plate XVI.) is usually dated in the seventh century, and is interesting for its subjects as well as for its artistic position. On one side is a sea-fight, a subject only common on Greek vases in the Geometrical period, and therefore obviously derived from that source; on the other, the blinding of Polyphemos by Odysseus, a subject popular in archaic vase-painting, and found in Cyrenaic and other early examples. At first sight this vase would certainly seem to be of the Proto-Attic class, showing the transition from Geometrical to developed Attic style; but the Mycenaean and Ionian elements must not be left out of consideration. As regards the Warrior vase, M. Pottier has given good grounds for showing that it also is to be reckoned as Proto-Attic. But we must not leave out of sight the view urged by Furtwaengler,that the Aristonoös vase is of an Argive fabric. When the Heraion finds are published, they may afford more evidence on this point. Meanwhile, it may be remarked that the circumstances of the finding of the Warrior vase may support this view.


Closely connected with these early Attic fabrics is a very interesting series of small vases which, from the place of their discovery, are usually known as Phaleron ware . They are nearly all small jugs, and number some fifty, mostly at Athens, but there is a representative series in the British Museum. More conspicuously, perhaps, than the Proto-Attic, they illustrate the growing tendency to combine Geometrical and Oriental influences. In form and technique they are Geometrical, but in the ornamentation there is a large admixture of Oriental elements. It has been said that “the whole character of these vases seems to reflect an influence of the style of Oriental vases on painters accustomed to the Dipylon style,” and it is largely in the arrangement of the decoration that the former is apparent, as well as in the introduction of new motives and patterns. See for examples Plate XVII. figs. 2, 4, 5.

From Ath. Mitth. 1890.


The usual scheme consists of a panel with figures on the neck, a band of ornament round the shoulder, and below that parallel bands of lines or other ornaments, with zigzags or rays round the foot. A typical example is A 471 in the British Museum, with a cock on the neck, and below, dogs pursuing a hare. On a cup of Geometrical form, with conventionalised plants and ground-ornaments of Geometrical character, are two deer fleeing from a lion, and there is also a pyxis with chariot-scenes obviously derived from Mycenaean vases. But most curious and interesting is a jug with two bearded heads and a woman with very small body, apparently playing flutes. The general effect is quite unique, but the drawing is rude and childish to a degree; the middle head is almost Semitic in type. It would seem that here again we have a Mycenaean influence at work, and in general the appearance and style of these vases undoubtedly recall the figured vases from Cyprus.

Another series of vases in close relation to the Proto-Attic fabrics is that found at Vourva, near Marathon; they are important as forming a connecting link with the next development of Attic vase-painting, the Tyrrhenian amphorae described at the conclusion of this chapter. They have been studied by Böhlau, and more recently by Nilsson, and these writers have shown how they represent the influence of Ionic ideas, derived through Euboea. On the other hand the friezes of animals, which are so characteristic of this class, are clearly derived from Corinthian sources, but are distinguished from those on Corinthian vases by the absence of accessory colours. Fig. 89 may be taken as a typical example. They appear to be contemporary with the later Proto-Attic vases, such as the Burgon lebes, on which also traces of Ionic influence have been noted.

From the Geometrical period onwards the manufacture of painted vases seems to have been continued intermittently in Boeotia  down to the fourth century. It would be taking too great a liberty with chronology to deal with all Boeotian fabrics here, and the later must fall into their place with the contemporary Attic fabrics. But there is a small class which seems to take its origin directly or indirectly from the Geometrical pottery; and as it belongs to a period anterior to the perfected B.F. style, it may be treated here as analogous in development to the Proto-Attic vases.

A favourite shape among the Boeotian Geometrical wares was that of a jug with long cylindrical neck and somewhat flat body, of a form clearly imitated from metal. This shape, which is also often found in Proto-Corinthian fabrics, was utilised by a potter named Gamedes, whose signature is found on a vase from Tanagra in the Louvre, in the Boeotian alphabet of about 600 B.C. It is decorated with the figure of a herdsman driving before him a bull and a flock of sheep, the figures being in black silhouette, with details indicated by white markings within incised lines. This is quite a local peculiarity, and seems to be due to a combination of Corinthian and Ionian influences. Gamedes has also signed his name on an unpainted aryballos of the typical early Corinthian globular form in the British Museum (Plate XVII. fig. 6), and a similar vase in the Louvre is signedby Menaidas. Yet another Boeotian potter, Theozotos, has a signed vase with a similar subject to the Gamedes jug, but the style is more advanced.


Early Pottery from Greece (British Museum).

1, 3, “Proto-Corinthian”; 2, 4, 5, “Phaleron” Ware; 6, Boeotian, signed by Gamedes.

Another typically Boeotian form found in the same period is a kantharos, also obviously imitated from metal and decorated with figures of animals or palmette-and-lotos patterns of a peculiarly local type. The style of the animals is, like that of the Gamedes vase, also peculiar and local; but both in decoration and technique these vases seem to reflect Corinthian influence.

A small but remarkable class of vases, which seem to stand almost by themselves, is that known as the Melian amphorae . Four vases of this type now in the Athens Museum were found in Melos many years ago, and were recognised as a separate class and described as “Melian vases” as long ago as 1862 by Conze. Since that time a splendid example has been added to the list, found in the same island in 1893; and to this must be added several fragments recognised at different times, including one from Naukratis in the British Museum. All the complete vases are large amphorae, about three feet high, but of elegant proportions, with two handles branching out low down on the body. The figures are painted in brown on a pale yellow ground, and enhanced with dull red and purple accessories, some of the details also being incised. In two cases the subjects are mythological, one representing Apollo with his lyre in a chariot accompanied by Artemis and two Muses; another the Asiatic Artemis (see Chapter XII.); another, the one found in 1893, has the subjects of Hermes and Athena, and Herakles carrying off Iole. Deities in chariots are a typical Melian subject. The figures are of quite originaldesign, in no way imitative, and the costumes seem to indicate a period between Homer and the sixth century. They may be roughly dated about the middle of the seventh.

They exhibit a combination of highly-developed Geometrical ornament with vegetable motives from the East and Mycenaean details, such as the spiral, which, as has already been noted, attains almost to a rank growth over the vacant spaces of the vases. The human forms are conceived with a remarkable degree of freedom. In general appearance they are not unlike the large Proto-Attic amphorae, but much richer and freer in style; they may be also said to approach the finer Naukratite or Rhodian vases, such as the Euphorbos pinax with its quasi-Homeric subject and lavish use of ornament.

The decoration is more advanced than that of the Proto-Attic class, the palmettes, for instance, being more freely treated. Riegl notes that the palmettes and lotos-flowers are derived from Egypt, but transformed and Hellenised, and that the spirals are not Geometrical, but are naturalised into plants. The characteristic arrangement of the ornament in long vertical stripes he traces from Egypt through Mycenaean art; it develops later into the plait-band of the Clazomenae sarcophagi (Plate XXVII.). In brief, the ornament of the Melian vases forms a direct link between Mycenaean and Hellenic ornament.

An altogether new light has been thrown on this group by a large series of fragments of painted pottery found in 1898 in the island of Rheneia, which undoubtedly form part of the contents of graves brought over from Delos in 426–25 B.C., as recorded by Thucydides (iii. 104). They have been recently made the subject of careful study by Mr. J. H. Hopkinson, who recognised them as belonging to the Melian class, and identified parts of at least ten distinct vases. The scanty preservation of fragments of complete vases is, in his opinion, due to the fact that they had been originally placed outside the tombs like the Dipylon vases. Like the complete examples, they are characterised by their fine slip and brilliant polychrome technique, the system of frieze-decoration with Geometric ornaments and spirals, the free and spirited drawing, and their purely plastic forms, showing no signs of imitation of metal. They also bear out the isolated character of this fabric, in which all the vases seem to be on the same level of excellence, without any signs of transition at either end.


Melian Amphora  (Athens Museum ).

Mr. Hopkinson draws the conclusion, in which he may prove to be justified, that this pottery is of Delian manufacture, but if so, that the clay must have been imported, as the local clay is, and always has been, too poor in character. At all events, the Cycladic origin of the fabric can hardly be a matter of doubt, and it is clear that the intermediate position of these islands would account for a combination of Geometrical and Ionian elements, so far as such exists. But the strongly individualistic character of the vases compels us to seek some other influence for their real origin, and it seems on the whole probable that they represent a separate and independent descent from Mycenaean pottery, starting with the spiral as the basis of ornamentation. Some evidence of this descent may be traced in the native pottery of Phylakopi.

§ 3. Corinth

As a commercial and artistic centre, no one city during the early archaic period entered into serious rivalry with Corinth, which was at a very remote date in relations with the East, and was one of the first of the Greek states to extend the system of colonisation in the Mediterranean, by the foundation of Corcyra, Syracuse, and other important outposts. The epoch of this supremacy and of its commercial prosperity extends from the eighth to the sixth century B.C., being coincident with the rule of the great tyrants, Periander, Kypselos, etc. In the course of the sixth century, when the Athenian tyranny rose to such a great height under Peisistratos, Corinth, with equal rapidity, sank to a subordinate position, and her artistic supremacy passed to the growing power of Athens. Hence it is fitting that Corinth and its famous potteries should be the subject of our next section.

Two causes contributed to the importance of Corinth as a centre of ceramic industry—the excellence of its clay, and its position as a commercial port at the junction of the Peloponnese and Central Greece. Pollux selects Corinthian clay for commendation, and other writers speak of different varieties of pottery as Corinthian. Hence it is not surprising that large quantities of pottery should have been found here, the local origin of which is established by the inscriptions in the Corinthian alphabet which are frequently painted upon them; and not only that, but similar pottery has been found almost all over the Mediterranean, being more widely distributed than any other fabric except the Athenian B.F. and R.F. vases. The list of sites as given by Wilisch is as follows: Athens, Eleusis, Aegina, Argos, Kleonae, Tiryns, Mycenae, Thebes, and Tanagra in Greece; Euboea (Karystos), Melos, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Samos, and Cyprus among the islands; Hissarlik, Smyrna, Pontus, and the Crimea; Alexandria, Naukratis, and Carthage; Syracuse and Selinus in Sicily, and Sardinia; and many places in Italy, such as Bari, Nola, Capua, Cumae, Beneventum, Cervetri, Vulci, Orvieto, Corneto, and Viterbo. M. Pottier thinks that this wide distribution is due, not to the merit of the vases themselves, which are often of poor style, but to the merchandise which they contained. This might, at any rate, account for the great preponderance of small oil-flasks, a form which took the place of the Mycenaean “false amphora.”

The Corinthian vases are not, however, strictly homogeneous, and, in fact, fall into certain distinct categories. The earliest class found at Corinth stands quite by itself, and has been termed “Proto-Corinthian,” though the justice of this title has been strongly combated by some scholars. On many of the Sicilian and Italian sites a class of small vases is found which differs from the authentic Corinthian examples of the same forms, and may not impossibly denote local fabrics. If this is so, they would stand in the same relation to the genuine Corinthian as the Boeotian Geometrical vases to those of the Dipylon, forming a sort of supplementary fabric. At all events, such imitations of a popular ware might reasonably be expected.

M. Pottier maintains that five distinct varieties of clay may be observed, which partially serve as a basis for classification, apart from questions of style and ornamentation. They are as follows: (1) small vases of a greenish-yellow clay found in Greece, especially at Corinth, but rare in Italy; (2) vases of cream-coloured clay from Boeotia, and large kraters from Cervetri; (3) vases of reddish clay from Boeotia, Euboea, and Etruria; (4) vases of white and grey clay, very numerous in Italy; (5) vases of yellow clay, chiefly found in Italy. Some of the “Proto-Corinthian” wares belong to Class (1), but as a rule they are marked off from the rest by technique as well as decoration. This first class is without doubt exclusively local, and represents the κέραμος Κορίνθιος of Pollux; the same clay is even used at Corinth at the present day. On one of the Penteskuphia pinakes, the clay of which differs from the rest, a potter is represented making an aryballos of “Proto-Corinthian” form; but the majority belong to the second class, which is also local, and includes the large kraters of advanced style with Corinthian inscriptions. In colour and porosity the clay resembles that of Boeotia. The red clay of Class (3) suggests a connection with Chalkis, a question which needs future consideration; (4) and (5) present analogies to the native clays of Italy, and include all the local imitative fabrics. The older varieties with merely linear decoration are most largely found at Corinth and Syracuse, and the later with incised lines and figures of animals or men are comparatively rare. But as far as the present state of our knowledge permits, it is certainly possible to claim as Corinthian, at least in a sense, all the varieties of fabrics which have been hitherto mentioned, except probably the “Proto-Corinthian.”

In describing these fabrics in detail, it will be found more convenient to ignore the technical differences, and adopt the more chronologically accurate system of classification which follows the development of the decoration. We thus obtain five distinct classes, which may be summarised as follows:—

1. “Proto-Corinthian” wares (called by M. Pottier the Corinthian Geometric style). 750–650 B.C., and later.

2. Corinthian vases with incised scale-patterns or imbrications.

3. Corinthian vases with floral decoration, ground-ornaments, and figures not incised.

4. Similar vases, but with figures incised. [Classes 2 to 4 roughly cover the seventh century.]

5. Corinthian vases without ground-ornaments, and with large friezes of animals or human figures; incised details. 600–550 B.C.

1. Although the priority of the so-called Proto-Corinthian  or Corinthian Geometrical pottery is certain, the term is, strictly speaking, applied to vases of different dates, which are only connected by form with the original fabrics. The distinction lies in the fact that the earlier vases have linear decoration without purple accessories or incised lines, both of which occur in the more developed examples as the result of the revolution effected by the Corinthian painters. They therefore fall into two main classes, of which the earlier includes the larger vases with purely Geometrical decoration of a simple type, doubtless reflecting the original local Geometrical pottery, and sometimes with zones of animals. The figures are merely in black silhouette. In the later class the vases are small, sometimes diminutive, but of developed style, with zones of animals of the later Corinthian type, and with purple accessories and incised lines. The earlier class date from the eighth to the seventh century B.C.; the later cannot be older than the sixth. For the dating of the earlier group some evidence may be derived from the results of excavations at Syracuse, founded from Corinth in 735 B.C. In its earliest cemeteries, as also at Megara Hyblaea, numerous Proto-Corinthian vases of the earlier class have been found. In Italy Proto-Corinthian wares were found in trench-tombs of about 750–650 B.C., and in the earlier chamber-tombs. The older class disappears by the end of the seventh century, when the typical Corinthian aryballos  (see p. ) takes its place.

Besides Corinth and Syracuse, Proto-Corinthian vases have been found in considerable numbers at the Argive Heraion, at Thebes, and in the island of Aegina, and more rarely at Tiryns, Athens, Eleusis, Tanagra, Smyrna, and Hissarlik. Out of thirty in the Berlin Museum, eight certainly came from Corinth. Taking this into consideration, and also the Corinthian origin of Syracuse, it is evident that there is, apart from their style, a strong presumption in favour of their Corinthian origin. As long ago, however, as 1877 Helbig cast doubts on this and proposed to locate them at the rival commercial centre of Chalkis. He was followed by Dümmler, Klein, and others, but recently Aegina and Boeotia have also been suggested, the latter at least for the earlier class. Yet more recently the pendulum has swung in another direction, that of Argos, chiefly in view of the extensive finds at the Heraion (not yet published). Two specimens have recently been made known which bear inscriptions, but neither yields very definite evidence. One is a signed vase (with the name of Pyrrhos), in which the alphabet is mixed, but mainly Chalcidian in character; in the other the inscriptions are fragmentary, but though the letter Σ appears in Argive, not Corinthian, form, the Λ is not of the peculiar Argive Argive Σ type, but Sicyonian Λ. The Pyrrhos inscription cannot be much later than 700 B.C., and thus ranks as the earliest known “signature.” Mr. Hoppin, arguing from the Heraion finds, regards the Proto-Corinthian fabrics as a direct offshoot of Mycenaean pottery, not as forming a link between the Geometrical and the Corinthian. The term, however, may be preserved, as implying priority in point of time, and it cannot be said as yet that the Corinthian theory is absolutely disproved.


“Proto-Corinthian” and Early Corinthian Vases (British Museum).
1–3, 5, Early Corinthian; 4, 6, “Proto-Corinthian.”

The dominating form is that of the alabastron  or lekythos, a pear-shaped vase with flat round lip and flat handle. The aryballos form is also known, as are the skyphos, pyxis, and a small krater. A characteristic shape is the jug with flat base rising in pyramidal form to a long cylindrical neck, with trefoil lip and handle. The earlier group, although of “Corinthian” technique, usually have only “Geometrical” ornament, such as water-birds or simple patterns; hence they have been held, for instance, by M. Pottier, to represent the true type of Corinthian Geometrical pottery. But it does not seem that the Geometrical style was ever popular at Corinth, and there are many signs that the Proto-Corinthian fabrics were to a great extent influenced directly by Mycenaean wares. The patterns, which are in black monochrome, are on the smaller vases limited to bands, rows of dots, or a kind of “tongue”-pattern of stylised leaves. The Proto-Corinthian vases found in Aegina form in some respects a class by themselves, being often of considerable size; they also include some unusual varieties, such as cups, and even amphorae. They usually have Geometrical decoration in the form of zigzags, maeander, chevrons, triangles, or parallel rays; on the larger ones are found friezes of animals, such as dogs pursuing deer, bulls, or water-fowl.

[Examples of this class are: B.M. A 487, 1050 ff. (see Plate XVII. figs. 4 and 6, XIX. fig. 1); Louvre E 13, 18, 32, 309, 375, 390, 396 (Atlas , pls. 39, 40); Berlin, 316–35; Ann. dell' Inst. 1877, pls. C D U V Ath. Mitth. 1897, pl. 7 (B.M. A 1530, of Aegina type).]

The second class is one of considerable interest. It consists of a series of miniature vases, of which some twenty in all are known, of the pear-shaped lekythos form, with minute but skilfully-executed figures in a very advanced style. At their head for beauty and delicacy of execution stands the exquisite little Macmillan lekythos in the British Museum, a masterpiece of its kind. There is also a fine specimen in Berlin (No. 336), others in the Louvre and the Syracuse Museum (the latter from the local excavations), and three very fine ones have recently been acquired by the Boston Museum. But for size and richness, if not for beauty, all these are surpassed by a marvellous vase in the Chigi collection at Florence. This is a jug or oinochoë, decorated with no less than four friezes, two of which are broad, with numerous figures, the two alternate forming narrow borders to these, with hunting scenes. The colouring is most remarkable, the figures being painted in black, yellow ochre, and bright crimson on a cream ground, with a lavish use of incised lines, and on the upper narrow frieze the animals are actually painted in pale buff on a black ground. The upper large frieze represents a combat, with serried ranks of warriors and horsemen advancing to meet each other, those on the right all having elaborate emblems on their shields (birds, ox-heads, Gorgon-heads, etc.). On the lower friezes the figures fall into groups: a four-horse chariot and a row of boys on horseback; a Sphinx; hunters slaying a lion; and lastly a fragmentary group, clearly representing the Judgment of Paris. It is the figures of this group which bear the inscriptions alluded to above. As an instance of the extreme richness and delicacy of the painting, attention should be called to the chariot-horses in the lower frieze, which are drawn slightly in advance of each other, and painted respectively yellow, black, red, and yellow.

The Macmillan lekythos, in spite of its diminutive size, is decorated with no less than three friezes of human figures and animals, as well as other ornaments; the main design represents a combat of warriors; the next, a race of boys on horseback; the lowest, dogs pursuing a hare, and a crouching ape. The total height of the vase is barely 2¾ inches, and yet every detail in these friezes is marked with surprising care and accuracy, the shield-devices of the warriors, for instance, being drawn with wonderful minuteness. The three Boston vases are interesting for their subjects: on one is Bellerophon slaying the Chimaera; on the next, a hero attacking a lion with a human head on its back (a monster no doubt suggested by  the Chimaera); the third has the favourite early subject of Herakles' combat with the Centaurs. In all these vases the use of a red colour on the human figures should be noted, a technical device which we have already noted in the figures on the Melian amphorae.

It is abundantly clear that such work could not have been produced in the eighth, or even the seventh, century; the style is virtually that of the subsequent black-figured vases, and we are therefore forced to the conclusion that these miniature vases were made under the more or less direct influence of the later Corinthian wares proper, at a time when that style was developing into the black-figured.

With the Proto-Corinthian ware may be linked a series of vases in the form of animals, human heads, etc., which imitate Oriental porcelain vases and show an early development of the plastic art which is remarkable for its advanced style. The decoration of these vases is usually of a simple Geometrical character. They are found in Rhodes and on many other sites, such as Eretria, Vulci, and Nola.

2. Vases with incised imbrications.—The importance of this class is betokened by the appearance of the incised line, which as a matter of pure technique is of course only a revival from the primitive fabrics, but as an adjunct to figure-decoration in order to express details is an entirely new feature. It was probably derived from metal-work, in which it had long been familiar, as the Boeotian Geometrical fibulae and the early Corinthian or Chalcidian bronze reliefs testify. Although destined largely to revolutionise design, it was at first used with restraint. In the vases under consideration it is confined to the imbrications or scale-patterns with which the body is largely covered (Plate XIX. fig. 3). They were produced by means of a compass in which the graving-tool was fixed, the edge of each scale forming an arc of a circle, the centre points of which are usually visible. This scale-pattern is not a new feature in the decoration of vases; it appears in a painted form on many Mycenaean specimens, and was also adopted by the Ionian painters of Daphnae in the Egyptian Delta. But as a more satisfactory result was obtained by incising, the Corinthian variety soon became exceedingly popular. The effect is often enhanced by the use of red colour. In some cases this ornament is combined with painted friezes of animals (as in the Louvre vase E 421). The shapes employed are various, but a new and conspicuous variety is the large jug or olpe , with circular lip and large discs attached on either side to the tops of the handles. Attempts have been made to dissociate this fabric from Corinth, by attributing it to Rhodes, Ionia, and Sicily; but although it is certainly true that large numbers were found in Rhodes and in Sicily, the claims of neither prevail over those of Corinth, and the most that can be said with any certainty is that some are local imitations. It is, moreover, possible to discover their prototypes in the Proto-Corinthian wares.

3. Vases with floral decoration , but no incised lines (about 700–650 B.C.).—Towards the end of the eighth century may be observed an influx of Oriental motives, transforming the Corinthian style, just as at Athens it transformed the local style, producing the Phaleron ware. Its effect can also be observed in Etruria. It is largely due to historical causes, such as the development of Greek commerce and colonial expansion, and generally to the fusion of Dorian and Ionian elements. Hence the prominent characteristic which distinguishes the new variety from the Proto-Corinthian; namely, the employment of vegetable ornament, not from direct observation of nature, but conventionalised. These patterns seem to be largely drawn from Oriental textile embroideries, and mainly take the form of rosettes, leaves, and flowers strewn all over the field; according to some writers, this is the explanation of the phrase spargentes lineas intus , used in connection with the Corinthian painters Aridikes and Telephanes. Ground -ornaments are almost unknown in Oriental art; but their adoption from the embroideries would only exemplify the principle, universal in early art, of imitating in one material the salient features of another. It has been suggested that these flowers and leaves are intended to represent the ground on which the animals are walking. If this is so, the effect is due to a principle already existing in Mycenaean art—the conventional rendering of perspective by placing objects whose real position is beyond the principal subjects in the same vertical plane with them. Another favourite pattern, either as a ground-ornament or as part of the subordinate decoration, is a combination of the palmette and lotos-flower, picked out with purple accessories; this pattern is purely conventional, and often assumes colossal dimensions in relation to the size of the vase. The purple accessories, which now become very common, may possibly be connected with another traditional Corinthian invention, that of Ekphantos, who used a red pigment made from pounded earth.

As regards shapes, the alabastron and aryballos are preeminently popular; the flat-bottomed jug, the pyxis or covered jar, and the skyphos or kotyle, are also found (see Plate XIX. figs. 1, 2, 5). There arises now a tendency in the larger vases to divide the body into zones or friezes, which henceforth become a characteristic feature. The subjects are strictly limited to animals such as the lion, or various types of birds; and friezes of running dogs and other quadrupeds now become the typical Corinthian motive.


To face page 312

(British Museum ).

4. Vases with floral decoration and figures with incised lines  (about 650–600 B.C.).—In this next stage, the date of which corresponds with the later trench-tombs and older chamber-tombs of Etruria, there is a marked tendency of the vases to increase in size, and several new forms are either introduced for the first time or increase in popularity. Besides the ever-popular aryballos and alabastron, there are various forms of covered jars, the cylindrical pyxis, and the so-called lekane , a sort of tureen; also various drinking-cups, the kotyle, the so-called kothon , and the kylix, the last a new type. Its prototype is perhaps to be sought in the shallow four-handled bowls of the Boeotian Geometrical ware, and it is marked by its bent-over rim and low foot.

The decoration loses all restraint, and the prevailing idea with the artist is the horror vacui  which impels him to fill up every vacant part of the surface, at the expense of utterly conventionalising his figures and ornaments and distorting their forms (cf. Plate XIX. figs. 1, 5, and XX. fig. 1). The vases contrast unfavourably with their Ionian contemporaries, in which, however profuse the ground-ornaments, the importance of the figures is never lost sight of, and they never fail to strike the eye. Incised lines and purple accessories are employed freely, and even the rosettes are always marked by cross-wise incisions.

Incision as a method of ornamenting vases was of course always known from the earliest times, but it was not until now employed within and round painted designs. Hitherto the only alternatives were plain silhouettes (as in Geometrical vases) or half-opaque, half-outlined figures (as in Mycenaean and someearly Ionian vases). The former, however, were too conventional, the latter too elaborate, and the new method of painting plus  engraving reconciled the two, being at once more realistic and more rapid. It is generally supposed that this method was a Corinthian invention, but it is not unknown in early Attic vases, and Böhlau attributes its origin to an early Ionian tendency to imitate metal ware. But this was an anomaly, and the Ionians never took to the incising method, preferring outline designs or inner lines of white paint. In any case the Corinthians were the first to adopt it and popularise it.

The subjects, which now begin to present greater interest, include all kinds of animals and monsters, arranged in friezes, and by degrees human figures, and even scenes from mythology, make their appearance. Some vases have only decorative ornament, such as a flower of four long, pointed petals, which is frequently found on the aryballi. The animals include the lion, panther, boar, bull, ram, deer, goat, swan, and eagle; the monsters are Gryphons, Sphinxes, or Sirens, and a sea-deity of which the upper part is human (both male and female), the lower is in the form of a sinuous fish-tail, and the figure is often winged in addition. It is possible that in these figures we may see the local sea-deities Palaemon and Ino-Leukothea. The human figures are either single, ranged in friezes, or in groups; the favourite types are combats of two warriors and Bacchanalian dances; hunting scenes; and warriors setting out in chariots. The mythological scenes include the combat of Herakles with the Centaurs,and scenes from the Trojan War, such as the combat of Ajax and Aeneas, or the episode of Dolon.

So far, then, in the three groups of Corinthian fabrics proper, we are able to trace the working of M. Pottier's law of the hiérarchie des genres , the law which was made by M. Dumont the basis of his work Les Céramiques de Grèce propre  (vol. i., dealing with the earlier fabrics). According to this law, the decoration of vases advances by a logical process from linear patterns to floral ornament, and then from animals to human, and finally mythological, figures. Another feature in this group is that inscriptions now appear for the first time. They became exceedingly popular at Corinth, and on most of the vases with figure-subjects they may be found, each person bearing a name, whether the scene is mythological or not. The fashion seems to have received an impetus from the chest of Kypselos, which was largely a Corinthian work, and often shows close parallel with the vases (see below). We have a signed vase with figures in this style by Chares (Louvre E 609), and others by Timonidas (Athens 620), and Milonidas (a pinax in Louvre). The abundance of these inscriptions has done much to increase our knowledge of the somewhat peculiar Corinthian alphabet (see Chapter XVII.).

Among the vases of this period one of the most remarkable is the so-called Dodwell vase in Munich (Fig. 90), found at Mertese, near Corinth, about the year 1800, and purchased by the explorer Dodwell. It is a cylindrical jar or box (pyxis ), with cover, decorated round the sides and on the top. Round the body are two friezes of animals, with numerous flowers as ground-ornaments; on the top of the cover is a frieze representing a boar-hunt, in which eight fancifully-named personages take more or less active part. Of these Philon lies dead under the boar's feet; Thersandros attacks it with a sword in front, and Pakon discharges an arrow at it from behind. Behind him Andrytas hurls a spear, and he is followed by four inactive figures, all draped and unarmed—Dorimachos, Sakis, Alka ... and Agamemnon. The scene is closed by a heraldic group of two Sphinxes. It will be observed that here, as in other contemporary scenes with human figures, the ground-ornaments are already showing a tendency to die out; perhaps under the influence of Ionia, where it was soon discovered that they interfered with the effect of figures in action. The alphabet of the inscriptions enables us to date this vase about 650–620 B.C.


The pinakes , or votive tablets, from Penteskuphia, of which mention has been made elsewhere, form an important feature in this group, both from their subjects, their inscriptions, and the method of painting. They appear to range in date from 650 to 550 B.C., and fall into three classes in point of style. The earliest have designs in rude silhouette without incised lines; in the second only the contours of the figures are incised; the third are like the vases, with incised lines and purple details. In a few cases the clay is red, not drab-coloured. Some are decorated on both sides, but the majority on one only, and they were clearly intended for hanging up in a temple. Two of them are signed by artists, Timonidas and Milonidas, and there are other interesting inscriptions, besides the ordinary dedications to Poseidon and Amphitrite. The subjects are partly the same as on the vases, but the majority fall under two heads: (a ) Poseidon and Amphitrite, standing or in a chariot (Fig. 115); (b genre  scenes from Corinthian industries, such as miners digging out clay, potters and painters at work, and vessels exporting pottery over the sea. Of the subjects common to the vases, Oriental animal-types and horses occur most frequently; also rosettes and floral ground-ornaments.


1. Imitation Corinthian Krater Return of Hephaistos ; 2, Corinthian Krater with Boar-hunt  (British Museum ).

5. The vases of the fifth class (600–550 B.C.) are characterised by the prevalence of human and mythological subjects , with large friezes of animals, a general use of incised lines, and an absence of ground-ornaments. They are mostly of considerable size, but small vases still continued to be made during the sixth century, as is seen in the “Proto-Corinthian” lekythi. The amphora and hydria now first make their appearance; the later lekythi approach more to the Attic form. One or two other typical shapes may also be noticed, such as the column-handled krater (Plate XXI.) and the trefoil-mouthed jug with a panel on one side of the vase only; the prototype of the former we have seen in the krater of Aristonoös. Another important feature is the general use of a red ground in the place of the old creamy white; and yet another, the use of white accessories, especially for the flesh of female figures. It should be noted that this white is always applied directly on the clay, as in Ionian fabrics, not as in the Attic, upon the black varnish. We may bear in mind that it was about this time that the Athenian Eumaros marem a femina discrevit , according to Pliny; but his date is uncertain, and the bearing of this invention on the vase-paintings is not to be accepted without hesitation. For the faces of male figures purple is often used, and, generally speaking, the vases tend to present a polychrome appearance. This again is an Ionian characteristic.

The subjects now take a much wider range, and include almost every variety known in the earlier part of the sixth century. Friezes of animals seldom form the main motive of decoration, but are placed in subordination either on the shoulder or low down on the body. Some of the older types still linger, such as the monsters and fish-tailed sea-deities, and also that of a heraldic group of two animals with a palmette and lotos pattern between, suggesting the old Assyrian motive of two animals guarding the sacred tree. Generally, there is a great advance in composition; but two traditional principles are still observed—the juxtaposition of figures turned in the same direction, as in Oriental compositions, and a symmetrical disposition of the two sides converging to a centre, a “Continental” principle already seen in the Dipylon vases. The subjects taken from daily life include combats, banquets, Bacchic or grotesque dances, hunting-scenes, warriors setting out for battle, and processions. Some appear now for the first time, as, for instance, the banquets. Among the mythological scenes, Herakles and his adventures find most favour; scenes from the Trojan cycle are far from uncommon; and other myths of more isolated character are those of Amphiaraos, Perseus, and the Theban cycle (Tydeus killing Ismene). Many of the mythological scenes are really only genre  scenes with names added; for instance, the krater in the Louvre with Herakles' reception by Eurytos (E 635), is only an ordinary banquet-scene in composition, but for the inscriptions; and so with many others, as we have also observed in the preceding class.

It may suffice to describe one vase in detail as typical of the later Corinthian wares. This is the so-called Amphiaraos krater in Berlin, a column-handled krater of considerable size and very richly decorated. It belongs to a series exceptionally well represented in the Louvre (E 613–39; all found, like this, at Cervetri), and illustrating the absolutely latest development of Corinthian pictorial art. Its special interest is that it affords a close comparison in several points with the chest of Kypselos. The subjects are disposed in two rows all round the vase, of which the upper is the more important, containing two mythological subjects. These, which are unequally divided, one occupying more of the circumference than the other, are the Departure of Amphiaraos and the Funeral Games for Pelias, the ἀγὼν ὁ ἐπὶ Πελίᾳ of Pausanias. On the lower frieze are seven boys taking part in a horse-race, seven groups of combatants, and two marching hoplites. It will be noted that there is no frieze of animals.

The Amphiaraos scene depicts that hero in the act of ascending his war-chariot, in which the driver Baton stands; he turns to look at his family behind, consisting of two daughters, a son, and an infant in the nurse's arms, and last of all his wife Eriphyle, who stands in the rear with the pearl necklace, the price of her treachery. Her children seem to be supplicating for her. In the background Amphiaraos' house is indicated by a Doric building. The correspondence of this scene with the description of the Kypselos chest is extraordinary; the latter might almost be a description of the vase. An interesting feature of this painting is formed by the animals which are scattered over the scene: a hare, a hedgehog, an owl and another bird, a serpent, a scorpion, and a lizard or salamander.

The funeral games for Pelias adjoined the Amphiaraos scene on the chest, just as they do here, except that the scene on the vase is only an excerpt from the contest of the Pentathlon, which is there complete. We have here only the wrestling (by Peleus and Hippalkimos), and in place of the other scenes a chariot-race, with the judges waiting to decide the result; as on the chest, tripods are standing ready as prizes for the victor. It must not, of course, be supposed that these scenes are directly copied from the chest—the discrepancies are too great, although the parallels are very interesting; but the only object of such comparisons is to assist us to an idea of the appearance of these great contemporary works of art.

One of the chief features of this class is the almost total disappearance of the ground-ornaments. Sometimes indeed a frieze of animals with the old profusion of rosettes is combined on the same vase with a design of figures on a clear field; but, generally speaking, rosettes are not found with the figure subjects. Their place is almost supplied by the inscriptions, which become more and more extensively employed, even for animals. Accessory colours are used in a purely conventional fashion, not to reproduce nature, but—probably—to reproduce metal-work. Thus we may surmise that white is intended to give the effect of silver (or ivory) and red that of copper (or gold), just as such substances were used on the chest of Kypselos in order to give variety and picturesqueness to the surface. The black then represents the ground of bronze or wood.

The sixth-century Corinthian vase-paintings have a special importance at the present day, because they are almost the only remnant left to us of the artistic products of the city at that time. Though not of course to be reckoned as examples of the higher art, they yet reflect it in some measure, and help us to reconstruct such works as the chest of Kypselos, almost every subject on which finds a parallel in the Corinthian vases. And it is possible that they are important in another respect. We know from Pliny that there was a very influential school of painting centred at Corinth in this century, which is represented by the names of Kleanthes and Aridikes, Ekphantos, Aregon, and perhaps also Kimon of Kleonae. Although Professor Robert has endeavoured to show that the traditions are untrustworthy, and places Kimon in the seventh century, Kleanthes later, the probability is that they may fairly be upheld, and Pliny's dates accepted. Allusion has already been made to the inventions traditionally associated with Aridikes and Ekphantos; but Kimon belongs to a later development of painting altogether, and must be reserved for a later chapter. Of Kleanthes it is only stated that he “invented linear drawing,” whatever that may mean; Pliny, our informant, was perhaps hardly aware himself, and is no more definite as to the period at which he lived. We can only, therefore, assume that he marks the epoch of some new departure or advance in contour or outline drawing.


Chalcidian Vase: Herakles and Geryon; Quadriga (Bibliothèque Nationale).

There are a few vases which, on account of various peculiarities, can only be described as “imitation Corinthian.” Among these may be mentioned one with an inscription in the Sicyonian alphabet (Berlin 1147), and a krater in the British Museum (B 42 on Plate XXI.) with designs on a white ground, which from the similarity of its style to the Berlin vase may be linked therewith. The late F. Dümmler was of opinion that these two vases were made at Sikyon. There is also the group of vases from Caere in the Campana collection of the Louvre, which have usually been regarded as imitations of Corinthian ware made in Italy; but M. Pottier in his catalogue makes no distinction between these and the genuine Corinthian fabrics.

§ 4. Chalcidian Vases

A very puzzling class of vases, about which little is at present known, is that formed by the so-called Chalcidian group. They are so named from the fact of their bearing inscriptions which may undoubtedly be referred to the alphabet of Chalkis in Eretria; but there is no evidence that they were actually made there. We know, however, that Chalkis was a great art-centre and rival of Corinth in the seventh and sixth centuries, and was especially famous for work in metal. As, therefore, more than one of these vases bears evident indications, in the shape of the handles, the ornamentation, and other details, of an imitation of metallic originals, there may be some ground for the attribution. Only a dozen or so of these vases with Chalcidian inscriptions are known, and several of them are in character almost to be ranked with the developed B.F. Attic wares; their date cannot therefore be earlier than the middle of the sixth century, probably about 560–540 B.C. On the other hand, they often present a close parallel, especially in the ornamental patterns, to the later Corinthian wares, whence it seems probable that they form, like the so-called Tyrrhenian amphorae (see below), a connecting-link between Corinth and Athens. While as yet it is impossible to obtain a definite idea of the characteristics of “Chalcidian” vases, the attempt to classify other uninscribed vases with them can only be very tentative, although there is more than one in the British Museum, in the Louvre, and elsewhere, which presents some feature especially typical of the inscribed examples.

The prevailing shape is the amphora, all but one of the inscribed group coming under this heading, in which the outline of the body approaches nearer to a pure ellipse than is usual in this form; the typical ornaments are rows of oblique zigzags and a peculiar variety of the lotos-pattern. An occasional rosette in the field preserves a trace of Corinthian influence. The subjects are mainly mythological, such as the combat of Herakles and Geryon, battle-scenes from the Trojan legends, etc.; and two points are worth noting as apparently characteristic of the group: (1) the tendency to represent fallen figures in full face, which is very rare in archaic vase-painting; (2) the type of Geryon, who is winged, and not, as in the Attic vases, “three men joined together,” as Pausanias describes the figure on the chest of Kypselos, but a triple-headed, six-armed monster.

The most typical example of the class is the amphora in the Hope collection at Deepdene, with scenes from the Trojan War. Ajax stands over the body of Achilles, defending it from the attacks of Glaukos, whom he has wounded, and of Paris, who has just discharged his bow; behind the latter advance Aeneas and two other Trojans with spears, while a fourth falls back wounded. Achilles and the two wounded men are all shown in full face. The combat is watched by a stiff archaic figure of Athena, with serpent-fringed aegis, and behind her, standing apart, is Diomede, having his wounded hand bound up by Sthenelos. The drawing on the whole is accurate, and the style more vigorous and less conventional than that of the Attic vases.

Two of the group represent Herakles encountering Geryon: an amphora in the British Museum (B 155) and one in the Bibliothèque at Paris (202). In the latter the figure of Athena is almost exactly repeated from the Deepdene vase, and behind her is a group of cattle. The reverse of this vase represents a quadriga seen from the front (a typical Chalcidian subject). Both sides of the vase are illustrated in Plate XXII.

Until the whole series of Chalcidian vases is properly studied and estimated, it is difficult to give an adequate account of this important group; we append, however, a list of those bearing inscriptions in the alphabet, and a few others for various reasons associated with them.

§5. “Tyrrhenian Amphorae ”

There is a large and important class of vases, not differing in technique from the Attic B.F. vases proper, yet clearly of earlier date, and while not exclusively Attic in all their characteristics, yet sufficiently so to suggest that they are closely connected therewith. The problem which these vases have for a long time presented is whether they merely represent an early stage of the Attic B.F. fabrics, linking them to the “Proto-Attic,” or whether they owe their origin to foreign, e.g. Corinthian, sources.

About eighty vases, nearly all amphorae, have been recognised as presenting the characteristics of this class, and all have been found in Italy, chiefly at Cervetri and Vulci; hence they have been known for many years. As long ago as 1830 the name “Tyrrhenian amphorae” was applied to them by Gerhard, meaning thereby a sort of cross between Greek vases proper and those of obviously Italian origin. The name has adhered to them, and was also used generally to describe the characteristic form of amphora, with its cylindrical neck and egg-shaped body; but it was not long before it began to be realised that the vases bore inscriptions in the Attic dialect, and, further, that the subjects on them had much in common with the later Corinthian fabrics. Thereupon sprang up the idea, fostered by Loeschcke,that the vases were made by Athenian potters, but that they were largely indebted to Corinthian—or, as Loeschcke called them, Peloponnesian—prototypes. For the last ten years or so they have been generally known as “Corintho-Attic,” but Thiersch, the most recent writer on the subject, reverts to the old name of Tyrrhenian, using it of course in a purely conventional sense. His conclusion is that the class is to be regarded as “old Attic,” rather than imitative of Corinthian, and he shows clearly that it must be regarded as a development of the Vourva vases, as will be seen from an examination of the vase given in Fig. 89, p. 299; but that it is entirely free from Corinthian influence can hardly be maintained. We have seen that the Vourva class borrowed from Corinth the friezes of animals which are also characteristic of this group, and it is possible that this influence continued to make itself felt. At all events, this ware belongs to the first half of the sixth century B.C., and stands in close relation to the François vase, and others which represent the earliest school of Attic B.F. artists. Its specially Attic characteristic are, according to Holwerda, (1) the inscriptions, (2) the clay, (3) the types of the lotos and other ornaments, (4) the importance given to one subject, (5) the thin proportions of the figures.


“Tyrrhenian” Amphora: Death of Polyxena (Brit. Mus.).

The vases are for the most part decorated in the same manner, with an elaborate lotos-and-honeysuckle pattern on either side of the neck, and several friezes of figures, usually three, covering the body, of which all but the principal one are composed of animals or monsters. The principal frieze is always the upper one, covering the body from the neck to the middle. The friezes are more numerous on the earlier examples; they become fewer as Corinthian characteristics give way to Attic. Altogether, these vases are remarkably homogeneous, both in style, in shape, and in technique, and it has even been suggested that the whole series is the work of one man; nor is this an impossibility.

An interesting feature is formed by the inscriptions, which are of frequent occurrence. They tend, however, to degenerate into meaningless collocations of letters, which some have thought to represent Corinthian inscriptions misunderstood; but the alphabet is pure Attic throughout, except for the double forms on the Berlin amphora (see below), and a Chalcidian Chalcidian Γ for Γ on a vase in the British Museum. The artist is fond of giving his figures surnames, and thus we find Hermes styled Κυλλήνιος, “of Kyllene,” Nestor Πύλιος, “of Pylos,” and Ajax [Ὀ]ιλιάδης, “son of Oileus,” a feature which hardly occurs on any other class of vases. The meaningless inscriptions are not easy to account for; certain groups of letters are repeated over and over again, and it has been suggested by Thiersch that they are analogous to the friezes of animals, with their repetitions and combinations. They also seem to serve a decorative purpose by filling up spaces.

The subjects are mainly mythological, with many features of interest. For several the artist seems to have had a decided preference, such as the combats of Herakles with Amazons and with the Centaur Nessos, that of the Lapiths with the Centaurs, the adventure of Troilos and Polyxena from the Trojan legends. Bacchic scenes are altogether wanting, but on many examples a Corinthian type is adopted in their place, representing grotesque dancing figures in various attitudes. Of scenes from daily life, combats of armed warriors and young riders galloping prevail above all others; the latter are, as on the Caeretan hydriae, little more than decorative. Generally speaking, it is doubtful if Loeschcke's idea of types borrowed from the Peloponnese can be maintained; it is true that some scenes which occur on the chest of Kypselos may be found, but the treatment is not quite the same; and some subjects seem to be rather from an Ionic source. The animals or monsters which form the subordinate friezes include the Sphinx and Siren; the lion, panther, goat, and deer; the eagle, swan, and cock.

Some of the vases call for more than passing mention, especially the remarkable Berlin vase (Cat. 1704) with the Birth of Athena, and the richly decorated specimen recently acquired by the British Museum, with the Death of Polyxena. The former seems to be the earliest example of its subject, and in the number and arrangement of the figures it resembles the fine early Attic amphora in the British Museum (B 147). Its chief interest is epigraphical, in the use of the double forms (Corinthian and Attic) in the same word of the letters E (Corinthian E) and Κ (Ϙ). Over the figure of Hermes is written Ἑρμῆς εἰμὶ Κϙυέλνιος (sc. Κυλλήνιος), as already noted above. This vase may be regarded as having established the “type” for the subject so long popular on Attic vases, until Pheidias created a new and more ideal version. The Museum vase (Plate XXIII.) has a very remarkable representation of a subject rare in Greek art, with several unique features. The body of Polyxena is carried in a rigid horizontal position by Ajax Iliades (sc. son of Oïleus) and two others, to the tomb of Achilles, over which Neoptolemos stands to perform the fatal deed. Phoenix, Diomede, and Nestor “of Pylos” are spectators of the act.

The style of the vases as a whole is coarse and clumsy, though it often rises to a greater standard of merit; the lines are often mechanically drawn and lifeless, which may be to some extent the result of imitation. Details of drapery are seldom shown, except that the dresses are often richly decorated with incised patterns, but the folds are never indicated.

Uses and Shapes of Greek Vases

Those who are acquainted with the enormous number of painted vases now gathered together in our Museums, showing the important part they must have played in the daily life of the Greeks and the high estimation in which they were clearly held, as evidenced by the great care bestowed on their decoration and the pride exhibited by artists in their signed productions, may feel some surprise that so few allusions to them can be traced in classical literature. Such passages as can be interpreted as referring to them may actually be counted on the fingers of one hand, and even these are but passing allusions; while any full descriptions of vases, such as that in Theocritus' first Idyll or some of those in Athenaeus' Book XI., almost invariably refer to metal vases with chased designs. Nor can we trace any reference to known potters or artists in literature or documents, save in a few inscriptions recently found at Athens, which are, of course, of secondary importance for literary history.

More general allusions to pottery and its use in daily life are common enough, and it would hardly be profitable to quote all such passages in detail; many indeed, such as the early allusion to the potter's wheel in the Iliad , have found a place elsewhere in this work. The passage of Homer at all events supplies proof, if such were needed, that the use of the wheel was known in early times in Greece.

Of undoubted references to painted vases there are but two, though both of them are particularly interesting, as they refer to well-known special classes of Attic vases. The earlier of the two is in Pindar's tenth Nemean Ode, in which he celebrates the victory of Thiaios of Argos, who had twice been successful in the Panathenaic games at Athens. He says:

γαία δὲ καυθείσα πυρὶ καρπος ἐλαίας
ἔμολεν Ἤρας τὸν ευάνορα λαόν, ἐν ἀγγέων ἔρκεσι παμποικίλοις.

These prize-vases are also mentioned by Simonides of Keos:

καὶ Παναθηναίοις στεφάνους λάβε πέντ' ἐπ' ἀέθλοις
ἑξῆς ἀμφιφορεῖς ἐλαίου.

The other passage, from the Ecclesiazusae  of Aristophanes (l. 996), is equally well known. One speaker, in somewhat contemptuous terms, alludes to “the fellow who paints the lekythi for the dead”:

ὃς τοῖς νεκροῖσι ζωγραφεῖ τοὺς ληκύθους.

These lekythi may with certainty be identified with the white Athenian variety decorated with appropriate subjects and made specially for funerals. The best examples of this class belong to the very period at which the Ecclesiazusae  was written (392 B.C.), but most of them show signs of being hastily executed or made to be sold at a low price. It is probably for this reason that the speaker implies his contempt for the painter, although at the same time it seems likely that vase-painters, like all craftsmen, were looked down upon by the Athenians of that day, in spite of the real beauty and artistic merit of their productions.

One or two doubtful allusions must next be considered. The lyric poet Alcaeus, who flourished 610–580 B.C., seems to allude to painted vases, but the reading is very doubtful. The passage is read by Bergk as follows (Poet. Lyr. Graec. iii. p. 165, frag. 41):

κἀδ δ' ἄειρε κυλίχναις μεγάλαις, αἴτ' ὄτι, Οἶκι, λαῖς·
... ἔγχεε κίρναις ἔνα καὶ δύο
πλέαις κὰκ κεφάλας, ἁ δ' ἀτέρα τῶν ἀτέρων κύλιξ

Ahrens read αἶψα ποϊκίλαι for αἴτ' ὄτι, Οἶκι, λαῖς, and other versions have been suggested. Bergk's reading is very uncouth, and it certainly seems as if ποϊκίλαις was intended, whatever the preceding word. If it is allowed to stand, it obviously implies painted  vases, as in the παμποικίλοις of Pindar.

In the speech of Demosthenes De Falsa Legatione  (p. 415) occurs a passage which is generally taken as having reference to painted vases: καὶ σύ, Φιλόχαρες, σὲ μὲν τὰς ἀλαβαστοθήκας γράφοντα καὶ τὰ τύμπανα, “And you, Philochares, who paint the alabastos-stands and the pediments.” The word ἀλαβαστοθήκη is commonly supposed to describe a stand with holders for pots of perfume (also called κέρνος), although most painted examples of this vase found in Greece are of very early date. The τύμπανα are more easy of explanation, being the triangular pediments of temples, which, like the metopes of the so-called Theseion at Athens and those at Thermon, were no doubt often adorned with paintings in place of sculpture.

Other passages, if they do not actually refer to painted or even to fictile vases, are at least of value as giving information as to the current names for those in every-day use, or as to various purposes for which they were used. Reference will be made to many of these in the course of the chapter.

Suetonius in his Life of Caesar (§ 81) describes how the colonists who were sent out under the Lex Julia to build new houses were destroying ancient tombs for the purpose when they came upon remains of ancient pottery (aliquantum vasculorum operis antiqui ), the discovery of which caused them to redouble their efforts in the work of destruction. Similarly Strabo tells us that when Julius Caesar sent colonists to rebuild Corinth they came upon tombs containing large quantities of ὀστράκινα τορεύματα, which they nicknamed “Necrocorinthia.” The meaning of this expression is somewhat doubtful, but the word τορεύματα seems to imply chased or relief work, and it is probable that these were not painted vases, but Hellenistic ware with reliefs, like the so-called Megarian bowls. The latter can be identified, by means of their subjects, with the scyphi Homerici  of which Nero was so fond; Suetonius tells us that they were so named a caelatura carminum Homeri , from the subjects from Homer's poems carved in relief upon them. The scyphi  were doubtless of metal, the use of which was confined to the wealthy and luxurious, while the so-called Megarian bowls and similar ware were copied from them in the cheaper material for the use of the humbler classes.

We see, then, that classical literature throws but little light on the uses made of painted vases as such by the Greeks. But we are by no means ill supplied with information as to the uses of pottery in general, about which evidence may be obtained both from the vases themselves and from innumerable passages in ancient writers or the commentaries of the scholiasts and lexicographers. This question is more or less bound up with that of the different shapes and names of vases, of which some 150 have been handed down by Athenaeus, Pollux, and other writers, and these will be considered in detail subsequently. For the present it may suffice to say a few words on what is known of the use of pottery in general and of painted vases in particular.

As most of the vases hitherto known have been discovered in tombs, it would at first sight appear that they were exclusively destined for sepulchral purposes; but this seems to have been in many cases only a subsequent use of them, and they doubtless also found a place among the wants of daily life. That this is true of the plain unglazed or unpainted pottery goes indeed without saying; in regard to the painted vases the question is, in view of the scanty literary evidence, more difficult to decide.


As the civil and domestic use of pottery is the most important, it is necessary to consider it first. For ordinary purposes earthenware largely took the place of bronze and the precious metals, just as it does at the present day. One instance of this we have already quoted in speaking of the “Homeric bowls,” and others might be cited, in particular its use for measures, for which metal would naturally be employed as a general rule. This usage is established by the occasional discovery of vases inscribed with the names of measures and the like. The British Museum possesses a small one-handled cup of black glazed ware (F 595 = Fig. 14) found in the island of Cerigo (Kythera), on which is incised in fifth-century lettering the word ΗΕΜΙΚΟΤΥΛΙΟΝἡμικοτύλιον, or “half-kotyle.” The word κοτύλη is interesting as denoting not only a shape of a drinking-cup, but a Greek measure, equivalent to about half a pint. Again, in 1867, a cylindrical vase of red ware was found at Athens inscribed ΔΗΜΟΣΙΟΝδημόσιον, or “public (measure).” It was stamped with the figure of an owl and an olive-branch, the official seal of Athens, and has been supposed to represent the χοῖνιξor quart, its capacity having been estimated at 0·96 litres, or 1¾ pints, while the χοῖνιξ is generally reckoned as equivalent to 1 litre.

Many of the names in common use for shapes of vases are also found applied to measures of capacity either for liquid or dry stuffs; and it is possible that herein lies the explanation of the somewhat puzzling graffiti  inscriptions found under the feet of Attic vases, where the words used seem to have no relation to the vase itself. Thus in liquid measure the amphora (ἀμφορεύς) or κάδος, also known as μετρητής, was equivalent to about 7½ gallons, and was divided into 12 χόες, the χοῦς into 12 κοτύλαι, which, as we have seen, answer to our ½-pints. The ὀξύβαφο was one-fourth of a κοτύλη, the κύαθος one-sixth. All these words were in common use to express various forms of vases, as will be seen later on. Further, the word κεράμιον, which, like the Latin testa , is used generally for pottery, has a more restricted sense of a cask or vessel used for transporting wine, and is even used as a term of measure, presumably equivalent to the amphora.

Earthenware was also used generally for the purpose of storing liquids or various kinds of food, for the preparation of food and liquids, and for the uses of the table or toilet. The painted ware, however, was not employed for the commoner purposes, nor to contain large quantities of liquids, for which it would have been far too expensive. But we know that it was largely used at banquets and drinking-bouts, and on other occasions, from the evidence of the vases themselves. Thus, in the well-known vase with the Harpies robbing the blind Phineus of his food, a kotyle painted with black figures is seen in the king's hands; and in a scene representing the reception of Paris by Helen, the former is offered wine drawn from a large four-handled vase on which figures are painted. Vases with subjects represented on them are also seen placed on columns forming the background of scenes, as if forming part of the furniture of a hall or chamber. But as a general rule the vases represented in banquet scenes and elsewhere are left plain or only decorated with patterns.

To the use of vases in connection with athletic games we have already alluded in discussing Pindar's mention of the Panathenaic amphorae; it is, of course, likely that other forms of vases were also given as prizes or presented to young men on special occasions, such as entering the ranks of the ἔφηβοι or being married, but we have no evidence of such customs.


Vases were also used as toys, as is proved by the discovery of many little vases, chiefly jugs, in the tombs of children at Athens, on which are depicted children playing at various games. They are too small to have served any other purpose, and as similarly shaped jugs appear among the toys used by the children in these scenes, it is reasonable to suppose that they were playthings. No doubt some of the more unusual shapes were made with the same end, such as vases in the shape of animals or fruit, or the aski , which contained little balls and were used as rattles.

We have already hinted at the purely decorative use of vases as domestic ornaments, in which capacity they were often placed on columns; there is, however, no hint of this in ancient authors. But that it was customary in Greece and Italy, at all events in the later period (i.e. after the Persian Wars), seems to be indicated by the practice which obtains with the larger vases of executing only one side with care, while the other exhibits an unimportant and badly painted design (generally three boys or men wrapped in mantles). It is natural to suppose that the carelessly executed side was not supposed to be seen, owing to the fact that the vase was intended to be placed against a wall. Some of the large round dishes of Apulian fabric seem to have been intended for hanging up against a wall, on the same principle.

The question which next arises is that of the extent to which vases were used for religious and votive purposes. Here, however, with one exception noted below, we derive little aid from a study of the painted vases themselves, in spite of the frequency of mythological subjects. But inasmuch as many instances are known of offerings of metal vases in the temples of the gods, it can hardly be doubted that painted vases served the same purpose for those who could only afford the humbler material. It was at one time supposed that the large vases painted for a front view only, of which we have just spoken, were destined for this purpose; but as they are mostly found in tombs, this can hardly be the case.

Of late years, however, much light has been thrown upon this question by means of scientific excavations. On many temple-sites which have been systematically explored, such as the Acropolis of Athens or Naukratis in the Egyptian Delta, enormous numbers of fragments of painted vases have been found which are clearly the remains of votive offerings. It was a well-known Greek custom to clear out the temples from time to time and form rubbish-heaps of the disused vases and statuettes, sometimes by digging pits for them; and thus these broken fragments, rejected from their apparent uselessness, have from these very circumstances been preserved to the present day to cast a flood of light on many points of archaeology. At Naukratis many of the fragments bear incised inscriptions in the form of dedications to Apollo (Fig. 16.) or Aphrodite, according to the site on which they were found. At Penteskouphia near Corinth a large series of early painted tablets, with representations of Poseidon and inscribed dedications, were found in 1879, and illustrate the practice of making offerings in this form, mentioned by Aeschylos. Tablets painted with figures and hung on trees or walls are not infrequently depicted on red-figured vases, the subject generally implying their votive character. Fig. 17. represents a youth carrying a tablet of this kind.


From Benndorf, Gr. u. Sic. Vasenb.

There is no doubt that vases (though not, perhaps, painted ones) must have played a considerable part in the religious ceremonies of the Greeks. In the Athenian festival of the Anthesteria, the second day was devoted to the holding of ἀγῶνες χύτρινοι, or “pot-contests,” vessels full of corn being dedicated to Hermes Chthonios. At the festival of the Gardens of Adonis flower-pots of earthenware containing flowers were cast into the sea, as a type of the premature death of Adonis. These flower-pots were also placed on the tops of houses, and in this same festival, which was chiefly celebrated by hetairae, little terracotta figures (κοράλλια) were introduced. Theuse of flower-pots placed in windows to form artificial gardens is mentioned by Martial and Pliny; and they were also employed to protect tender plants, as hinted by Theophrastos, who speaks of the necessity of propagating southernwood by slips in pots.

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to speak of the constant use of the jug and bowl (phiale ) in sacrifices and libation scenes, as seen on innumerable vases of the R.F. and later periods. Fig. 18 shows the use of vases on the occasion of a sacrifice to Dionysos. There is also a type of vase which, according to a recent writer, was used for burning incense. It is a form which hitherto had been conventionally named the κώθων, on account of its recurved lip; but it is pointed out that it had three feet (the form being clearly derived from the tripod), and therefore stood, and was not carried about; also that it varies much in size, and is found at an early date, and chiefly in women's graves. There is also evidence that it was meant to stand fire or hold coals. From these details the conclusion is deduced that it represents the earlier form of incense-burner (down to about 500 B.C.), those of later date being of a different form, as often seen on R.F. vases.

From Furtwaengler and Reichhold .

The most important use, however, for which vases were employed, and that to which their preservation is mainly due, was for purposes connected with funeral ceremonies. These were of a varied nature, including the use of vases at the burial, the placing of them on the tomb to hold offerings, and the depositing of them in the tomb, either to hold the ashes of the dead or as “tomb-furniture,” in accordance with the religious beliefs of the Greeks on the life after death.

Vases were employed in the burial rites in various ways, as we learn from the subjects depicted upon them. In the celebrated vase representing the death and funeral of Archemoros, two persons are seen carrying tables laden with vases to the tomb, while an oinochoë is placed under the bier on which the corpse is laid. It is also probable that they were often burnt on the funeral pile with the corpse, and if this is the case it may account for the discoloured condition of many fine vases in which the red glaze has turned to an ashen grey under the action of fire. In any case vases were often broken before being placed in the tomb, the idea being that they must participate in the death of the person to whom they were consecrated. There is a special class of B.F. amphorae found at Athens, which are commonly known as “prothesis-amphorae,” the subjects relating exclusively to the πρόθεσις or laying-out, and other funeral rites. They were, therefore, probably placed round the bier during this ceremony.

Vases were also used for holding milk, oil, unguents, and other liquids which were poured upon the corpse, or for the lustral water placed at the entrance of the tomb. It was the regular practice of the Athenians to place vases on the outside of the tombs, the commonest forms being that of the lekythos, or a larger vase known as the λουτροφόρος, mentioned by Demosthenes. These were, however, generally of stone, and are sometimes sculptured in relief, or bear inscriptions like the Attic stelaeand modern tombstones.

The custom of placing lekythi on tombs is also alluded to once or twice by Aristophanes in the Ecclesiazusae e.g. line 538:

οὐδ' ἐπιθεῖσα λήκυθον,

and again, line 1032:

καὶ ταινίωσαι καὶ παράθου τὰς ληκύθους.


The manner of employing vases as adjuncts to the tomb is nowhere better illustrated than on the Athenian white lekythi, which are almost all painted with funeral subjects, and, from the hasty way in which many are executed, show that they were often made to order at short notice. In particular, one example in the British Museum (D 56 = Fig. 19) shows the interior of a conical tomb or tumulus, within which vases of various shapes are seen. In other examples they are ranged along the steps of a stele, or are represented as being brought to the tomb in baskets by mourning women. The larger vases of Southern Italy, which similarly show by their subjects that they were only made for funeral purposes, bear a close relation to the white lekythi, and also to the Attic funeral stelae with reliefs. The treatment of the subject varies in the different fabrics, but two main types prevail. In the one, of Lucanian origin, the tomb takes the form of a stele or column, round which vases are ranged on steps; in the other, on the large Apulian kraters and amphorae, the tomb is in the shape of a ἡρῷον or small temple, within which is seen the figure of the deceased, while on either side approach women bearing offerings (Fig. 106); but vases do not play an important part in these latter scenes.


Thirdly, we have to deal with the use of painted vases in the tomb itself. As regards their use as cinerary urns, to contain the ashes of the dead, it appears to have been somewhat restricted.

In the Mycenaean period we know that inhumation, not cremation, was the practice, contrary to that of the heroic or Homeric age, in which an entirely different state of things is represented. But when we do read in Homer or the tragic poets, of the methods of dealing with the ashes of the dead, there is no mention of any but metal urns. Thus the ashes of Patroklos were collected in a χρυσέη φιάλη (the word is probably used loosely), while those of Achilles were stored in a golden amphora. Again, Sophokles, in the fictitious account of Orestes' death given in his Electra , uses the expression (l. 758):

ἐν βραχεῖ
χαλκῷ μέγιστον σῶμα δειλαίας σποδοῦ,

showing that metal vases were generally employed for this purpose.

No instances occurred among the early tombs in the Dipylon cemetery at Athens or elsewhere in Greece before the sixth century, nor was the practice usually favoured by the Etruscans, who employed painted vases in their tombs exclusively as furniture. In Mycenaean times in Crete coffers (λάρνακες) of terracotta, painted like the vases, were used as ossuaria ; and similarly in Etruria at all periods the remains of the deceased were placed in rectangular chests or sarcophagi of terracotta or stone. But in the earliest tombs of Etruria and Central Italy urns and hut-shaped receptacles for the ashes were invariably employed.

It is, however, probable that in course of time there was a partial adoption of the practice in Greece. As early as the middle of the sixth century there is an instance in the well-known Burgon Panathenaic amphora, now in the British Museum, found by Mr. Burgon in 1813; it contained remains of burnt bones and several small plain vases. This would seem to indicate that the Panathenaic amphorae in particular were considered appropriate for this purpose, namely, that the cherished prize won by the living should be used for the most sacred purpose in connection with the dead.

Among the red-figured vases of the fifth century which have been found to contain ashes, may be mentioned the famous Vivenzio vase at Naples, which was found carefully deposited within another vase at Nola, and a vase of the shape known as λέβης, now in the British Museum, found near the Peiraeus. There is also a covered vase in the British Museum, which was employed for a similar purpose. It is not, strictly speaking, a painted vase, being covered with a white slip and coloured like the terracottas, while the heads of monsters project from its sides; the shape is that known as λεκάνη(“tureen”), and it dates from the fourth century. It contained human bones, among which were found a small terracotta figure of a Siren and other objects; the jaw-bone, which was preserved, had still fixed in it the obolos , or small silver coin which was placed there as Charon's fare for ferrying the soul over the Styx. Of later date is a vase found at Alexandria, in the catacombs, similarly decorated, and also filled with bones; it was presented to the British Museum in 1830 by Sir E. Codrington.

The class of large terracotta vases found in tombs at Canosa, Cumae, Capua and Calvi (Cales), of which fine specimens may be seen in the Terracotta Room of the British Museum, seems to have been made for sepulchral purposes, as in many cases they are not adapted for practical use. On the other hand, they may have been ornaments for houses. They are decorated with figures in high relief, or attached to different parts of the vase, and many of them, especially those in the form of female heads, are strictly speaking not vases at all, having no proper bottom.

The majority of painted vases found in the tombs must be regarded purely as tomb-furniture, placed there with the idea that the deceased would require in his future life all that had been associated with his former existence. Sometimes they were placed round the corpse, with food or liquids in them for the use of the “ghost,” and instances are known of eggs and other objects having been preserved in this manner. Toy-vases are found buried with children in tombs at Athens and elsewhere, and toilet-boxes or unguent-vases in women's graves. Nevertheless, it is probably not wide of the mark to say that in the sixth and fifth centuries the custom had lost much of its original meaning; the habit of placing painted vases in tombs survived, but the original idea of the practice had become obscured, and the religious significance was restricted to certain classes of vases, the prothesis-amphorae, white lekythi, and others, which were not used during life but only made specially for this purpose.

Great value seems to have been set upon the painted vases by their possessors. When broken, they were repaired by the pieces being skilfully fitted and drilled, with a rivet of lead or bronze neatly attached to the sides. Several mended vases exist in the European collections. Occasionally they were repaired by inserting pieces of other vases. Thus a vase with two handles, found at Vulci, of the shape called στάμνος, is repaired with a part of a kylix representing quite a different subject, and thus presents a discordant effect. A R.F. vase in the Louvre has actually been mended with part of a B.F. vase. A B.F. kylix in the British Museum (B 398) has a piece inserted with the name of Priapos; similarly the two handles of the R.F. kylix E 4, with the signature of Thypheithides, do not belong to the vase; but these may both be modern restorations. The large casks of coarse and unglazed ware (πίθοι) were also repaired with leaden cramps. “The casks of the ill-clad Cynic,” says the Roman satirist, “do not burn; should you break one of them, another house will be made by to-morrow, or the same will continue to serve when repaired with lead.” Aristophanes puts into the mouth of his old litigant turned roué a popular story of Sybaris which alludes to the use of bronze rivets. A woman of that city broke an earthen pot, which was represented as screaming out, and calling for witnesses to prove how badly it had been treated. “By Persephone!” exclaims the dame, “were you to leave off bawling for witnesses, and make haste to buy a copper clamp (ἐπίδεσμον) to rivet yourself with, you would show more sense.”

After noting the chief uses of Greek vases it is necessary to give some account of the different shapes, and to identify the recorded names as far as possible with the various kinds actually found.

The subject is, however, one of great difficulty, and it is impossible to attain to scientific accuracy, owing to the differences of time between the authors by whom they are mentioned, the difficulty of explaining types by verbal descriptions, and the ambiguity often caused by the ancient practice of describing a vase of one shape by the name of another.

A study of any collection of Greek vases will make it apparent that there is a great variety in the forms of the different periods. This is especially marked in the earliest ages of Greece, in which the variety is almost endless, and the adoption and development of certain recognised forms practically unknown. It must therefore be evident that the statements of ancient writers must always be used with caution, and that a shape described by an early writer must not be taken as representing the same in a later period, even if the same word be used, or vice versa . For instance, the δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον of Homer, which finds a curious parallel in the gold cup with the doves discovered by Schliemann at Mycenae, is, whatever view we may take of the Homeric civilisation, only an example of a passing fashion. Or again, many of the drinking-cups described by Athenaeus in his eleventh book are doubtless only instances of new experiments in pottery or metal-work characteristic of the Hellenistic age, with its tendency to strive after novelties. Many of his names are little more than nicknames for familiar shapes, which enjoyed a temporary popularity.

Some information may be derived from the vases themselves by means of inscriptions. Thus on the François vase the three-handled pitcher used by Polyxena is inscribed ΥΔΡΙΑ, or “water-pot,” and enables us to apply the name hydria with certainty to a three-handled vase, of which many black- and red-figured specimens exist. Then we have the lekythos  of Tataie, and the kylikes  of Philto and Kephisophon, which testify by inscriptions to the name by which they were known. The names incised in graffito  on the feet of vases are a more doubtful source of evidence, inasmuch as they may refer either to mixed batches of vases or to the names of measures of capacity.

Examples of cursory mention of names in the ancient writers, such as Aristophanes, are innumerable, but seldom explicit, and the scholia on these writers are hardly more useful, inasmuch as the grammarians probably knew little more about obsolete shapes than we do ourselves, and their commentaries have little critical weight. The loci classici  on the subject are the book of Athenaeus already referred to, in which he gives a list of over one hundred names, with more or less full explanation and commentary, most of the forms being apparently varieties of drinking-cups, and the Onomasticon  of Pollux. Notices of vases are also to be found in the lexicographers, such as Hesychius and Suidas, and the Etymologicum Magnum .

In the early days of modern archaeology the first to propose an identification of the shapes of vases was Panofka, whose fanciful and uncritical lucubrations were shortly afterwards combated by Letronne and Gerhard, the latter of whom introduced a more scientific method of criticism and classification, though his results cannot be considered as final. Other writers were Müller, Thiersch, Ussing, Krause, and Jahn, of whom Ussing followed practically on Gerhard's lines but with more success; Krause, though exhaustive, is on the whole uncritical; and Jahn has treated the subject with his wonted conciseness and sobriety. Of late years little attention has been paid to it, principally, no doubt, for the reason that so many conventional names have been generally accepted for the ordinary shapes by archaeologists, who have recognised the fact that it will never be possible to treat the subject with scientific accuracy.

The classification of the shapes of vases has usually been undertaken on the lines of distinguishing their main uses, such as (1) those in which food or liquids were preserved; (2) those in which liquids were mixed or cooked; (3) those by means of which liquids were poured out or food distributed; (4) drinking-cups; (5) other vases for the use of the table or toilet. Thus we have the pithos and amphora for storing wine, the krater for mixing it, the psykter for cooling it, the kyathos for ladling it out, and the oinochoë or prochoos for pouring it out; the hydria was used for fetching water from the well. Of smaller vases, the names for drinking-cups are innumerable, but the phiale, for instance, was employed chiefly for pouring libations; while dishes and plates are represented by the lekane, tryblion, pinax, and so on. The pyxis was used by women at their toilet, and the lekythos, alabastron, and askos for holding oil and unguents. There is an interesting passage in Athenaeus (iv. 142 D) which gives a list of the vases required for use at a banquet: “And on the tripod was placed a bronze wine-cooler (ψυκτήρ) and a κάδος(bucket) and a silver σκαφίον holding two kotylae (one pint), and a ladle (κύαθος); and the wine-jug (ἐπίχυσις) was of bronze, but nobody was offered drink unless he asked for it; and one ladleful was given out before the meal.”

For the purposes of this work it is hoped that the usual method of classification indicated above will be found sufficient, supplemented by the descriptions of Athenaeus and other writers, where any details can be obtained; but it is obvious that a really critical treatment of the subject should be chronological, with endeavours to trace the first appearance and development of each type. In the present state of our knowledge, however, it would seem impossible to do so with success.

We begin our description of the vases of the Greeks with an account of the large vases of rough manufacture calculated to hold great quantities of wine, water, or food. The chief vase of this class is the Pithos  or cask (Lat. dolium ), a vase of gigantic size, found both in Italy and Greece. They are shaped like enormous barrels, with bulging bodies and wide mouths, and answer to the modern hogshead or pipe. When full, the casks were closed with a circular stone, or with a cover of clay. They were used to hold honey, wine, and figs, and were usually kept half-buried in the earth. They were sufficiently capacious to hold a man, and the famous “tub” of Diogenes was of this form. On a lamp in the British Museum and other monuments he is represented appearing from one, presumably on the occasion of his interview with Alexander. In the vase-paintings Eurystheus takes refuge in a pithos from Herakles when he brings the Erymanthian boar, and the same shape of vase is represented as holding the wine of the Centaurs and the water drawn by the Danaids. The “box” of Pandora was in reality a large jar of this kind, as we learn from Hesiod. It required great skill to make these vases, whence a Greek proverb characterised an ambitious but inexperienced man as “one who began with a cask” (ἐν πίθῳ τὴν κεραμείαν μανθάνειν). They were not made on the wheel but by a peculiar process, which is described as plastering the clay round a framework of wood, called κάνναβος; it appears to have been made of vertical boards ranged in a circle, like a tub.


The British Museum possesses two or three πίθοι of exceptional size, ornamented with bands of geometrical patterns in relief, which were obtained from Mr. (now Sir A.) Biliotti's excavations at Ialysos in Rhodes, and belong to the Mycenaean period. In 1900 Mr. Arthur Evans, among the remains of the Minoan palace at Knossos in Crete, came upon a courtyard round which stood a number of similar πίθοι, with decorations of a Mycenaean character (see Fig. 21). These may be considered to belong to the middle of the second millennium B.C., and it is therefore evident that the πίθος may claim an antiquity second to none among forms of Greek vases.

Among examples of later date may be mentioned the large series recently found in Thera by German explorers, some plain, others with painted geometrical decoration; they are partly of native make, partly importations from Crete, and date from the seventh century B.C. Dr. Dörpfeld found examples of πίθοι in the remains of the earlier cities at Hissarlik, from the second to the seventh layers. These were used for keeping all sorts of liquids and solids, and also apparently formed part of the cooking apparatus. Others were found in the excavations of Mr. J. Brunton on the site of Dardanus in the Troad; they were of pale red clay, with a stone cover. In excavating between Balaclava and Sevastopol Colonel Munroe discovered no less than sixteen, about 4 ft. 4 in. in height, within a circular building, apparently a storehouse; they were also of pale red ware. One had incised upon its lip ΔΔΠΠ ΠΙΙΙ, apparently indicating its price. Similar πίθοι have been found in Athens, some having fractures joined by leaden rivets. Large πίθοι with archaic reliefs have been found in Crete, Rhodes, Sicily, and Etruria (at Cervetri); they are imitated from metal vases, with designs of Oriental character.

Perhaps of all the ancient vases the best known is the Amphora  (ἀμφορεύς or ἀμφιφορεύς), which was used for a variety of domestic and commercial purposes. So numerous are the vases of this form, found all over the Greek world, that they merit a lengthy description. They were principally used for wine, but also for corn, honey, oil, and other substances, and to the use of the word as a measure of capacity we have already alluded. It should be borne in mind that the conventional use of the word amphora  in speaking of the painted Greek vases implies a quite different form from the plain wine-amphorae, which were neither painted nor varnished; the type of vase is the same, but the painted examples are smaller and stouter, with a proper foot. For the present we confine our description to the unadorned amphora of commerce.

Besides the two handles from which the word derives its name, the wine-amphora (Fig. 22.) is distinguished by its long egg-shaped body, narrow cylindrical neck, and pointed base; this form is often known as diota  (the Latin equivalent). The base is sometimes supplied with a ring to stand on, but is more usually pointed, in order to be easily fixed in the earth in cellars. The mouth was sealed by means of a conical cover terminating in a boss.


Remains of these amphorae have been discovered not only in Greece itself, but also wherever the Greek commerce and settlements extended, as in Alexandria, Kertch (Panticapaeum), Corfu, Rhodes, Sicily, and Asia Minor. They appear to have been used at a very early period, plain specimens of red ware being found not only in the early Greek tombs, like that of Menekrates in Corfu, but even in tombs of the Bronze Age period, as in Cyprus. The typical long shape, however, did not come into fashion until about 300 B.C., when the island of Rhodes was a great trading centre, carrying on an active commerce all over the Mediterranean. Amphorae of this form are represented on the coins of Chios and Thasos with reference to their trade in wine, and on the Athenian silver tetradrachms which belong to the period subsequent to about 220 B.C.; they are shown on the reverse, lying horizontally, with an owl above. In this case the reference may be either to the large Attic trade in oil or to the use of the amphora for voting at the election of magistrates.

The most interesting feature of the wine-amphorae is the device or impression stamped on the handles either in a circular medallion or an oblong depression. This was done by means of a stone or bronze stamp, while the clay was still moist. They are found in all parts of the ancient world, but the greater number can be traced to a few places of origin, of which the most important are: Rhodes, Knidos, Thasos, Paros, and Olbia in Southern Russia. As regards the stamps, the usage differs at each centre; but apart from them the handles can be distinguished by their shapes and material, as will be seen in the subsequent description.

The Rhodian amphorae, of which large numbers have been found at Alexandria as well as in the island itself, were of a very pure and tenacious clay, with a fracture as sharp as that of delf. The colour is pale, deepening to a salmon hue. The numerous separate handles which have also been found have all belonged to the same form of amphora, with long square-shouldered handles, as on the Athenian and Chian coins. An entire vase, but without a stamp, which was brought from Rhodes, was 40 in. in height, and the height of the handles alone was 10 in., the upper part attached to the top of the mouth being 3 in. long. This is a typical instance for the shape. The seal when found is impressed on the upper part of the handle, the size of the label being generally about 1½ in. or 1¾ in. long, by ⅝ in. wide, except when they are oval or circular. At Alexandria eight distinct varieties of handles were found, broken from amphorae of different countries, but only one inscribed; the base also assumed various forms.

In the Rhodian amphorae two stamps are in use, a principal and an accessory one (Fig. 23.a ). The former has a device of the head of Helios, the Sun-God, or the emblematic rose, both of which types occur on the coins; it is accompanied by an inscription, in the form ἐπὶ τοῦ δεῖνος, sometimes explicitly described as ἱερέωςi.e. in the year of the eponymous priest of the Sun. This is followed by the name of a Rhodian month. The accessory stamp contains the name of a person, usually in the genitive. The months belong to the Doric calendar, and are as follows: Thesmophorios, Theudaisios, Pedageitnyos, Diosthyos, Badromios, Sminthios, Artamitios, Agrianios, Hyakinthios, Panamos, Dalios, Karneios, and the second Panamos, an intercalary month. The object of the stamps is involved in obscurity, but they were probably intended to certify that the amphora (which was also a measure) held the proper quantity. It is clear that they could not have been intended to attest the age of the wine, as the vessel might be used for any sort, and the stamps bear the name of every month in the year.

From Dumont .

Other handles of Rhodian amphorae, stamped with an oblong cartouche or label, may be divided into two classes: (1) Those inscribed with the name of a magistrate and an emblem. The latter resembled the “adjuncts” found on the coins of some Greek cities, but it is uncertain whether they were selected on any fixed principle, or merely adopted from caprice. They may perhaps allude to the deity whom the magistrate particularly honoured as the patron god of his tribe or village. The same symbol was, however, often used by many individuals, and on the whole the number known is not large. (2) Those bearing the name of a magistrate, accompanied by that of a month of the Doric calendar, but without any emblem (Fig. 23.b ).

Many handles of amphorae from Knidos have been found on different sites. Their clay is coarser than the Rhodian, its colour darker and duller, and the amphorae differ also somewhat in form, nor are they of so early a date, being mostly as late as the Roman Empire. The stamps on the Cnidian amphorae, like those of Rhodes, are inscribed with the name of the eponymous magistrate, and also with that of the wine-grower or exporter of the produce, which is always marked as Cnidian. The stamps show a great variety in the matter of emblems. Remains of Cnidian amphorae have been found in Sicily, at Athens, Alexandria, and Olbia. The palaeography of the inscriptions covers a period of two centuries, from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius, or even later.

Numerous examples have been found of handles of amphorae, in which the celebrated wine of Thasos was exported to places such as Thasos and Olbia. The stamps are nearly square, with a device in the middle, the inscription ΘΑΣΙΩΝ, and the name of an official. The names are usually in the nominative, but in one instance at least the genitive is used. The symbols include an amphora, kneeling archer, cornucopia, dolphin, etc. (Fig. 24). The known stamps of Paros are few in number; they are simply inscribed ΠΑΡΙΩΝ, which in one instance is written retrograde.

Handles inscribed with the name of an aedile (ἀστυνόμος) and of another person, probably a magistrate, have been found on various sites in the Crimea and Southern Russia, principally at Olbia. At Panticapaeum (Kertch) two amphorae were found with stamps across the neck, thus:

ΕΥΑΡΧΟ ΑΡΙΣΤΟΝ : ΕΠΙ ΚΑΛΛΙΑ ΕΟΠΑΜΟΝΟΣ the upper name being that of the magistrate. These vases appear to have been made on the spot.

From Dumont .

Stoddart also mentions amphora-handles as having come from Corinth, with names which can be traced to the time of the Roman dominion. Falkner found at Pompeii an amphora with a Greek inscription of three lines painted in red and black, with the name of Menodotos and the letters KOR. OPT., which may  mean “the best Corcyraean brand.” A bibliography of the subject is appended below.

Among painted vases the amphora holds a high place, especially in the black-figure period, during which it was most prominent. It is distinguished from the plain type, as already pointed out, by the proportions of the body, as well as by the graceful curve of the handles and the flat circular foot. The variations in its form at different places and periods are so marked that they have led to the adoption of qualifying adjectives for each kind. Although these names cannot now be accepted in a strict sense, they are sometimes useful as conventional expressions. We proceed to describe these in detail.

(1) The origin of the Greek amphora is clearly to be sought in the pithos of primitive times, as may be seen in the vases of the Melian and Proto-Attic classes, and in the early vases with reliefs from Boeotia, Crete, Thera, and elsewhere. It is not found in the Mycenaean style, the large vases of which come under the heading of the krater (see below); and its appearance in Greece dates from the developed stage of the Geometrical period. The earliest specimens among the painted vases are virtually small pithoi, characterised by a long cylindrical neck, and large elaborate handles obviously imitating metal. and the Boeotian vases with reliefs. Among the Proto-Attic vases found at Vourva a development occurs, in which the neck is greatly elongated, and the body becomes exceedingly slim, while the handles are simplified into plain flat bands united to the neck by bars of clay. This form is found still further developed in the prothesis-amphorae of the B.F. period; but these are comparatively rare, and the more normal evolution of the amphora with cylindrical neck is to be traced in the varieties (2) and (6) described below.


(2) The early amphorae preceding the ordinary B.F. Athenian types were divided by Gerhard into two classes, “Egyptian” and “Tyrrhenian.” He describes the former as a vase with tolerably pronounced curve of body, entirely covered with horizontal bands of figures; the latter as of similar form, but with decoration confined to a panel on either side. As regards shape, therefore, the two are actually one, and may be regarded as such for our present purpose; but it is curious to note that the particular class called “Egyptian” by Gerhard has since his time been generally known as “Tyrrhenian,” while his “Tyrrhenian” class has now received, from the peculiar mannerisms of the paintings, the name of “affected” vases. At all events the word is convenient to adhere to for the description of this particular shape (Fig. 25), with its long, egg-shaped body, the vertical section of which is almost an ellipse, a shape common to all early B.F. fabrics—Athenian, Rhodian, Ionic, and Corinthian—but best illustrated by the “Corintho-Attic” class described by Thiersch. It is seldom found in purely Attic examples, and disappears after the middle of the sixth century.


(3) Gerhard's next class is that of the Panathenaic amphorae, which have a long body shaped something like a top, and tapering sharply downwards; the mouth, handles, and neck are small, as is also the foot (Fig. 26). It is so called as being the characteristic form of the earlier (sixth-century) Panathenaic prize-vases, but is also occasionally found in the ordinary fabrics. This type, together with the two following examples, not mentioned explicitly by Gerhard or the other early writers, form the class of “black-bodied” amphorae, as they may conveniently be termed, in order to distinguish those with panel-decoration from those in which the body is entirely covered with red glaze (see below).

(4) The second variety of “black-bodied” amphora (Fig. 27.) is closely akin to the Panathenaic, but the body is better proportioned. It is characterised by the wide mouth in the form of a thick ring, the cylindrical handles, and the concave curve of the shoulder. From the style of the paintings it is probable that this variety must be placed early in the black-figure period.


(5) This type, on the other hand, is later in the period, being developed out of the last, from which it is marked off only by the form of the handles, which are broad and flanged, and often decorated with patterns. These vases are mostly of large size, and are transitional, some R.F. varieties being known. The paintings on them are in the style of Exekias, Andokides, and Euthymides (see for an example Plates XXXI., XXXII.).

(6) The shape of the “red-bodied” amphora (Fig. 28) is peculiar to the black-figure period. Its characteristic features are the straight, cylindrical neck, with its chain of lotos-and-honeysuckle, the width of the shoulder, and the ribbed handles, formed from moulds in two or three parallel pieces. Artistically it is far superior to the black-bodied, and includes some of the finest specimens of B.F. painting (as in the vases of Exekias), while the decorative element reaches the perfection of beauty and symmetry.


(7) The red-bodied amphora seems to have been the prototype of what is the most characteristic form of the red-figure period—the so-called “Nolan” amphora (Fig. 29). These have been largely, but not exclusively, found at Nola, whither they seem to have been imported in large numbers from Greece. The whole vase is covered with black, and the decoration confined to one or two figures each side, while the elegant and beautiful outline, the lustre of the varnish, and the restraint of the designs combine to render these perhaps the most beautiful products of Athenian ceramic art. The handles are sometimes four-sided, more often ribbed, and sometimes formed of two twisted strands, produced by rolling up the soft paste; the general outline is that of the last class, but the proportions are far more slender and graceful.


(8) The Apulian amphora (Fig. 30) illustrates the form which, though generally adopted in Apulia, may have had its origin at Athens, as it is adopted for the fourth-century Panathenaic amphorae. It is distinguished by its great size and egg-shaped body; the mouth is thick and high, spreading out like an inverted cone, and the neck is not cylindrical, but merges into the shoulder. A variety of the Apulian amphora, hardly common enough to form a separate class, was formerly known as the “candelabrum-amphora,” from its resemblance to an incense-burner (an object wrongly interpreted formerly as a candelabrum , or lamp-stand). Its peculiarities are the cylindrical body, tall neck, and elaborate handles in the form of double scrolls.


(9) The Campanian amphora is derived directly from the “Nolan,” and is in fact a local adaptation, but it was chiefly manufactured at Cumae. It generally has twisted handles, and is painted in polychrome; the proportions are somewhat more elongated than those of the “Nolan” class.

(10) A rare variety of the amphora is sometimes found in the red-figure period, with large spheroidal body and pointed base, intended to be placed in a separate stand. The conventional name of diota  is sometimes given to this form, from its imitation of the pointed base of the wine-amphora.

(11) The last variety of the amphora which calls for consideration is the wide-bellied type, usually called (on very slight authority) a pelike πελίkη (Fig. 31). The name was invented by Gerhard, and has been generally adopted since, but is only to be regarded as a conventional term. This form, which swells out towards the base, and has no stem or neck, is very rarely found before the fifth century, but is common in the R.F. period, and in the Apulian style, in which its proportions are usually more slender.


The amphora when complete usually had a cover of clay, either coated with a plain black varnish or decorated with bands and patterns; it was lifted by means of a central knob. An amphora in the Berlin Museum (Cat. 1860) has a double cover, the inner one being of alabaster.

Of the other names which seem to denote vases adapted for containing and storing wine or other commodities, the most important is the Stamnos  (στάμνος), used for holding wine and oil. It is mentioned by Pollux in his list of wine-jars, and he quotes a line from Aristophanes about “a stamnos of Chian wine arriving.” The diminutives σταμνίον and σταμνάριον are also found, and Aristophanes speaks of a “small Thasian stamnos of wine.” The amphora is defined in the Etymologicum Magnum  as “a two-eared σταμνίον.” It has been generally identified with a form well known in the R.F. period, but only found in that style: a spherical jar with short thick neck and small side-handles, of which some very beautiful specimens exist (Fig. 32). The word is still in use in modern Greek.


The βῖκος is described by Hesychios as a στάμνος with ears, and by Eustathius as a vessel holding wine; it was also used for figs and salted food. It is probably only another name for the στάμνοςστάμνος, but it seems to be inaccurately described by Athenaeus as “a saucer-shaped drinking-cup” (φιαλῶδες ποτήριον). It was apparently identical with the ὕρχη, a word used by Aristophanes, but more commonly by Roman writers in its Latin form orca .


The names of Apulian stamnos or λεκάνη have at different times been given to a late form of painted vase found in Southern Italy, with high or low stem, upright handles, and cover, which latter often takes an elaborate form, being surmounted by one or more small vases, also with handles (Fig. 33.). The word λεκάνη, however, seems to indicate a large bowl rather than a covered jar, and no satisfactory name has as yet been found. A similar but flatter form of vase, like a covered bowl or dish, has been named λεκάνηλεπαστή, or covered pyxis, but no name is satisfactory.

The λαγυνος or λαγυνίς seems to have been a narrow-necked jar of considerable size. Athenaeus says the word represented a Greek measure, equivalent to twelve Attic κοτύλαι, or six pints, and that it was in use at Patrae. The word is used by Plutarch for the jar in which the stork offered entertainment to the fox; it frequently appears in the Latin form lagena . A wicker-covered λαγυνος was known as a πυτίνη.

Another form of the same class is the κάδοs, with its diminutive καδίσκος, which is represented by the Latin situla , or bucket, the latter word being the one usually employed by archaeologists. It is a form easily to be recognised in Greek art, but is more usually found in metal-work, e.g. in Etruscan and Italian bronzes, than in pottery. The painted situlae, of which a few late examples from Italian tombs exist, are obviously direct imitations of the metal buckets, and in some cases actually have movable bronze handles attached. The situla appears to have been used not only for keeping wine in the cellar, but for serving it up at banquets; the word is also used by Aristophanes for a voting-urn and a well-bucket. In Latin the uses were probably distinguished, cadus  denoting a wine-jar, situla  a water-bucket. Athenaeus obviously goes astray in regarding it as a drinking-cup.

A vase which was used almost exclusively for carrying water was the Hydria , as is implied by its name (ὑδρία, from ὕδωρ). Its most essential characteristic is the possession of three handles, a large one at the back for carrying when empty, and two small horizontal handles at the sides for carrying when full. The shape of the body varies at different periods; in the B.F. period the shoulder is flat and marked off by a sharp angle from the body (Fig. 34); but about the beginning of the fifth century this is replaced by a form with more rounded outline and smaller handle at the back, generally known for the sake of distinction as a kalpis  (Fig. 35). In the earlier variety (of which some R.F. examples are known) there are always two subjects, one forming a frieze on the shoulder, the other treated more in the manner of a metope on the body; they are invariably enclosed in frames or panels, as on the “black-bodied” amphorae. Sometimes a third subject in the form of a frieze of animals is added below. In the earlier stages of the B.F. period this form is seldom found, except in a class known as the “Caeretan hydriae,” distinguished (as far as concerns their shape) by their round, plump body, as also by the florid character of their ornament and curious treatment of subjects. These vases were closely copied by the Etruscans. The kalpis  form sometimes occurs with black figures, but only in small late specimens, chiefly found in Rhodes. In the vases of Southern Italy the kalpis  is fairly popular, but the body is more cylindrical and the foot higher.


Any doubt that might have existed as to the identification of the ὑδρία is solved by the appearance of the word inscribed over the pitcher which Polyxena dropped in her flight from Achilles, on the François vase. In a scene very common on B.F. hydriae, which represents women drawing water at a fountain, this form of vase is invariably depicted. The word seldom occurs in Greek literature, but Kallimachos speaks of καλπίδες placed on the roof of the Parthenon (?) at Athens, not, he says, by way of ornament, but as prizes of wrestlers. Hence the idea was conceived by Panofka that Panathenaic prize-vases were of this form.


Pollux (x. 74) thinks that the hydria was also a wine-vase, and suggests its identity with the πλημοχόη, a vase with broad base used in the Mysteries; but Athenaeus implies that this was used for pouring, and it must therefore have been some kind of jug. The κάλπις is actually identified with the ὑδρία by Aristophanes, as may be seen by a comparison of two lines in the Lysistrata . From a passage in Isocrates it would appear that the hydria was used as a voting-urn or ballot-box, but the κάδοςwas more generally used for this purpose. That the amphora was also so used we know from Athenian coins.

The next class to be considered is that of vases employed for mixing wine and water for drinking, for which the generic name is that of κρατήρ (from κεράννυμι, “I mix”). Before discussing this form, however, allusion must be made to a vessel which is variously described as a hydria  or a krater , and is therefore a link between the two varieties; it was at any rate pre-eminently a water-jar, and was known as a κρωσσός (connected with Fr. cruche  = Eng. “crock”). We have no indications of its form except that it had two handles; Pollux (viii. 66) ranks it with the ὑδρίαand κάλπις as a water-vessel. It was also used for holding ashes, and Plutarch enumerates it among the vessels in the bath of Darius. Of the same character was perhaps the ἀρδάνιον or ἀρδάλιον, described as a water-pot. Athenaeus also mentions a πρόαρον, or wooden vessel of the krater type, as used in Attica.

The Krater  is distinguished from the amphora by its larger body, wider mouth, and smaller handles. It was often placed on a stand, called ὑποκρατήριον, or ὑποκρατηρίδιον, which was either of pottery or metal such as bronze. This either took the form of a hollow cylindrical base, painted with subjects, or of an elaborately moulded stem with egg-and-tongue and other patterns. It is constantly mentioned in Homer, but the kraters standing in the halls of the great palaces, as in that of Odysseus, were made of gold or silver. It is on the average the largest of all Greek vases (except the pithos), some of the later Apulian specimens (of which F 278 in the B.M. is one) reaching a height of about four feet; the ordinary examples have a capacity of three or four gallons. The names Argolic, Lesbian, Laconian, Corinthian, and Thericleian are applied to it by various ancient authors.

In the different fabrics of Greek pottery it takes several distinct forms, to which convenient descriptive names have been given by Italian dealers, and some attempt has been made to identify names given by classical authors as forms of the krater, but without any success. The Italian names, however, which will be mentioned in due course, are somewhat cumbersome for English use.

Among Mycenaean vases there is a variety almost confined to Cyprus, to which the name of krater may fairly be given. Its chief characteristics are a wide spheroidal body, hardly contracted at the neck (which in some varieties is non-existent), flat vertical side-handles, and a high stem. We hardly meet with this form again until the end of the Corinthian style, when it suddenly leaps into popularity. The form in which it appears recalls, though it can hardly be imitated from, the Mycenaean krater, but the stem disappears, and the body is in section about two-thirds of a circle. It is clearly a local invention, and on the evidence of finds at Syracuse, its first appearance may be traced to the first half of the seventh century. Its distinguishing feature, however, is in the handles, each of which is composed of two short vertical bars, sometimes meeting in an arch, supporting a flat square piece formed by a projection from the flat broad rim, which is generally decorated. From the columnar appearance of these handles, the type has received the name of vaso a colonnette , which at all events is a more accurate description than the name κελέβη which, first proposed by Gerhard, has been generally employed by archaeologists, on what grounds it is not clear. This word, as described by Athenaeus, is clearly intended to imply a drinking-cup  of some kind; he quotes from Anakreon (frag. 63, Bergk), who speaks of drinking its contents at one draught (ἄμυστιν). On the other hand he quotes the authority of Pamphilos for identifying it with the θερμοπότις, or “water-heater,” a kind of kettle. The probability is that it was a general and loosely-employed word.


The column-handled krater is also found in the Naukratis wares of the sixth century, as well as in the imitations of Corinthian fabrics in which the Campana collection of the Louvre is so rich; the clay, style, and inscriptions of the latter clearly show their Corinthian origin, apart from the form. This krater is often decorated with friezes of figures (as in the famous Amphiaraos krater, p. 319). In the few existing Attic examples with black figures the subjects are in framed panels. This form, after dying out before the end of the sixth century, is revived towards the middle of the fifth in the later R.F. fabrics, but in a much altered form, which gives greater prominence to the columnar character of the handles. The neck is higher and narrower, and the handles consequently lengthened, the square tops being much diminished, and the body also takes a narrower and straighter form. In the fabrics of Southern Italy this development is even more strongly marked, and the elongated neck is adorned with an ivy-wreath in a panel; this type enjoyed some popularity both in Apulia and Lucania. The system of panel-decoration is employed throughout in all these cases.


The only other form of krater found in the B.F. period—and that but rarely—is that known as volute-handled  (a rotelle ), from the large handles reaching above the lip and curved round in a scroll (Fig. 37). It has an egg-shaped body and large neck. The best and earliest example is the François vase, from which it may be clearly seen that the form is derived from the columnar-handled krater. The British Museum also possesses a fine example signed by Nikosthenes, with a design in a frieze on the neck (B 364). The same shape and method of decoration appear in some fine examples of the severe R.F. style (cf. B.M. E 468, 469). During the R.F. period, two entirely new forms of krater suddenly appear, known respectively as the vaso a calice  and the vaso a campana , or “calyx-krater” and “bell-krater”; the former is first used by Euphronios. These names give a very accurate description of the forms, the one being like the opening calyx of a flower, the other like an inverted bell (Figs. 38, 39). In each the lip projects above the body, the neck having entirely disappeared, while the handles of the calyx-krater drop to the lower part of the vase, and those of the bell-krater are attached horizontally to the sides. Both types of handle are evidently adapted to carrying full vessels, like the side-handles of the hydria. The name of ὀξύβαφον was given by Gerhard to the bell-krater, again without any real authority, and probably owing to an error, from finding the name scratched underneath one example. Comparison, however, with similar inscriptions shows clearly that the ὀξύβαφον was a small measure, less even than a κύαθος, or ladleful. Athenaeus (xi. 494 B) is very explicit on this point. He derives the name from ὀξός, vinegar, which liquid the vessel was used to contain, and describes it as εἴδος κύλικος μικρᾶς. It was therefore a small cup of some kind.




In Southern Italy the krater holds the same position as the amphora of the B.F. period. The calyx- and bell-kraters are the two forms chiefly affected in the transition period when Athenian artists were working in Italy, or Italian artists directly under the influence of Athenian, but they are also found among the purely local fabrics, especially those of Cumae and Paestum (ibid.). The calyx-krater seems to have been reserved for the better and more carefully-executed specimens, and the Italian bell-kraters often have a top-heavy effect from the greater height of their stems.

In Apulia (and occasionally also in Lucania—the Campanian potters did not affect large vases) the volute-handled krater once more appears, in great magnificence. Not only is the total size and bulk increased, but the neck is lengthened and the handles are often treated with great elaboration of detail, ending below in swans' necks spreading over the vase. In Apulia the volutes are generally replaced by medallions (whence the Italian name vaso con maniche a mascheroni ) decorated with Gorgons' heads or figures, in relief, painted white, yellow, and red. These vases are sometimes, but incorrectly, called amphorae; they range from two to three or four feet in height. They are generally painted from head to foot with subjects, often of a sepulchral nature, and were no doubt largely made for use at funeral ceremonies.


The last variety of krater (Fig. 40) is formed by a peculiar type of vase, apparently devised by the Iapygian aborigines of Southern Italy, which has a wide mouth and sloping shoulder, and sometimes a high neck. Its peculiarity is that it has four handles, two upright and two horizontal, to the sides of which large discs are attached, whence its Italian name is vaso con maniche a rotelle , from the wheel or rosette patterns painted on the discs. This feature caused Panofka to give it the name of νεστορίς, with reference to the famous four-handled cup of Nestor (Il. xi. 632). It need hardly be pointed out that there can be little in common between this form and the drinking-cup used by the Homeric hero, in spite of the fact that the latter was too heavy for an ordinary man to lift. We need not suppose that Nestor's cup was larger than an ordinary “loving-cup,” and the poet was probably guilty of a pardonable exaggeration. As a painted vase, this four-handled krater is peculiar to Lucania, and it is interesting to note that it sometimes appears depicted on Lucanian vases as used in daily life.


Closely related to the krater is the ψυκτήρ or ψυγεύς, a wine-cooler (from ψύχω, “cool”), which was used for cooling wine by means of snow or cold water. The extant specimens are but few in number and vary in form. The British Museum possesses a very remarkable specimen in the form of a B.F. panel amphora (B 148), with double walls and bottom, and a large spout on one side, through which the snow or cold water was introduced into the outer space; it was afterwards withdrawn through an aperture in the bottom.Similar vases in the “Chalcidian” style are also known. After the beginning of the R.F. period a new type was introduced in the shape of a vessel with a short neck, the body of which bulges out towards its base, and is supported on a high stem; it generally has two small eared handles (Fig. 41). Several R.F. examples are known, of which two are in the British Museum, and three or four in the Louvre; the British Museum also possesses a late B.F. specimen (B 299). The designs are painted in a frieze round the vase.

The ἀκρατοφόρος, or vessel for holding unmixed wine, seems to have been another name for the ψυκτήρ; Pollux (vi. 90) says the difference was that it was supported on small knobs (lit. small knucklebones) instead of a stem.


Another name identified in antiquity with the ψυκτήρ is that of the δῖνος(sometimes spelled δεῖνος); but the identity was more probably one of usage than of form. As to the latter, there is considerable discrepancy in the accounts of the grammarians; one calls it a deep cup tapering down to a point; another, probably more correctly, since it was certainly not a drinking-vessel, a clay vessel for wine without a base, but rounded underneath. In virtue of this description the name has usually been applied to a class of vase, commoner in the earlier periods than the later, and more often found on Greek sites than on Italian, which has a rounded base without foot, and no handles (Fig. 42). These vases are found as early as the seventh century in Greece, and were very common at Naukratis, appearing also in most of the B.F. fabrics. That they were used to contain the ashes of the dead is shown by the B.M. example already referred to, which belongs to the end of the R.F. period. In Southern Italy this form of vase is generally placed on a separate high moulded stem, and has a cover with an ornamental knob. A variety with hemispherical cover nearly equal in size to the vase itself has been identified with the ἡμίτομος (“cut in half”), a form mentioned by Athenaeus.

This type of vase has more usually been described by the name of λέβης, denoting a kettle or caldron; but though the form of the λέβης was practically the same (as we may gather from the fact of its always being placed on a tripod), the purpose for which it was used (i.e. for boiling water) and the fact that it was always of metal, suggest that it is not such an appropriate name as δῖνος for this form of painted vase. The λέβης is constantly mentioned in Homer, both as a cooking-vessel and as a washing-basin.Herodotos says that the Scythians used a λέβης for cooking flesh, which resembled the Lesbian krater, but was much larger. It was also the vessel in which the ram, and subsequently Pelias, were boiled by Medeia; and may be seen depicted in several B.F. representations of that story. A golden lebes was placed at each angle of the temple of Zeus at Olympia. It is also the name of the vessel used by the Boeotians in their ingenious contrivance at the siege of Delion. To its use as a cinerary urn in the tragic poets we have already alluded.

The ordinary name for a cooking-vessel of earthenware in Greece was χύτρα, answering to our “pot”: it was used both for water and for solids, as well as for other domestic purposes. Children were exposed in χύτραι; and a boy's game called χυτρίνδα is described by Pollux; it was apparently played in two ways, either by a boy representing a χύτρα, who was pulled about by the other players until he caught one, or by a boy carrying a pot, with some obscure reference to the story of Midas. There were several proverbial expressions connected with the χύτρα, such as ποικίλλειν χύτρας, “to paint pots,” expressive of useless labour, owing to the roughness of the ware; and together with the χοῦς, a vessel only known as a measure (12 kotylae or 5¾ pints), it played a part in the festival of the Anthesteria, one day of which was known as Χύτραι καὶ Χόες, or “Pot-and-Pan Day.” The word χυτρόπους, used by Hesiod and Aristophanes, seems merely to denote a cooking-pot with feet.

A few other general words for cooking-vessels and domestic utensils may also be mentioned here. The θερμαντήρ mentioned by Pollux is presumably identical with the θερμοπότις and ἀναφαία of Athenaeus (475 D, 783 F), the former, as its name implies, being a vessel in which hot drinks were prepared. It seems to have been exclusively made of metal, and may, indeed, only be another name for the λέβης. It has, as we have seen, been identified with the κελέβη. Pollux gives a list of vessels used for warming water.

The ἡθμός, or strainer, answers to the modern colander, and is represented by a flat round vessel with long handle, of which some late fictile examples exist. It is mentioned among the vessels in the Sigeian inscription, but is there spelled ἡθμός. Most of the existing specimens are of bronze. The ὁλκεῖον mentioned by Athenaeus appears to have been a bowl used for washing cups. The σκάφη(“boat”) is a general term used in the classics for vessels of varied import: basins, troughs, washing-tubs, bowls, etc. It is the name used in inscriptions relating to the Panathenaic festival to describe the flat dishes or trays borne by the maidens who were called Skaphephori in the procession, as represented on the Parthenon frieze. The diminutive form σκάφιον or σκαφεῖον also occurs, and is identified with καλπίον. The ὅλμος, generally used to denote a mortar, also signified a bowl, and had the special signification of the hollow bowl in which the priestess of Apollo sat when delivering oracles from the Delphic tripod. It may here be noted that the word τρίπους appears to be used in ancient writers not only for the stand which supported the λέβης and other vessels, but for a vessel itself when thus supported on three feet. Most of the existing tripods are made of bronze, but one or two fictile examples are known, including a very remarkable one in Berlin, found at Tanagra, and covered with archaic paintings in the B.F. method.

On bathing and washing vessels our best authority is Pollux (x. 63); it is not, however, likely that they were often of earthenware. The ποδανιπτήρ at all events was of metal; it is often seen on R.F. vases with the subject of Theseus killing Procrustes. Large vessels, resembling modern baths, were known by the names of πύελος: and ἀσαμινθος; the λουτήριον, or laver, on a high stem, is frequently represented on South Italian vases, but is a purely decorative adjunct. It is there painted white to indicate marble.

The λεκάνη should also perhaps be included here, as according to the literary accounts it was a basin used for washing feet or clothes, or for vomiting. It also served the purpose of a mortar, and was used in the game of kottabos. A method of divination sometimes practised was known as λεκανομαντεία and consisted in placing waxen images in a lekane full of water, which became as it were animated and sank, thus signifying the destruction of an enemy. In Pseudo-Callisthenes we read how Nectanebos, the supposed father of Alexander, made use of this procedure.


The next series with which we have to deal is that of vases used for pouring out wine and serving it at the table. They fall into two classes: the wine-jug for pouring, and the ladle for filling it out of the mixing-bowl. We begin with the series of wine-jugs, as being the more important.


Of these the most conspicuous is the Oinochoë (οἰνοχόη, from οἴνος, “wine,” and χέω, “pour”), one of the most beautiful shapes among Greek vases. It appears in several forms, but the name is generally restricted to one, which corresponds most closely to the modern beer-jug. It is found at all periods, and the form never varies to any marked extent, except that the later examples are rather more graceful than the earlier, and some of the fine R.F. specimens reach the perfection of elegance in form and decoration (Fig. 44). Its chief characteristic is the trefoil-shaped mouth, but this is not invariable, many specimens having a plain circular lip. It is very commonly found in the Rhodian wares of the seventh century, with designs in a continuous frieze (Fig. 43); and a peculiar form appears in an Ionic fabric, with egg-shaped body and coarse designs. In the B.F. period the subjects are nearly always in framed panels. Among the R.F. vases of the fine style, many diminutive oinochoae occur, nearly all of which were found at Athens, the subjects being those of children playing with go-carts and other toys, and sometimes with jugs of the same shape. As these appear to have been found in children's tombs, it is evident that these painted specimens were actually used as playthings.

The oinochoë is frequently represented in vase-paintings, chiefly in scenes of libation, in which ceremony it was invariably used for pouring wine into the phiale or patera , from which the libation was made. It occurs on the Parthenon frieze. In conjunction with the krater, or mixing-bowl, it is seen on a “Cyrenaic” kylix in the B.M. (B 3), in a scene representing a sacrifice. In reference to this may be quoted a curious injunction given by Hesiod (Op. et Di. 744),

μηδέ ποτ' οἰνοχόην τιθέμεν κρητῆρος ὔπερθεν πινόντων,

which seems to imply that it was considered an unlucky thing to put the jug back in its place on the edge of the krater during a banquet. Thucydides speaks of silver oinochoae in the temple at Eryx, in conjunction with libation-bowls and incense-burners, and Athenaeus mentions similar offerings at Metapontum.


A variety of the oinochoë, which is not found before the middle of the R.F. period, but becomes very popular in Apulia, has a very high curved handle and tall stem, the body tapering straighter downwards (Fig. 45). This is usually known as the πρόχοος, and corresponds in form to our claret-decanter. The πρόχοος served the same purpose as the οἰνοχόη, and is frequently mentioned in Homer. It was used not only for pouring wine, but for water to wash the hands of guests.

FIG. 46. OLPE.

A third form, usually known as the ὄλπη (Fig. 46), is almost cylindrical in shape, with plain or trefoil lip and no marked neck; it is more usually found in the B.F. period. In early B.F. wares the subjects on the olpae are usually painted on the side , adjoining the handle on the right; they are always in panels. The word is mentioned by Sappho and Ion of Chios.


Lastly, we have a curious form, only found in Apulia, and belonging to the extreme decadence of vase-painting (Fig. 47), which has a flat cylindrical body like a round toilet-box with moulded edges. This is surmounted by a long narrow neck and beak-like semi-cylindrical mouth; and the whole effect is awkward and inartistic. The name ἐπίχυσις, derived from the list given by Pollux, is generally given to this form.

For the ladle used for drawing wine out of the krater to fill the oinochoë the ordinary name was κύαθος (Lat. simpulum ). This word also commonly denoted a measure of about one gill. Among the painted vases it is represented by a rare but particularly graceful shape, the body fashioned like a straight-sided bowl, with a high looped handle (Fig. 48). In the early B.F. examples a high stem is added. This shape is not found in the later R.F. period or in Southern Italy. The long handle is obviously for convenience in dipping.


A series of names, all of which are derivatives from the word ἀρύω, “draw” (used only of drawing water), appear to represent ladles of various forms and uses. Herodotos mentions the word ἀρυστήρ, and the forms ἀρυστεῖς, ἀρυτήρ, ἀρυσάνη, ἀρυστρίς, are also found. The ἀρύταινα appears to have been a bronze ladle, used in the baths for collecting oil, and for filling lamps. The ἀρύςτιχος, on the other hand, was a wine-ladle, also known as an ἔφηβος; it appears to have been used in voting in the law-courts. Another word used by Aristophanes is οἰνήρυσις; two parallels to which are the ἐτνήρυσις and ζωμήρυσις of the same author and other comic writers, both words meaning “soup-ladle.” It is doubtful if any of these words were in use for fictile utensils.

The next branch of the subject is concerned with the various forms of Drinking-cups  in use among the Greeks. In these the potters may perhaps be said to have attained their highest excellence, not only in regard to beauty and grace of form, but also, so far as concerns one variety at any rate—the R.F. Athenian kylix—in regard to the decoration. The locus classicus  on the subject is the eleventh book of Athenaeus, to which frequent reference has already been made; but there are of course frequent references to these cups in Homer and other poets. Athenaeus devotes a discourse by one of his “Doctors at Dinner” entirely to this subject, the different names being discussed in alphabetical order. Many of them are, as will be seen, only alternatives names or nicknames for well-known shapes, while others included in his description are certainly not drinking-cups at all. It must also be borne in mind that many of the names are purely generic, like the Latin poculum , and are not intended to connote any special form; this is particularly the case in the descriptions of Homer, where, indeed, we should not look for scientific accuracy.

The ordinary word for a drinking-cup was ποτήριον or ἔκπωμα, but neither is known to Homer; the terms he uses are δέπας, ἄλεισον, and κύπελλον, the first being further defined as ἀαμφικύπελλον. The word κισσύβιον may be once for all briefly dismissed; it was so called from κισσός (ivy), probably as being ornamented with ivy-foliage in relief, and was made of wood. It is seldom that Homer's descriptions give any details as to form, and where they do they are difficult to interpret aright. Athenaeus devotes a lengthy section of his discourse to the explanation of the famous cup (δέπας) of Nestor, which he names νεστορίς but arrives at no definite conclusion. It has already been pointed out that a hint at its form seems to be given by the gold and silver cups found in Mycenaean tombs, at Mycenae, and Enkomi in Cyprus, although it need not be assumed that these are the products of the civilisation which Homer describes; he may, however, be speaking of traditional forms. Another instance of the δέπας in legend, is in the story of Herakles crossing the ocean in the golden δέπας of the Sun.

Among the names of drinking-cups given by Athenaeus, the following may be taken as used in a purely general sense, without any idea of a particular form.

Ἄμυστις.—A cup from which it is possible to drink at one draught 

Αμφωτις.—A two-handled cup

Ἀντύγονις.—A cup named after King Antigonos.

Ἀργυρίς.—A cup of metal (not necessarily silver). Pollux also gives the word χρυσίς.

Ἄωτον.—A Cypriote name for a cup (“without handles,” from α and οὔς).

Βαυκαλίς.—An Alexandrine variety, of glass or clay.

Βῆσσα.—Also an Alexandrine form, widening out below.

Γυάλας.—A Megarian name (the form of the word is Doric).

Δεπαστρόν.—An uncertain form, variously explained.

Δεπαστρόν.—A bye-form of δέπας, in use at Kleitor in Arcadia.

Ἐνιαυτός.—Also known as Ἀμαλθείας κέρας. See under Rhyton

Ἔφηβος or ἐμβασικοίτας.—The significance of these names is not obvious

Ἡδυποτίς.—A Rhodian name (cf. Pollux, vi. 96). Said to have been made by the Rhodians in competition with the Athenian Θηρίκλειοι. They were of light make, and not, like the Thericleian cups, for the exclusive use of the rich.

Ἠθάνιον.—Apparently an Egyptian name.

Ἡμίτομος.—An Athenian cup, probably hemispherical

Ἴσθμιον.—A Cypriote term.

Κελέβη.—See under Krater

Κόνδυ.—An Asiatic name. Menander describes it as holding ten kotylae, or about five pints.

Κρατάνιον or κρανίον.—Polemon mentions silver specimens in the temple of Hera and treasury of the Byzantines at Olympia.

Κρουνεῖον.—It is doubtful if this word denotes a cup, as it is catalogued with the κρατήρ, κάδος, and ὁλκεῖον.

Λαβρωνία.—A Persian cup, named from “greedy” drinking (λαβρότης ἐν τῷ πίνειν).

Λάκαινα.—A cup made of Laconian clay.


Μάνης.—A cup or bowl placed on the top of the kottabos-stand, and used in the game of kottabos to receive the drops of wine thrown from the kylix (q.v.)


Ὄινιστηρία.—A name given to the wine-cup dedicated to Herakles by the ephebi at the time of entry into that rank.

Ὄλλιξ.—A wooden cup.

Παναθηναικόν.—Probably a variety of the Skyphos (q.v.).

Πελίκη.—See under Amphora. A generally disputed form.

Πέταχνον.—A wide flat cup (from πετάννυμι, “spread”).


Προυσίας.—Named from the king of Bithynia.

Προχύτης.—Called a cup by Athenaeus, but more probably to be identified with the πρόχοος

Ῥέον or Ῥέοντα.—Probably a variant of ῥυτόν. It is described as taking the form of a Gryphon or Pegasos, both of which occur in rhyta

Σαννακία.—A Persian cup.

Σελευκίς.—A cup named after King Seleukos.

Ταβαίτας.—A wooden cup.

Τραγέλαφος.—Probably a kind of rhyton


Χαλκιδικόν.—Probably named from the Thracian Chalkidike.

Χόννος.—A bronze cup (perhaps a kind of kylix).

ᾨδός.—A cup associated with the singing of σκόλια.

ᾨόν.—An egg-shaped cup.

ᾨοσκύφιον.—A double cup, apparently like an egg standing in an egg-cup.

Pollux also mentions the names Βησιακόν and Καππαδοκικόν; and Athenaeus describes a γραμματικὸν ἔκπωμα, or cup ornamented with letters (in relief), probably a late Hellenistic type.

We now come to the names which can be identified with existing vases, or are described with some indication of their form.

A name which constantly occurs in two forms is the κοτύλη or κότυλος. The distinction appears to be that the former had no handles, but the latter one, but otherwise the form was probably much the same, being that of a deep cup; it is also probable that it was sometimes used like the κύαθος, as a ladle for drawing out wine, as well as for drinking. The word κοτύλη is found as early as Homer, used metaphorically for the hollow where the thigh-bone joins the hip; in its proper meaning as a cup, it occurs in the familiar proverb which has been adopted into our language:

πολλὰ μεταξὺ πέλει κοτύλης καὶ χείλεος ἀκροῦ
“There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.”

As a measure it was equivalent to six kyathi, or roughly half a pint, as already shown. The ἡμικοτύλιον there discussed is, however, a one-handled cup, and therefore to be called a κότυλος rather than a κοτύλη. The latter is a word constantly found in Greek literature from Homer downwards, as in the passage where Andromache describes the impending fate of her orphan child, to whom a pitying patron will hold out a cup, merely to taste, not to drain.

From Athenaeus we learn that the κότυλος was like a deep washing-basin (λουτήριον), and that it was associated with Dionysos. Eratosthenes calls it the most beautiful and the best for drinking of all cups. The diminutive form κοτύλισκος occurs in connection with the κέρνος], discussed below, which had many of these little cups attached to it. It has been customary to apply the name κοτύλη to a class of vase found at all periods, with flat base, slightly curved sides, and two flat handles level with the rim (Fig. 49); it sometimes attains a considerable size for a drinking-cup, and is usually decorated with one or two figures each side. A notable exception is the beautiful vase in the British Museum (Plate LI.), signed by Hieron, with its frieze of figures all round. This identification is of course at variance with Athenaeus' statement that the kotyle has no handle; but no other satisfactory name has been found for the form.


Closely connected, it would seem, with the κοτύλη is the cup known as the σκύφος or σκύπφος, to which there are frequent references in the poets and elsewhere but not in Aristophanes. Homer describes it as a rustic sort of bowl, which held milk; Simonides applies to it the epithet οὐατόεντα, or “handled.” Athenaeus connects the word with σκαφίς, a round wooden vessel which held milk or whey, and this seems to accord with the mention of it in Homer. It was always specially associated with Herakles, who was said to have used it on his expeditions; hence certain varieties were known as σκύφοι Ἡρακλεωτικοί, but it is more probable that this word refers to Heraklea Trachinia in Northern Greece. Besides the Herakleotic, Athenaeus mentions specially Boeotian, Rhodian, and Syracusan skyphi. The ordinary shape of the vase may be inferred from the form of that which Herakles is often depicted holding on the monuments; it is of the same type as the κοτύλη, but the body tapers below and has a higher foot, while the handles are placed lower down and bent upwards. Among the late black-glazed wares with opaque paintings some examples occur of cups with handles twisted in a kind of knot, and it has been suggested that these represent the “Heraklean knot” described by Athenaeus as to be seen on the handles of these: σκύφοι Ἡρακλεωτικοί.

The word is also frequently used by Roman authors, and there is a particularly interesting passage in Suetonius alluding to the Homerici scyphi  adorned with chased designs from the Homeric poems which Nero possessed; these were, of course, metal bowls with reliefs, but they have their fictile counterparts in the so-called Megarian bowls.

Athenaeus quotes from the philosopher Poseidonios a passage referring to drinking-cups called Παναθηναικά, which may be supposed to have some connection with the Panathenaic festival, and attempts have been made to identify them with a class of skyphi or kotylae of the R.F. period, the invariable subject on which is an owl between two olive-branches. There is no doubt some reference to the Athenian goddess, but it is more likely that they represent some kind of official measure.

It will be noted that the σκύφος appears to have been originally a wooden vessel used as a milking-pail, and it is further identified in Theocritus with the wooden κισσύβιον, to which we have already alluded. Two other words are given by Athenaeus to denote large wooden bowls of the type of the σκύφος, namely the ἄμφωτις and the πέλλα both used as milking-pails. They were not strictly speaking drinking-cups. Among existing Greek vases this form, viz. a deep straight-sided bowl, such as a carved wooden vessel would naturally take, seems to be best represented by the examples discovered on the site of the Cabeiric temple at Thebes, which are of this shape and of considerable size.

The βρομίας is described by Athenaeus as a cup resembling the taller skyphi, and the κιβώριον(whence the ecclesiastical Latin ciborium ) was also a kind of skyphos. The name μαστός should also be included here, from the likeness of the cup to the skyphos. Its characteristic is that it has no foot but only a small knob, and therefore exactly resembles a woman's breast with the nipple, whence its name. In Greek pottery the only known painted examples are of the B.F. period, and these are usually modelled and painted with great care and delicacy. The so-called Megarian bowls should also be included under this heading, in reference to which it has been pointed out that μαστοί of metal were dedicated in temples at Oropos in Boeotia and at Paphos.

Another form of cup, of which Athenaeus has much to say, is the κύμβιον (other forms being κύμβηand κύββα), which was supposed to represent the κύπελλον of Homer. He describes it as small and deep, without foot or handles. On the other hand, the word also means “a boat,” and we further find the words ἄκατος and τριήρης cited by Athenaeus as names of cups, the former being expressly called “a boat-shaped cup.” This has the support of the author Didymos (quoted by Athenaeus, 481 F) who says the κύμβιον was a long narrow cup like a ship. A possible instance of it is a long askos-shaped vessel in the British Museum, on which is incised ΠΡΟΠΙΝΕ ΜΗ ΚΑΤΘΗΣ, “Drink, do not lay me down”; but it is not of a form adapted for drinking. The question must therefore remain undecided. Ussing thinks that κύμβιον was originally a cup-name, and that the other meaning is derived from it; but, on the other hand, ἄκατος and τριήρης are merely nicknames as applied to cups.

The κώθων is a cup which cannot now be identified, but is often referred to by ancient authors. It seems to have been a Spartan name for a soldier's cup, used for drinking-water, and was adapted by its recurved mouth for straining off mud. It has been conjectured to have been the name for the shape we have above described as a κοτύλη, but on no good grounds; Pollux (vii. 162) wrongly classifies it with the πίθος and amphora, but it was undoubtedly a cup, as indeed he implies elsewhere (vi. 97). Usually of clay, it is sometimes described as of bronze, and Aristophanes applies to it the epithet φαεινός, which suggests a bright metallic surface. Hesychius and Suidas describe it as having one handle. From the κώθων was derived the word κωθωνίζεσθαι, “to drink hard.”

The κάνθαρος was a cup so called because of a fancied resemblance to an inverted beetle. It was specially associated with Dionysos, and from this fact its form has been identified with certainty from the two-handled drinking-cup which he is so often depicted holding, especially on B.F. vases. It is a very beautiful though for some reason never a very popular shape in pottery, and is found at all periods. In form it may be described as a deep straight-sided cup on a high stem, with loop-shaped handles starting from the rim each side and coming down to the lower edge of the body (Fig. 50). Probably it was considered a difficult shape to produce in pottery, and was commoner in metal examples.

At all events the καρχήσιον, a similar kind of cup, seems to have been consistently made of metal. Athenaeus describes it with more than usual detail as tall, moderately contracted in the middle, with handles reaching to the bottom (i.e. of the bowl). The form is to be recognised on the monuments (if not in actual examples) as a variation of the κάνθαρος in which the body has a sort of “waist,” bulging out again below. Virgil mentions carchesia , and silver specimens were among the dedications in the Parthenon at Athens.


Of all the ancient forms of drinking-cup, the most celebrated and in some respects also the most beautiful, was the Kylix  κύλιξ, Lat. calix ), a two-handled cup of varying size, with large bowl on a high stem. The shape of this vase shows a continuous development, as does also its decorative treatment, from the most primitive times down to the end of Greek vase-painting. It was moreover the form which the great artists of the early part of the fifth century selected as the medium of their finest efforts. The kylix played an important part at the banquet, being not only one of the commonest forms of drinking-cup in use, but as being also used in the game of kottabos. In the banqueting-scenes which are so popular a subject on the R.F. kylikes of the best period, the guests are often represented twirling vases of this shape on one finger crooked through the handle; this being the manner in which they discharged the drops of wine at the mark. Hence the kylix was also known as ἀγκύλη or κοτταβίς. When not in use the kylix was hung on a peg on the wall, as it is sometimes depicted on R.F. vases.

Athenaeus cites the Athenian and Argive kylikes as being of special repute; the latter are described by Simonides as φοξίχειλος, a word of doubtful meaning. In the former's own city of Naukratis a special kind of kylix was made by hand (not on the wheel), with four handles and a very flat base, and this was dipped in a solution of silver to give it a metallic appearance. Lacedaemonian, Chian, and Teian kylikes are also mentioned (the last-named by Alcaeus). But the most famous variety was the Thericleian, so named from Therikles, a Corinthian potter contemporary with Aristophanes. These cups were chiefly made at Athens; they are frequently mentioned by Middle and New Comedy writers, and are described by Athenaeus as depressed round the sides, deep, with short handles. They were imitated in wood or glass, and gilded, and Athenaeus mentions that the Rhodians made ἡδυποτίδες (see above) in emulation of them.

Besides the various diminutive forms of κύλιξ, such as κυλίχνηκυλίσκη, etc.,there is a long list of synonyms for this form, about most of which, however, there is nothing to say except that they are probably mere nicknames. Athenaeus gives the following: Κονώνιος, Λάκαινα, λοιβάσιον, πεντάπλοον, σκάλλιον, χαλκόστομος, χόννος, and μαθαλίς; also μετάνιπτρον, from its use after the washing of the hands, i.e. at the end of the meal; Προυσίας, named from a king of Bithynia; and φιλοτησία, corresponding to our “loving-cup.”

In the history of Greek vase-painting the kylix is a shape known and popular at all periods, from the Mycenaean Age down to the end of the fifth century; in the fabrics of Southern Italy it but seldom occurs. The Mycenaean form is peculiarly graceful, with its tall stem and swelling bowl; it is generally decorated with a cuttle-fish, a motive well suited to its outlines (see Plate XV.).

During the archaic period of Greek vases a steady development can be traced, both in form and methods of decoration, until the outburst of the R.F. style. The early Corinthian specimens are somewhat cumbrous, with very low stem, shallow bowl with heavy overhanging lip and small handles; in strong contrast thereto are the Cyrenaic cups, which are in execution quite in advance of their time (first half of sixth century); their graceful, delicate forms are evidently imitated from metal. These early cups are as a rule covered with a cream-coloured or buff slip and decorated all over, and the interior designs, which cover the whole or almost the whole of the inside, are a marked feature of these types.


Turning to the Attic fabrics we find that in the beginning of the sixth century the prevalent form (evolved from the Corinthian type) has a high stem and deep bowl with off-set lip, the decoration being confined to the upper band of the exterior, in the form of a frieze (Fig. 51). This type is also illustrated by a small Rhodian group in the British Museum, which, however, has elaborate interior designs. In the next stage, represented by the Minor Artists, the form remains the same, but the manner of decoration is different, interior designs again appearing; often the design is confined to a narrow band, the rest of the exterior being coloured black. Lastly, towards the end of the fifth century, an entirely new form is introduced, in which the break in the outline disappears and the bowl becomes flatter, with a gracefully-curved convex outline, while the stem is shortened (Fig. 52). This form is the one adopted throughout the R.F. period, with few exceptions, and it is possible that it was actually invented by the earliest R.F. artists, such as Nikosthenes and Pamphaios, though it is also employed by Exekias. The methods of decoration cannot however be treated of here.


An extremely delicate form of kylix is used by the potter Sotades, with handles in imitation of a bird's merrythought. Towards the end of the fifth century the shape changes somewhat, the stem disappearing and the bowl becoming deeper. In Southern Italy the kylix-form is only represented by gigantic shallow bowls, with small stout handles attached to the rim, probably intended for hanging against the wall. The Naucratite kylikes mentioned above seem to have been made somewhat after this pattern; it was at any rate typical of Hellenistic taste.


The word φιάλη (Lat. patera ) bore in Greek a very different meaning from that suggested by the modern word phial . It was in fact a shallow bowl shaped like a saucer, and had no handle, but in place of one a boss (ὄμφαλος) in the centre, which was hollowed out underneath in order to admit of the insertion of a thumb or finger (Fig. 53). Hence it was generally styled μεσόμφαλος or ὀμφαλωτός. As a vase-form it is not of frequent occurrence, and was probably more frequently made in metal, especially in the Hellenistic period. Those depicted on painted vases are usually indicated as having ribbed or fluted exteriors, which can only denote metal (cf. Vol. II. Fig. 132). About the third or second century B.C. imitations of metal phialae in terracotta, with moulded interior designs, are of common occurrence. Being signed by potters residing at Cales, they are usually known as “Calene phialae.” There are two in the British Museum, which are an exact reproduction of silver specimens in the same collection.

Homer uses the word in two senses: (1) as equivalent to a λέβης, as if used for boiling water; (2) as a cinerary urn. Obviously in both these cases the significance of this particular word must not be pressed. Later, however, we find very frequent mention of the phiale in classical authors, such as Herodotos, Pindar, and Plato, in all cases with the same restricted significance, that of a vessel used in making libations. On the R.F. vases it appears in countless examples, used in this manner, especially by Nike. Aristotle, by way of illustrating the inversion of a simile, says “You may call the shield the phiale of Ares, or the phiale the shield of Dionysos,” no doubt with reference to its buckler-like shape.Athenaeus (xi. 462 D) quotes a passage from Xenophanes which implies its use for holding perfumes at banquets.

Many words occur as synonyms of φιάλη, such as the αιακις, ἄροτρον, λυκιουργεῖς, ῥυσίς, φθοίς, βάτιακιον, and λεπάστη. The last-named word has been suggested above for a kind of large covered dish or bowl, but we can only ascertain that it was a drinking-vessel of some kind, resembling a large kylix.

FIG. 54. Rhyton.

The ῥυτόν, or drinking-horn (from ῥέω, “flow”), is a familiar shape in the R.F. and later styles, but as a vase-form does not occur before the middle of the fifth century. Its peculiarities were: firstly, that it could not be set down without drinking the contents; secondly, that the narrow end was almost always modelled in the form of the head of some animal, or of a woman or Satyr. Some examples are known in the form of two heads back to back, usually a Satyr and a Maenad, but these having a flat circular base are an exception to the first rule noted above, and partake more of the nature of a cup than of a drinking-horn. Although no archaic examples have been preserved, the rhyton, or κέρας, as it is also called, frequently appears on B.F. vases, being generally held by Satyrs or revellers, or by Dionysos. Athenaeus says it was a form reserved for the use of heroes, and that κέρας was the older name for it. Among the South Italian vases, it is found almost exclusively in Apulia, and these belong to the decadence of the Apulian style, the paintings being limited to a figure of Eros, or a woman, and little more. These rhyta have one handle, and the cup-part is generally cylindrical in form, tapering slightly towards the lower part, where the head is attached (Fig. 54.). In some instances the form is narrower and more elongated, with fluted body. The animals' heads are usually left unvarnished, and coloured in detail like the terracotta figures; the mouth often forms a spout from which the liquid could be allowed to run out. The heads, which occur in great variety, include the panther, fox, wolf, horse, goat, mule, deer, and dog; also Gryphons and Pegasi (see below). Athenaeus mentions a vase called the τραγέλαφος, which was doubtless a rhyton ending in two heads, a goat and a deer conjoined, like some known specimens; he also quotes a description of another called ελέφας, explained as a rhyton with two spouts (δίκρουνος). Further, under the heading ῥέοντα, which is doubtless a synonym for ῥυτόν, he mentions one in the form of a Gryphon, another in the form of a Pegasos. The name is mentioned by Demosthenes, together with κύμβια and φιάλαι. It is worthy of mention that among the Mycenaean objects discovered at Enkomi in Cyprus, in 1896, and now in the British Museum, there are two or three rhyta in porcelain, corresponding in form to those of the R.F. period, and of very advanced style; they are in fact quite unique.

A few comparatively unimportant names of vessels for holding food and liquids at the table may next be discussed.


The names given for dishes are δισκόςπαροψίς, and τρύβλιον, the latter of which frequently occurs in Aristophanes, but παροψίς seems to be of late introduction, and more used by the Romans. For a plate the usual name was πίναξ (also πινακίονπινακίσκος), a form which is interesting as often occurring among painted vases (Fig. 55). It is found at all periods, from the fabrics of Rhodes and Naukratis down to the Apulian and Campanian “fish-plates,” which have a sinking in the centre, and are painted with fish, shell-fish, etc. They were no doubt used for eating fish, the sinking being for the sauce. A famous early instance of the pinax is the “Euphorbos-plate” in the British Museum. The name is also given to the square plaques or tablets, such as those found at Corinth, on the Athenian Acropolis, and elsewhere, which were generally of a votive character. They are often depicted on the vases themselves, indicating the locality of a shrine.

Vessels for holding vinegar or sauces were known by the names of ὀξύβαφονὀξίς, or ἐμβάφιον. The shapes are not exactly known, but they were apparently small cups or dishes; the incorrect identification of the first-named with the κρατήρ we have already discussed. The words ἐρεύς and κυψελίςare given by Pollux as vases for holding sweets, and the κυμινοδόκον or κυμινοθήκη was, as the name implies, a box or receptacle for spices. The last-named has been identified with the κέρνος, described by Athenaeus as “a round vessel, having attached several little kotylae (κοτυλίσκους).”Two existing forms correspond in some degree to this description: one found in Cyprus and at Corinth, and consisting of a hollow ring, to which small cups or jars are attached at intervals; the other found chiefly in Melos, and consisting of a central stand, round which are grouped a varying number of alabastron-like vases, evidently designed for holding small quantities of unguents or perfumes, or perhaps flowers, eggs, or other objects. They are all of very early date, and decorated in primitive fashion. A better form of the word seems to be κέρχνος. Many have been found at Eleusis, and it is supposed that they were used in the Mysteries for carrying the first-fruits.


Several kinds of vases were used for holding oil, the characteristic of all these shapes being the narrow neck and small mouth, which were better adapted for pouring the liquid drop by drop. The ordinary Greek word for an oil-flask is λύκυθος, frequently found in Aristophanes and elsewhere. We have already referred to the passages in the Ecclesiazusae  where the practice of placing lekythi on tombs, and generally of using them for funeral purposes, finds allusion. From these passages it has been possible to identify the class of white-ground Athenian vases on which funeral subjects are painted, with absolute certainty as Lekythi . But the shape is not confined to this one class. In the early B.F. period (especially in Corinthian wares) it assumes a less elegant form, with cup-shaped mouth, short thick neck, and quasi-cylindrical body tapering slightly upwards (cf. the alabastron below). The later form, which prevails from the middle of the B.F. period down to the end of the fourth century at Athens, with very little variation of form, is one of the most beautiful types of Greek vases (Fig. 56). It has a long neck, to which the handle is attached, flat or almost concave shoulder, and cylindrical body, semi-oval at the base. The B.F. examples are seldom found in Italy, and almost all come from Athens and other Hellenic sites, or from Sicily, a country in which the form seems to have been exceptionally popular. The same may be said of the ordinary R.F. examples, which have no sepulchral reference, and are found in large numbers at Gela (Terranuova) in Sicily, but seldom elsewhere. The white lekythi have been found in Eretria, and at Gela, and Locri in Southern Italy, besides Athens. The lekythos seldom attains to any great size, except in the marble examples used as tombstones. They were probably used at the bath and in the gymnasium, and may also have served other purposes, e.g. for pigments. In illustration of this reference may be made to the well-known passage in Aristophanes' Frogs  (1200 ff.), where the jeer of Aeschylos at Euripides' stereotyped beginnings of his plays, ληκύθιον ἀπώλεσεν, seems to imply “he is hard up for something new to say,” i.e. “he has lost his paint-pot; his lines need embellishment.”


Towards the end of the fifth century the lekythos takes a new departure (Fig. 57), and appears with a squat, almost spherical body, without foot (except for the base-ring). This form is sometimes known as aryballos  (see below), but is perhaps more accurately described as a “wide-bodied” (Germ. bauchige ) lekythos. It is very popular at Athens in the late fine or polychrome vases, and was adopted exclusively in Southern Italy, where it is the only form of lekythos found. This type of vase is often found in the period of the Decadence with a subject moulded in relief attached to the front, sometimes of a comic nature.


The alabastron  (ἀλάβαστρον or ἀλάβαστος, both forms being found in Classical Greek) is a shape closely allied to the lekythos. It preserves the same form throughout the period of Greek vase-painting (Fig. 58.), but is not often found after the middle of the sixth century. In the early Corinthian wares it is very common. The name is derived from the material of which it was originally made, and many examples of alabaster vases of this shape have been found in excavations. It was chiefly used for holding oil, unguents, and cosmetics, and is often represented in scenes of ladies' toilet as in use for these purposes. Its characteristics are a flat round top with small orifice, short neck, and more or less cylindrical body with rounded-off base, intended for placing in a stand (ἀλαβαστοθήκη). It is generally without handles, but when they occur they are in the form of two small ears, through which a cord was passed for carrying or suspending it. The “alabaster box” of the Gospels was a vessel of this form (cf. the original Greek), and it was broken by knocking off the top, in order that the contents might flow out quickly. The name βῆσσα is also given as a synonym of the ἀλάβαστρον.


Another vase of the same type is that known as the ἀρύβαλλος. The derivation of the word is unknown, but the first half connects it with the “ladle” class of vases (ἀρυτήρ, etc.), of which we have already spoken. It can, however, hardly be a vase of that type, and the connection seems to be its use in the bath, i.e. as an oil-flask. It is generally described as resembling a purse; Athenaeus says it is broader below than above, like a purse tied at the neck with a string. The name, however, is usually applied to a form of vase akin to the alabastron, but with small globular body, handle, and very short neck (Fig. 59.). This type is almost confined to the Corinthian and other early fabrics, and frequently occurs in glazed or enamelled ware. Its connection with the bath is undoubted, and it was generally carried on a string, together with a strigil or flesh-scraper. As this form died out in the sixth century, the name has been used, as noted above, for a later variety of the lekythos, in which the body approaches a globular form.

Transitional between the alabastron and the aryballos is a type of which some examples occur among early Corinthian wares, with egg-shaped body, flat round top, and small ear-like handle, the base being rounded off. To this the name βομβύλιος has been tentatively given, on the authority of Antisthenes, who defines the word as meaning a kind of lekythos with narrow neck. In the same passage of Athenaeus it is contrasted with the quickly-emptied φιάλη or bowl; those who drink from it must do so drop by drop (κατὰ μικρὸν στάζοντες). The name may denote a cocoon, the shape of which this vase resembles, or may be imitative, from the gurgling sound made by a liquid poured therefrom. The ἐξάλειπτρον was also probably a kind of oil-flask.


A few forms of vases were exclusively devoted to feminine use. These include the πυξίς, a cylindrical box with cover, in which jewellery or other objects such as hair-pins, cosmetics, etc., might be kept for use in the toilet (Fig. 60.). The painted examples of this form, which nearly all belong to the later R.F. period, are usually decorated with appropriate subjects, women at their toilet, preparations for weddings, etc. The σμηματοθήκη, or soap-box, served similar purposes. It seems to be represented by a form of vase of which the British Museum possesses a specimen (without figure decoration), with cover and high stem, but no handle except the knob on the cover. It is intermediate in form between the pyxis and the so-called λεπαστή, and sometimes appears in toilet and other scenes. A rare form, found almost exclusively in the R.F. period, consisting of a globular vase with vertical looped handles on a high stem, has been variously named, but the latest theory is that it represents a λέβης γαμικός. It contained lustral water, and is usually decorated with bridal scenes. One is depicted in a toilet scene on a pyxis in the British Museum.


Lastly, a peculiar semi-cylindrical vessel, closed at one end and open down the side (Fig. 61.), was for a long time a puzzle to archaeologists, but its use was finally determined by its appearance in a vase-painting. It is there held by a seated woman, fitted over her knee and thigh, and was used while spinning to pass the thread over. The name of these objects is given by Pollux (vii. 32) as ἐπίνητρον or ὄνος (“the donkey”). Several of them are painted with spinning scenes, and the vase-painting alluded to above is curiously enough on a vase of this form.

There is a type of vase, of which two or three varieties occur, which, from its general likeness to a wine-skin, is usually styled Askos . It does not, however, appear that there is any direct authority for this, at least in literary records; where the word does occur, it always denotes a leather skin, such as is sometimes depicted on the vases, carried by a Seilenos or Satyr. It is, however, a convenient expression, and there is no other recorded term which can on any grounds be associated with this type.


The earliest examples, which date from the middle of the R.F. period, have a flat round body with convex top, and a projecting spout (Fig. 62); the handle is sometimes arched over the back to meet the spout, or else takes a separate ring-like form. They are usually decorated with two small figures, one on each side. In the vases of Southern Italy a new form appears (Fig. 63), chiefly found in Apulia, in which the resemblance to a wine-skin is much more apparent, the tied-up pairs of legs being represented by the spout or a projection. The handle is usually arched over the back, and the pouch-shaped body sometimes assumes an almost birdlike form.


A variety which is also common in Southern Italy is made of plain black ware, and is not painted but has a subject in relief in a medallion on the top; the handle is ring-shaped and the form generally resembles the variety first described, except that the body is flat on the top, and convex below, with a base-ring (Fig. 64). It seems probable that these vases were used for holding oil for feeding lamps, and consequently they are generally known by the Latin name of guttus , or “lamp-feeder”. Whether the painted aski were used for the same purpose is doubtful; those, however, with the large body seem to have been intended for other purposes, especially as they often have a strainer inserted in them. Some indeed appear to have been used as rattles, and still contain small balls or pebbles, placed within them for that purpose. On the whole, however, it seems more convenient to reckon the ἀσκοί with the oil-vases.


Among vases which do not exactly fall under the heading of any particular shape may be noted certain types of moulded vases, and those with reliefs modelled on them or attached. Many of these almost fall under the category of terracotta figures, but still must be reckoned as vases, even when painted in the methods of terracottas rather than pottery. Other types we have described elsewhere, such as the rhyta ending in animals' heads, the kanthari and rhyta of the R.F. period in the form of human or Dionysiac heads, and the analogous vases of the archaic period. Again, there are such forms as the flasks with flat circular bodies, and the large pyxides which are often found in Southern Italy. They usually bear a subject in relief, covered with a white slip and painted in pink and blue, like the Canosa vases; a specimen from Pompeii, with rich remains of colouring, has lately been acquired by the British Museum. The curious type of vase sometimes found in Sicily, with a tall conical cover, the ornamentation being partly in encaustic, partly in gilded relief, has been already mentioned. There is also a late variety of the so-called kernos, consisting of four cups united on an elaborate fluted stand, of which the British Museum possesses two good examples.

It should be borne in mind that all these exceptional shapes are probably imitations of metal-work, perhaps made for the benefit of those who could not afford the more expensive material, just as imitation jewellery was sometimes made in gilt terracotta. Throughout the Hellenistic period (to which the classes we are discussing chiefly belong), the universal tendency is to substitute metal vases for pottery, and moulded or relief-wares for painted decoration, and the potter, finding the painted vases were no longer appreciated, was forced to confine himself to imitating metal, and thus keep abreast with the new fashion. The whole subject of the plastic decoration of vases has been more fully dealt with elsewhere.