Pottery in ancient Italy

(1) Early Italian Civilisation

As regards Etruria, it will be seen that the art of the people was largely imitative, being derived mainly from Greece, but in some measure also from the East. Few remains of their productions have reached the present day, with the exception of large numbers of vases, bronzes, and jewellery; these, however, afford a very clear notion of the characteristics of Etruscan art. It is hardly possible to treat the subject of working in clay in Etruria with such fulness as can be done in the case of Greece and Rome, owing to the greater dearth of literature; but in our previous chapter (III.) on this subject much has already been said with reference to what is known on this head. In regard to the pottery, careful scientific excavations, such as those undertaken by M. Gsell at Vulci, have done much to increase our knowledge of all periods, and to place chronological certainty within the reach of the inquirer.

In dealing with the history of art in Italy, we are naturally first met with two questions: (1) Who were the earliest inhabitants of the country, particularly in the region afterwards known as Etruria, in which the first signs of artistic development appear? (2) At what period and from what quarter did the Etruscans occupy this region, or are they aboriginal? It will therefore be necessary to devote a few preliminary paragraphs to these much-debated questions, in order to gain a better understanding of the subsequent history.

The question of the origin of the Etruscans, to take the second first, is as old as Herodotos. As is well known, the Father of History held to the view that they originally came from Lydia, a view which found general support in antiquity, and is referred to by Horace, and many other writers. His fellow-townsman Dionysios was, however, of the opinion that they were autochthonous. However much of truth there may be in either of these theories, the fact remains that with certain modifications each of the two alternatives has found supporters even down to the present day, though to Niebuhr first is due the suggestion that the immigration of the Etruscans was by land and not by sea, and that they came from Central Europe by way of the Rhaetian Alps. He has been followed by most writers since—above all by Mommsen, who was the first to point out the absurdity of identifying the Lydian Τυρρηνοί or Τυρρηβοίwith the Italian Tusci  or Etrusci . It follows from this that the whole of the civilisation of Northern and Central Italy is due to this race, which would obviously have left its impress on each district as it passed through it; and, secondly, that it was this same race that was afterwards known by the name of Etruscan.

The chief objection to the theory of an autochthonous origin is that, as we shall presently see, a break in the civilisation of Northern Italy which can be traced about the beginning of the ninth century B.C. is of such a marked and rapid character that it cannot be regarded as due to any cause but the irruption of a new race. Moreover, there is probably, as M. Pottier points out, more truth in the words of Herodotos than appears at first sight. It is true that there are no grounds for accepting the Lydian theory absolutely; but apart from this, it is to be noted that Herodotos nowhere states that the Tyrrhenians landed on the west coast of Italy—i.e. in Etruria. What he does say is that, “after having visited (or coasted along) many nations, they arrived at the Umbrians, where they founded cities and inhabit them to this day; and instead of Lydians, their name was changed to that of Tyrrhenians.” Additional evidence is given by Hellanikos, who explicitly states that they landed at the mouth of the Po; and as the Umbrians probably occupied a larger territory in prehistoric than in classical times, we may fairly place here the city of Tyrsenia or Tyrrhenia, which Herodotos gives as the name of their first new home. Thus the Umbrians will represent the early aborigines whose civilisation, known as the Terramare, we shall presently describe, and it was this civilisation, transformed and developed, which was carried by the invaders over the Apennines into the region now to be known as Etruria. It will be noted that this theory at least satisfactorily combines the land and sea migrations of the Etruscans into Etruria, though it does not profess to dogmatise as to the region whence they first started. The idea that they first landed on the west coast is entirely due to Roman ideas, fostered by poets like Virgil; and though it is in one passage accepted by Dionysios of Halicarnassos, he expressly contradicts himself in another.

The two chief characteristics of this new Etrusco-Umbrian civilisation are the development of geometrical decoration and the predominance of a metallurgic element, both of which are obviously derived from Eastern sources, whether Hellenic or Oriental. It will suffice here to point out that the “Tyrrhenians” during their previous voyages (see above) might well have come in contact with the other civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean, such as Cyprus, Asia Minor, Mycenae, and the Greek islands, and that their natural acquisitiveness and capacity for imitation, which we shall find illustrated throughout their history, enabled them to pick up and use artistic ideas from all these quarters. Even their earliest art yields many points of comparison with that of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The earliest civilisation of which traces have survived in Italy is, as we have already seen, that of the Terramare, so called from the remains discovered in that district, covering the basin of the Eridanus or Po, but chiefly between Piacenza and Bologna. We have further seen that the aboriginal people to whom these remains belong are probably to be identified with the Umbrians, but it is perhaps safer to style them Italiotes. They were lake-dwellers, living in wooden houses built on piles in the water or in the marshy lagoons of the district which they inhabited, and their civilisation was of the rudest description.

We find among their remains, besides rude objects in bronze and other substances, pottery of the very simplest kinds, hand-made and roughly baked. This is not found in tombs, but mingled with the débris of the dwellings. The shapes comprise cups and pots, and there are few attempts at decoration beyond rows of knobs or bosses. A crescent-shaped or lunulated handle is attached to many of the vases, serving as a support for the thumb; but this is a feature also found in other parts of Italy and in Sicily. Iron, glass, and silver are quite unknown, and gold only represented by a doubtful specimen; on the other hand, along with the finds of bronze, which include weapons, tools, and objects of toilet, are survivals of the Neolithic Age in the shape of axes, spear-heads, and tools of stone. In several of the settlements actual moulds for bronze-casting were found.

The Neolithic remains are sufficient to indicate the early date of this civilisation, and it is probably contemporary in point of development (if not of date) with the earliest remains from Hissarlik and Cyprus. It may thus be traced back as far as 1500 B.C. at least, and seems to extend down to about the end of the tenth century B.C. The analogous pottery found at Thapsus in Sicily is mixed with Mycenaean vases, and may therefore be more precisely dated; but it is altogether more advanced than that of the Terramare. The influence of the latter no doubt spread gradually downwards during these thousand years through Central and Southern Italy.

(2) the Villanuova Period (Tombs A Pozzo )

The next stage in the development of civilisation in Italy, probably separated from the preceding by a period of transition, is what is known as the Villanuova period, from a site of that name at Bologna. It begins with the ninth century B.C., and lasts for some two hundred years; its traces are much more widely spread than those of the Terramare people, being found not only to the north of the Apennines, but all over Etruria. It is interesting to note that the chief finds have been made in what afterwards became the principal centres of Etruscan civilisation, such as Bologna, Corneto, Vetulonia, etc. In almost every respect it shows a marked development on the preceding stage. Iron is already known, and the working of bronze better understood, the processes of hammering plates (σφυρήλατον) and working in repoussé being introduced to supplement that of casting.

We now for the first time meet with tombs, the characteristic form of which is that of a well or pit, ending in a small circular chamber, in which the remains are deposited. Italian archaeologists have given to these tombs the name of a pozzo . The method of burial practised was almost exclusively that of incineration, but it appears certain that the inhabitants of Etruria never showed a special preference either for one method or the other, and the alternative method of inhumation already appears at Corneto before the next stage is reached with the eighth century.

It has been sometimes objected that the introduction of inhumation must connote the first arrival of the Etruscan people in these regions, on the ground that they did not practise incineration; but this idea rests on no sound basis. The introduction of the new system, which never entirely ousted incineration, can easily be explained as due to external influences; not indeed to the Phoenicians (although it was a universal Oriental custom), for their influence in Italy has been much exaggerated; but rather to the Greeks, who colonised Cumae in the middle of the eighth century, from which time onwards Hellenic influence gradually becomes more and more apparent.

We have seen, then, that the Villanuova civilisation may be fairly regarded as Etruscan. It was not, however, by any means confined to Etruria, for it is spread all over the country to the north of the Apennines, and two of its most important centres were at Bologna and Este. The whole of this region shows traces of having been for a long time under the early Etruscan domination. It is, in fact, in close dependence on the Terramare civilisation which here preceded it, the difference, as we have indicated, being brought about by commerce and foreign influences.

From Ann. dell' Inst.

The pozzo  tombs usually contain a large cinerary urn or ossuarium , in which the ashes were placed after being burnt (Fig. 178). These urns are fashioned by hand from a badly levigated volcanic clay, generally known as impasto Italico . It is to be distinguished from the later bucchero nero  by its quality, and by the fact that vases of the latter clay are always wheel-made. The clay is irregularly baked over an open fire, and the colour of the surface varies from red-brown to greyish black. It is covered with a polished slip, and there is no doubt that it was the intention of the potter to give the vases a metallic appearance as well as form.

As regards their shape, they are of a peculiar but uniform type, with a small handle at the widest part, and cover in the form of an inverted bowl or saucer with handle (Fig. 179: see also Fig. 178). The ornamentation consists of geometrical ornaments incised or stamped in bands round the neck and body—such as maeanders, chevrons, stars, and dots—the incisions being made while the clay was moist. In rare cases we meet with painted ornaments in white applied directly to the surface. Besides the urns, which often almost fill the chamber, accessory objects in the form of common pottery, fibulae, and other bronze objects, spindle-whorls and amber objects, are found in the tombs.

The common pottery does not in its character exhibit much advance on that of the Terramare. The difference, indeed, consists not so much in development of technique as in a greater variety of decoration. It has points of resemblance with the far earlier pottery of Hissarlik and the early Bronze Age tombs of Cyprus, and there are not wanting evidences of commercial intercourse with and importation from the Eastern Mediterranean. But two salient features of the Italian wares are the employment of handles and the unique form of the hut-urn (see below).

From Notizie degli Scavi .

The clay is mostly of the same kind as that of the urns, and the smoked and irregularly fired surface shows that furnaces were not yet in use, but that an open fire sufficed for the purpose. The technique is exceedingly primitive, and the forms are simple but heavy. In the latter respect the striking difference in the inherent artistic capacity of the Greeks and Italians is already apparent. The latter never at any time displayed that unfailing eye for form which distinguishes the Greeks in all their products. The shapes include saucers like the urn-covers, bowls with a flat vertical or high-looped handle, flasks with long beak-like necks like the early Cypriote vases, bowls with small feet, jars with one or two handles, aski , and kerni , or groups of vases united on one stem.

Many of these are quite plain, but the majority are decorated with geometrical patterns, like the ossuaria or urns already described. Some of the patterns show quite a mechanical regularity, as if produced from a stamp. These take the form of circular sinkings and other patterns formed by circles, an early instance of a motive which afterwards became common in Etruria. There are even some instances of designs in colour, a sort of cream pigment being used. A peculiarity of this class is the fondness for protuberances in the form of horns on the handles (ansae lunulatae ), which are also found in the Terramare, as already mentioned; or knobs round the body of the vase, in order to hold cords for suspension, which afterwards served a merely decorative purpose, like the bosses on cups described by Homer. Sometimes are to be seen rude attempts at modelling horses or heads of oxen, or at giving the whole vase the form of a bird, as is seen in some of the aski .

The absence of accessory vases in Villanuova tombs, as is sometimes the case at Vulci, seems to show either very great antiquity or else a long survival of an older type. On the whole, however, a chronological classification is hardly possible. Generally speaking, the pit-tombs were still in use throughout Etruria at the end of the eighth century, and no tombs of the next stage can be dated earlier than 700 B.C. The line of demarcation for the latter end of the period is therefore the seventh century, coincident with the first undoubtedly Greek importations found in the tombs.

The real interest of the Villanuova period is, however, centred in remains which do not come within our province—namely, the objects in bronze which have been found in such enormous numbers at Bologna, Vetulonia, and elsewhere. They fall into line with the earliest remains on Hellenic sites—such as Olympia, Rhodes, and Crete—and a connection can often be traced, as in the fibulae, with the Hallstatt civilisation. On the other hand, they are entirely free from any Oriental influence.

Sometimes the cinerary urns in the tombs of this period take the form of huts (tuguria ), though these are more often found in the neighbourhood of Rome, as at Alba Longa. They represent, in fact, the civilisation of the Italiote people on their first arrival in Latium, which they probably colonised by moving southward through Umbria and Picenum, leaving Tuscany to the Etruscans. One of the best examples of these hut-urns is that from the Hamilton collection in the British Museum (Plate LVII. fig. 4), which still contains ashes. The ashes were inserted through a little door, which was secured by a cord passing through two rings at its side and tied round the vase. The ornamentation suggests the rude carpentry which was applied to the construction of the dwellings of this primitive people, the cover or roof being vaulted, with raised ridges intended to represent the beams of a house or cottage. These urns have no glaze on their surface, but a polish was produced by friction. They are occasionally painted with patterns in white, inlaid in grooves. On the Museum example are fragments of maeander. They are usually found inside large vases, which protected them from falling earth and other accidents. The fact that they were found under beds of lava originally led to an exaggerated opinion of their antiquity, but in any case the nature of their contents confirms their very primitive use.

An interesting account of the early settlements in the southern extremity of Etruria is given by Von Duhn, as the result of exploration by local archaeologists on the sites of Falerii (Civita Castellana) and Narce. The most interesting feature of these results is the gradual migration of the peoples from the hill-tops to the valleys as they became more civilised. Thus many modern cities, such as Florence, are direct descendants of the early hill-settlements of primitive Italy. In Etruria it was usually the reclaiming of the marshes for cultivation that enabled the population to settle in the lower and more accessible situations.

The Faliscan region well illustrates this principle, as does Narce. In the earliest graves on the hill-tops cremation is the rule, and the urns are of the Villanuova type. Nothing of later date than the eighth century is found, and no importations. The hut-dwellings at Narce seem to have been of the hut-urn type. The common pottery is of the primitive hand-made greyish black clay; but after the eighth century the position of the settlement was shifted lower down, and in these later tombs a remarkable series of red-glazed wares is found, and Greek and Oriental importations soon make their appearance. Narce soon fell under Etruscan sway, but Falerii retained its individuality for some time longer.

(3) Third Period: Tombs A Fossa ; First Greek Influences

The next stage in the development of Etruscan civilisation is marked by a change in the form of the tomb. The pit is now replaced by a trench; in other words, the vertical form is exchanged for a horizontal one. Concurrently with this change the practice of inhumation becomes fairly general. This period may be regarded as extending from the eighth century B.C. to the beginning of the sixth, and is marked by the first signs of importations from Greece in the shape of Geometric pottery and bronzes. In general character it is not strongly marked off from the preceding. The great advance is in the development of art in the objects found in the tombs. Not only do we witness the first beginnings of what is destined to become the typical species of Etruscan pottery—namely, the bucchero nero —but towards the end of the period the Greek influence, as evidenced by finds of wheel-made vases with Geometrical decoration, or even of the so-called Proto-Corinthian type, becomes widely felt. It was no doubt largely due to the foundation of colonies in the south of Italy, such as Cumae. Altogether it is a most important period for the history of Etruscan pottery. Of Oriental influence there are at present hardly any signs, and all wheel-made vases found in these tombs are probably of Greek origin, as it does not appear that the wheel was in regular use before the middle of the sixth century.

It is now necessary to turn our attention to the local hand-made varieties. And, in the first place, it is worthy of note that pottery of the Villanuova type actually survives the transition from the pit-tombs to the trenches, as is seen at Corneto, Vetulonia, and elsewhere. Probably it indicates the pottery in common use, the imported objects being only regarded as de luxe ; or else, as Prof. Helbig suggests,the former types were preserved for religious reasons connected with burial rites, as was often the case in Roman religion.

In the earlier types of pottery from the fossa  tombs, such as are common at Vulci, the hand-made pottery of impasto Italico  still continues, preserving the same shapes and the same simple linear decoration; but it is better baked, and the surface is somewhat better polished. Red wares are also found, and yellow wares with Geometrical ornaments painted in red, which are evidently local imitations of the Greek Geometrical fabrics (see below).

Later, while the technique remains unaltered, a difference is seen in the forms, which become lighter, more varied, and more symmetrical. Such shapes as the stamnos, kantharos, and trefoil-mouthed oinochoë now for the first time appear. The methods of ornamentation are also modified; new varieties of incised patterns are seen, and the bodies of the vases are sometimes fluted or ribbed; while such motives as friezes of ducks, which are also found on the contemporary bronzes, now first find a place. M. Gsell, describing in detail the various fabrics found in the Vulci tombs of this period,speaks of pottery of a grey clay baked to red, perhaps in a furnace, forming urns and jars of a considerable size. He thinks that some primitive kind of wheel (see above) must have been used to produce these. In some of the impasto  wares there is a decided advance in technique, the clay being better levigated and the walls of the vases thinner. Some black wares seem to have been fumigated  like the later bucchero . Generally speaking, both incineration and inhumation are still practised.

The ornaments are incised, stamped, or painted, and the decoration almost exclusively linear, the stamped patterns being usually in the form of stars. This pottery is, in fact, merely a continuation of that of the pit-tombs, except that the imitation of metal-work is much more strongly in evidence.

Yet another variety preserves the methods and forms of the Villanuova class, but introduces a new kind of clay, altogether black, as distinguished from the earlier reds and browns. A remarkable specimen of this early black ware found at Orvieto has incised upon it the subject of Bellerophon and the Chimaera, the style being, as we should expect, childish to the verge of the ludicrous. Later, the black wares acquire a very fair glazed surface, and are ornamented with incised linear patterns of zigzags, chevrons, etc.; these are mostly small vases. It is in these two particularly that we see the forerunners of the highly developed bucchero  ware.

Besides these local fabrics, there are found Greek imported wares with Geometrical decoration of pale yellow clay, with ornaments in brown turning to red; the commonest form is the oinochoë, and the patterns include circles, zigzags, wavy lines, embattled patterns, etc. These are all wheel-made, and are, in fact, the same types as are found in the Dipylon cemetery at Athens and in Boeotia (Chapter VII.); the earliest instances belong to the end of the eighth century, in some late pit-tombs at Caere, in which also “Proto-Corinthian” pottery was found. They coincide with the great impetus given to Greek colonisation in Sicily and Southern Italy, and probably came by that way into Etruria. It should be borne in mind that these vases were imported not for their own merit, but for the value of their contents. It has already been mentioned that local imitations of them are found in the trench-tombs.

To the seventh century belong also two classes of pottery which are more or less connected, and are chiefly associated with Caere. The first class consists of a series of vases of red ware, mostly large jars and πίθοι, ornamented with designs in relief, the lower part of the body being usually ribbed. The designs take the form of bands of figures stamped round the upper part of the vase, either in groups on the principle of the metope or in extended friezes. In the former case the design was produced from a single stamp for each group; in the latter, it was rolled out from a cylinder resembling those in use in Assyria for sealing documents. Besides the jars, plates of this ware are not uncommon; they may have formed either covers like those of the Villanuova ossuaria , or stands for the jars, in order to hold drippings of liquid, etc. The use of the πίθοι in tombs is not quite clear, though they were doubtless in daily use for holding grain or liquids.

The subjects are always of an Orientalising character, similar to those found on Greek vases under Oriental influence, and comprising animals, monsters, hunting scenes, combats, and banquets. The origin of these vases is doubtful; they may be either indigenous or imported, as similar examples have been found in Rhodes, Boeotia, Sicily, and elsewhere; but they are rare outside Etruria. The suggestion of a Sicilian origin has found some favour, but it is more likely that they are native productions after Greek models; some are undoubtedly of local make, and they were probably made at Caere or in the neighbourhood. Their prototypes go back almost to the Mycenaean period, but were hardly imported before 700 B.C., after which time the local imitations begin, being one more instance of the invariable rule that all Etruscan pottery is more or less imitative. Similar vases in metal were manufactured on the coast of Asia Minor, and the ἀναθήματα of the Lydian kings at Delphiwere probably examples of this class.

From Gaz. Arch.

The second class shows some affinities to the other in regard to the shape and the nature of the clay; but the important difference is that the vases are decorated with painted  subjects instead of reliefs. The subjects are painted in white outline on a brick-red glazed ground, the process being as follows: The clay, which resembles the impasto Italico , is first hardened by baking, and then a mixture of wax and resin and iron oxide is applied to it, and a lustre given to the surface by polishing. The pigment, a mixture of chalk and lime, is then laid on. The process can hardly be said to be Greek, and yet the subjects are purely Greek, being borrowed in part from the Greek Geometrical vases, such as sea-fights, and in part from later (Ionian) sources; we actually find representations of the Birth of Athena and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar (Fig. 180). The shapes of the vases again are certainly local, as are the animal forms, which resemble those incised on the bucchero  wares. The drawing is usually crude in the extreme. It is interesting to note that on the vase from which Fig. 180 is taken the potter has painted in white an Etruscan inscription (not shown in the cut). Another vase of the same class was found in the Polledrara tomb. The method of painting in opaque pigment on a red or black ground is, it would seem, an Ionian characteristic, being found at Naukratis in the seventh century, and also, as we shall see on other quasi-Ionic fabrics in Etruria.

Generally speaking, the tombs a fossa  are not later than the middle of the seventh century; evidence of this is given by the absence of bucchero  proper and of Corinthian fabrics. There are, however, traces of their lingering on even down into the sixth century, as at Vulci, where Helbig mentions a tomb found in 1884 containing Corinthian vases of that date. At Corneto the latest belong to the end of the seventh century.

(4) Fourth Period: Chamber Tombs; Oriental Influence

Our fourth period, which in many respects shows a close continuity with that of the tombs a fossa , is nevertheless clearly defined by two circumstances: firstly, the adoption of a new type of tomb, doubtless developed out of the fossa , which takes the form of a large chamber, and is therefore known as a camera ; secondly, the influence of Oriental art, concurrently with an increased influx of importations from Greece. The period covers about a century of time, from 650 to 550 B.C., and includes several of the largest and most important tombs that have been found in Etruria, which will demand more or less detailed treatment. In none, however, were any great finds of pottery made; but one of these tombs, the Grotta d' Iside or Polledrara tomb at Vulci, contained several specimens of exceptional interest.

The simplest form of chamber-tomb consists of a narrow corridor or δρόμος leading into a larger chamber; next, the δρόμος opens into a square or rectangular vestibule, round which various side-chambers are attached; finally, the tomb assumes the form of a vast subterranean edifice composed of several wings, and used for more than one corpse—in fact, a “family vault.”

While on the one hand the ceramic types of the Villanuova period still linger on, as in the retention of ossuaria  for the receipt of ashes, on the other the painted Greek vases and the local bucchero  wares increase more and more, and altogether there is a great advance in the direction of variety and richness. This period saw not only the general introduction of the wheel into Etruria, but also the introduction of the alphabet of Western Greece, through Cumae. A vase of bucchero  ware found at Vetulonia bears an Etruscan inscription, which can hardly be much later than 700 B.C., and we have already seen an instance on a vase from Caere.

In the earlier chamber-tombs no bucchero  is found, and the pottery is of the same types as in the trench-tombs; but with the enlarged arrangement of the tomb come the Corinthian vases of Orientalising style, to be followed later by the Ionian and later Corinthian fabrics, and finally by the Athenian wares. The vestibule disappears after the sixth century, and all later tombs have the simple δρόμος. The typical contents of a chamber-tomb are, as regards local pottery, in the earlier tombs impasto Italico  wares, in the later bucchero . The former is hand-made, the shapes similar to those found in the trench-tombs—i.e.pots incised with zigzags, circles, and other patterns, or painted in white. The latest varieties are wheel-made, of bucchero  forms. The latter wares, which are much more numerous, are evolved from the impasto : (1) by the use of the wheel; (2) by the introduction of the furnace; (3) by extensive imitation of Greek ceramic and metal forms. The earliest bucchero  vases at Vulci and Corneto synchronise with Corinthian pottery of the middle style, about 630-600 B.C., and they last down to the end of the fifth century.

The appearance of the alphabet seems to point to a marked incursion of Greek influence in the early part of the seventh century. The story of the arrival of Demaratos of Corinth, about 665 B.C., with the three artists whom he brought in his train, Diopos, Eucheir, and Eugrammos, is no doubt an echo of this. The progress of Hellenism was, however, momentarily arrested by the growing power of Carthage, which may partly account for the temporary Orientalising of Etruscan civilisation. It is certainly to the Carthaginian influence in Italy that the Phoenician objects found in the seventh century tombs, such as the silver bowls of Praeneste, are due. Oriental influence is also seen in the large tombs at Vulci, Caere, and Vetulonia, but it is hardly so strong as was at one time supposed; and of late years scholars have generally recognised that Ionian art and commerce played a much larger part throughout in the civilisation of Etruria; and, further, that Oriental art found its way mainly through these channels. At all events there was throughout the seventh and sixth centuries a keen struggle for supremacy in the Western Mediterranean, in which the Etruscans, the Phoenicians of Carthage, and the Ionian and Continental Greeks alike shared; and hence the diverse influences at work in Etruria.

But it was not long before Greece, with its rising colonies of Cumae, Sybaris, and Syracuse, made its predominance to be felt in the Western Mediterranean, and this was consummated by the final victory of Hiero over the combined fleets of Carthage and Etruria off Cumae in 474 B.C. A monument of this exists to the present day in the bronze helmet dedicated by that king at Olympia, now in the British Museum.

We may further define as the second great period of Greek importations, that extending over the sixth and fifth centuries, a period which saw the development not only of the local bucchero  fabrics, but also of the Greek black- and red-figured vases, which, heralded by the Corinthian wares, now pour in a continuous stream into Etruria. To this same period belong the paintings of the Etruscan tombs.

The earliest influences from Greece came, as has been hinted, through colonies like Chalcidian Cumae, which were the chief agents in the Hellenisation of Etruria; but at Cervetri, at any rate, the prevailing influence was Corinthian, as testified by the remarkable series of Corinthian and quasi-Corinthian vases in the Campana collection at the Louvre. Later in the sixth century came the connection with Athens, the chief results of which are to be seen in the contents of the tombs of Vulci. It extends from the time of the Peisistratidae (540-520 B.C.) down to about 450 B.C., being probably brought to an end by the Peloponnesian War and the destruction of the Athenian maritime supremacy; but isolated instances of importations occur down to the time of Alexander the Great, in the Panathenaic amphorae of which dated examples of 336 B.C. have been found at Cervetri.

In sketching this outline of Hellenic influence in Etruria we have overstepped the limits of chronological sequence, and must retrace our steps in order to deal first with the local products of the period from 650 B.C. onwards, and secondly with the effects of the Greek civilisation on the same.

Polledrara ware.—The Grotta d' Iside or Polledrara tomb at Vulci has been dated, on the authority of a scarab of Psammetichos I. (656-611 B.C.) which it contained, towards the closing years of the seventh century. This dating has been generally accepted, and there seems no reason to doubt it, although the evidence of an isolated scarab is not always as trustworthy as appears at first sight. Besides local bronze work and objects of Egyptian or quasi-Egyptian character, it contained one vase of unique character which calls for special consideration.

This is a hydria of somewhat peculiar, if not unique form, with a very wide body and rudimentary foot. In some details, especially in the treatment of the handles, it exhibits obvious evidence of imitation of metal-work. Although at first sight resembling bucchero  ware, the clay is seen on examination to be of a different type, not being grey but reddish brown in fracture, while the lustrous black surface is produced by a thin coating or slip. It is decorated with designs in three colours, red, blue, and a yellowish white, which were laid on the black and then fired. The red is best preserved, the blue fairly so, but the white has almost entirely disappeared. The designs are arranged in three friezes, of which the lower consists only of isolated bits of key-pattern. On the two upper rows are scenes from the story of Theseus and Ariadne, together with Centaurs, Sphinxes, and other accessory figures. On the upper row Theseus slays the Minotaur; on the lower, Theseus and Ariadne are seen, firstly in a chariot, secondly leading a dance of four other figures, the hero playing a lyre, while Ariadne holds the clue. The colouring scheme is most elaborate, and cannot be detailed here; an occasional use of incised lines may also be noted.

A small two-handled cup or kylix, of a type often found at Naukratis decorated with eyes, was also found in this tomb, and appears to belong to the same class. The clay is similar to that of the hydria, as is the decoration, which however, owing to the flaking off of the black slip, has largely disappeared. Although in its technique it resembles the hydria, the subjects and motives are probably derived from Naukratis. Only a few other examples of this “Polledrara” ware are known: an oinochoë in Berlin,two vases in the Louvre, and a vase found at Cervetri, unpublished. From the contents of the tomb in which the last-named was found, it may fairly be dated early in the sixth century.

Mr. Cecil Smith regards the Polledrara hydria as the result of an Italian attempt to imitate the new bucchero  technique which was at this time being perfected (see below), the form of the vase being borrowed from an Ionic source. Ionic influence is visible in more than one respect in this vase, as also in the reliefs decorating the bronze bust from the same tomb. Other details, such as the imitation of metal-work, are rather to be referred to a Corinthian source; and it is worthy of note that two Corinthian vases were among the contents of the tomb.

The striving after a gaudy effect by the use of polychrome decoration, and especially the employment of blue, a colour otherwise unknown in vase-painting before the end of the fifth century, finds a parallel in the sixth century poros-sculptures from the Athenian Acropolis, in which even more violent effects of colour are attained, as in the bright blue beard of the Triton. But in this case there seems little doubt that the idea is borrowed from Egypt, with its fondness for brightly decorated mummy-cases and bright blue images of faïence and porcelain. Other details which betray an Egyptian origin are the lions' masks, the all-pervading lotos-flower, and the seated dog or jackal. The connecting link is no doubt the great trading centre of Naukratis, through whose agency the Egyptian scarabs, porcelain objects, and ostrich eggs found in this tomb also came to Etruria.

As a parallel to the Polledrara finds should here be cited the painted terracotta panels from Caere now in the British Museum and Louvre, which are certainly local products, and give a realistic representation of the Etruscan people. They are described below. These again, both in subject and style, lead to a comparison with the large Etruscan terracotta sarcophagi, of which the most remarkable is that in the British Museum. Here, as in the Polledrara bronze bust, the rude native attempts at sculpture in the round are combined with reliefs which successfully reflect the style of Ionic art. Lastly, we note another parallel in the paintings of animals on the walls of a tomb at Veii.

Mr. Cecil Smith sums up: “The Polledrara ware was probably local Italian, made at Caere under the combined influence of Ionian and Naukratite imports, acting on an artistic basis principally derived from Corinth.” Developed pari passu  with the red impasto  ware (of which a painted example was found in the Vulci tomb), it gradually gave way to the bucchero  ware with which we deal in our next section. It only remains to note that similar ware has been found in Rhodes, where also later wares of a genuine bucchero  type, unpainted, have come to light; and these appear to be instances of a counter-importation from Etruria to Asia Minor.

The only other piece of pottery from the Polledrara tomb which calls for special comment is one to which reference has just been made, a large pithos  of the primitive impasto  red ware, made on the wheel (Plate LVI.). It falls into line with the painted and stamped fabrics from Caere already described, and is, like the hydria, painted in polychrome, but the colours are much faded. The subjects are a frieze of animals and a ship.

Three other tombs which rival the Polledrara in size and importance are the Regulini-Galassi tomb at Caere, the Tomba del Duce at Vetulonia, and the Bernardini tomb at Praeneste. Although the finds of pottery herein were small, they are yet of great interest for the history of Etruscan art in general, especially as they afford evidence for approximate dating. In the two former Etruscan inscriptions were found. The Caere and Praeneste tombs are probably the earliest, about 650 B.C., and the Del Duce and Polledrara tombs are not later than the end of the seventh century.


Early Etruscan Pottery.
1. Cauldron and Stand of Red Ware from Falerii; 2. Painted Amphora of Red Ware (Polledrara Tomb)
(British Museum).

In the Regulini-Galassi tomb the pottery takes the form of large caldrons of red glazed ware, which mark a transitional stage between the impasto  and bucchero . They are characterised by the large Gryphons' heads projecting in relief round the sides, to which are attached chains. Sometimes they are supported on high open-work stands. In 1892 the British Museum acquired a series of these and similar vases (Plate LVI.), including some plain specimens of bucchero  ware from early tombs at Civita Castellana.

Bucchero ware.—This may be called the national pottery of Etruria. Its technique is not at present perfectly known, and analysis does not show certainly whether the black paste is natural or artificial. Modern experiments have been made which seem to indicate that this result may be obtained by fumigating or smoking the clay in a closed chamber after the baking, which process blackens the clay throughout. But M. Pottier thinks that the black surface was obtained not by fumigation of the vase, but by applying a slip of pounded charcoal already smoked, which at a moderate temperature would permeate the clay. The surface was then covered with wax and resin, and polished, like the Polledrara hydria. A combination of analyses of the paste made by Brongniart gives the following result:

Silica 60-70 parts.
Clay earth 12-16
Carbonate of lime 2-4
Magnesia 1-2
Water 8-10
Carbon 1 -3

The oldest bucchero  vases go back to the tombs a fossa  of the end of the seventh century. They are small and hand-made, ornamented, if at all, with geometric patterns, incised. The engraving was done by a sort of toothed wheel or a sharp tool; more rarely, hollowed out in grooves. Obviously the process is an imitation of metal engraving. Oriental influence soon appears, first of all in the chalice-shaped cups found at Cervetri, the surface of which is covered with figures of lions, deer, etc., in Oriental style. Both form and decoration are derived from metallic prototypes. The projecting Gryphons' heads mentioned above are also typical of this class.

In tombs of 560-500 B.C., along with Corinthian vases, a different type occurs, the vases being wheel-made, of light and elegant forms—cups, chalices, pyxides, amphorae, and jugs. The ornament is in the form of reliefs, either stamped from a cylinder on a narrow band, as in the red ware from Caere, or composed of a series of medallions separately modelled or made from moulds and stuck on. This, again, is an imitation of metal. Examples of these types are given in Plate LVII. figs. 1-3, 5.

The subjects are not very varied. They range from animals such as stags and lions, or monsters such as Sphinxes and Centaurs, to winged deities, suppliants with offerings before deities, and other mythological figures—Chimaera, the Asiatic Artemis, or the Minotaur. Egyptian masks are also common. Episodes of hunts or banquets occur, and also groups of figures in meaningless juxtaposition. Some vases have only curvilinear patterns, such as palmettes, all of a vegetable rather than a geometrical type. In this group the general tendency is rather Hellenic than Oriental, especially towards Ionian art. This is only a temporary phase, and is practically confined to Cervetri, Veii, and Corneto—i.e. the maritime region in which the Corinthian vases are found.


Etruscan Black Ware: Hut-urn and Bucchero

(British Museum ).

At Chiusi an extraordinary development is manifested, which gradually obtained a monopoly. The city was far from the sea and Hellenic influences, and retained Oriental traditions. After the end of the sixth century all the varieties of bucchero  were fused into one type, which lasted down to the end of the fourth century. The shapes include amphorae, trefoil-mouthed oinochoae, various forms of cups, bowls with raised handles and ladles (kyathi), table-utensils, basins imitating metal forms, braziers, and vases in the form of birds or fishes. They are ornamented with reliefs from top to bottom, the subjects being much the same as in the last group. The tops or covers are often in the form of female or cows' heads, or surmounted by birds (cf. Plate LVII. fig. 5). The figures and ornaments are stamped in from moulds and fixed by some adhesive medium, incised designs being inserted to fill up the spaces. These reliefs are never found earlier than the period of Attic importations.

The subjects are derived as before from Greek, Egyptian, and Assyrian sources, the Oriental types being so much combined that they must evidently have come through the Phoenicians. Among the Greek subjects we find Theseus and the Minotaur, Perseus and the Gorgons, Pegasos and the Chimaera, warriors, etc. The animals and the four-winged figures are Assyrian in type, while Egypt supplies such types as Ptah, Anubis, and other animal-headed deities, and the female heads on the so-called Canopic jars.

There are here no signs of inventive genius. The technique is purely native, but all is founded on foreign models. The shapes are those of Ionia and the coast of Asia or of Athens. On the other hand, the development of the technique from the Villanuova pottery is certainly apparent. The Greeks, indeed, tried to imitate it at times, and bucchero  ware is found at Rhodes and Naukratis. We may fairly lay down that Etruscan invention is limited to the perfecting of the technique and the combination of the borrowed elements and art-forms. Many of the flat reliefs seem to be copied from ivories, and the rounded reliefs are certainly from bronze repoussé work; in some cases we find traces of gilding, silvering, and colour, which have been intended to reproduce the appearance of metal. Again, in many respects the bucchero  vases are merely the counterparts of works in bronze, as in the case of the braziers and the bowl with Caryatid supports given in Plate LVII. fig. 2. In short, they reproduce for us what is wanting in our knowledge of early Greek metal ware.

There seem to be some references to this early black ware in the Roman poets, for Juvenal mentions it as being in use in the time of Numa: “Who dared then,” he says, “to ridicule the ladle (simpuvium ) and black saucer of Numa?” Persius styles it Tuscum fictile , and Martial imagines Porsena to have been quite content with his dinner-service of Etruscan earthenware.

A peculiarly Etruscan type of vase which deserves some separate attention is that known as the Canopic jar, resembling the so-called κάνωποι in which the Egyptians placed the bowels of their mummies.These Etruscan canopi  are rude representations of the human figure, the heads, which are often attired in Egyptian fashion, forming the covers. The eyes are sometimes inlaid, and the female heads have large movable earrings and other adornments. In the tombs it was customary to place these vases on round chairs of wood, bronze, or terracotta. An example may be seen in the Etruscan Room of the British Museum, where the chair is plated with bronze, covered with archaic designs in repoussé relief, and another is shown in Fig. 181. Similar chairs were discovered in the Tomba delle Sedie  at Cervetri; but the Canopic jars are almost confined to Chiusi. The type finds a parallel in the so-called “owl-vases” from the second city at Hissarlik, in which the same combination of the vase-form with the human figure is to be observed. The lower portion of the jar was intended to receive the ashes of the dead, like the ossuaria , this method of placing the mortal remains of a person within a representation of himself being peculiarly Egyptian.

Signor Milani has traced the origin of the Canopic jars to the funeral masks placed over the faces of the dead, which are sometimes found in the earliest Etruscan tombs. This practice may have been derived from Mycenae, where Schliemann found gold masks in the shaft-tombs of the Agora; but in Etruria the examples are all in bronze, except a few of terracotta. A gradual transition can be observed from the mask, at first placed on the corpse and then attached to the urn containing its ashes, to the head fashioned in the round and assimilated with the cover; while in later times a further transition may be observed from the vase with human head to the complete human figure. Finally, its place was taken by the reclining effigies on the covers of the sarcophagi. The earliest jars are found in the pozzo  tombs of the eighth century, the evolution of the head modelled in the round being accomplished by the seventh century, and the archaic types last down to about 550 B.C., when the severe perfected style comes in, to be succeeded by the free style of the fifth century, after which time the Canopic jars cease to be manufactured.

From Mus. di ant. class.

The types are both male and female throughout, the latter being usually distinguished by wearing earrings and necklaces. Towards the end of the series the handles are gradually converted into rudimentary arms, and finally into fully developed human arms, sometimes holding attributes. They are probably placed on chairs as emblems of the power and authority which the deceased enjoyed during his life. In the Berlin Museum there is a remarkable example of the sixth century in which the jar is placed on a chair of the same clay, covered with graffito  ornamental designs and figures of animals. The jars are always made of a plain red unglazed clay, and are uncoloured. In the British Museum there are two seated female figures on detached square bases, wearing bright red chitons and large circular earrings, which seem to represent the period of transition from the jar to the sarcophagus, the style in which they are modelled being that of the fifth century. Some of the later examples have strongly individualised features, and seem to be genuine portraits; it is possible that they are actually from moulds taken from the faces of the dead.

(5) Period of Greek Influence; Painted Pottery

Although the Etruscans executed such admirable works in bronze, exercised with such skill the art of engraving gems, and produced such refined specimens of filagree-work in gold, they never attained to high excellence in their pottery. The vases already described belong to plastic rather than pictorial art, and are mostly imitations of work in metal. Down to the end of the sixth century B.C. their attempts at painting vases have been, as we have seen, limited practically to two fabrics, the Polledrara ware and the Caere jars with paintings in a similar technique. These methods have, however, nothing in common with Greek vase-paintings of the ordinary kind on a glazed surface, a method which was never popularised in Etruria.

The total failure of the Etruscans in vase-painting finds a curious parallel in their sculpture; all their best work is to be sought in their engraving or figures in low relief, as in the mirrors and cistae . Yet the same mirrors and cistae  show clearly that it was from no lack of ability in drawing that they failed; wherefore it is the less easy to understand, not only the absence of all originality in their painted vases, but also the rarity of instances of their imitative tendencies in this respect.

Apparently the red-figured vases which were imported into Etruria in such large numbers in the fifth century served as prototypes, not for their paintings, but for the engraved mirrors to which we have alluded. It may have been that they shrank from the task so successfully achieved by Greek painters of suitably decorating the curved surfaces of a vase, and preferred the flat even surfaces supplied by the circular mirrors and the sides of the cistae . Moreover, the interior designs of the kylikes, perfected by Epiktetos, Euphronios, and their contemporaries, served as obvious models for disposing a design in a circular space; and they had in the subjects of the vases a mythological repertory ready to hand.

It now remains to be seen to what extent they actually were influenced in their pottery by the imported Greek vases.

For considerably over a century painted pottery, at all times rare in Etruria, is practically unrepresented in the tombs except by Greek importations, Corinthian, Ionic, and Attic; the only local attempts in this direction are the Polledrara and Cervetri vases. As we have seen, early Corinthian vases appear in the fossa  tombs, and later Corinthian in the chamber tombs, in which, towards the middle of the sixth century, the Attic B.F. fabrics begin to make their appearance. The latest developments of the Corinthian wares are, indeed, almost unrepresented, but their place is taken by what appear to be local imitations of the Corinthian vases, a large series of which was found at Cervetri, and now forms part of the Campana collection in the Louvre. These are, however, for the most part certainly Greek, being presumably made by the Greek settlers in that town—at any rate, an Etruscan origin cannot be proved for them.

We have also seen that the Ionian fabrics exercised a great influence on Etruscan art, and this leads us to another series of vases found at Cervetri. Some years ago it was noticed by the late F. Dümmler that there were in many museums examples of a class of vases which stood in close relation to the Caeretan hydriae, yet were obviously a different fabric. Having collected and examined these vases, he was able to demonstrate satisfactorily that they were direct imitations by the Etruscans of the Caeretan hydriae, thereby proving at the same time that the latter were imported from other sources (sc. Ionia), and not, as had hitherto been supposed, themselves of Italian origin. It is not unlikely that the Ionic influence in Etruria is due to the Phocaean migration of 544 B.C.; on reaching Italy the Ionian fugitives would naturally hand on their art-traditions there.


Etruscan Imitations of Greek Vases (British Museum).

These Etruscan vases are not exclusively hydriae, some being amphorae, others kyathi; but they all bear the unmistakable stamp of Etruscan art in the drawing of the figures and other small details, such as the treatment of the incised lines. It will further be noticed that the drawing is in most cases quite free from archaism, figures being often drawn in full face or correct profile; and this consequently proves that they belong to a considerably later date than the fabrics which they imitate, although the figures are always in black on a red ground. The style in some cases is not unlike that of the later Panathenaic amphorae of the fourth century, and may also be compared with some of the bronze cistae from Palestrina. Accessory pigments are rare, and the incised lines are sketchy and careless; great prominence is given to the bands of ornament bordering the designs, this being a feature borrowed from the Caeretan hydriae. On a large amphora in the British Museum (B 64) the characteristic Caeretan band of lotos-flowers and palmettes is exactly reproduced, though in black instead of polychrome. Other typical ornaments are the maeander and chevrons; ivy-leaves and sprigs shooting up from the ground; lotos-buds, and wreaths of all kinds. The subjects are limited in range, and thoroughly Etruscan in feeling; Pegasi and beardless Centaurs with human forelegs, Bacchic subjects, and genre scenes, such as athletic contests, combats, or funeral ceremonies (Plate LVIII.), almost complete the list. The turned-up shoes and the pointed tutuli worn by the women, as well as the physiognomy of the figures, with their receding foreheads, are all characteristically Etruscan, though the two former details are borrowed from Ionia. The shapes of the vases are heavy and inartistic, and the effect altogether unpleasing. A list of the principal examples is here appended.

When at last the imitative instincts of the Etruscans did in course of time impel them to turn their fancy to copying the red-figured vases, we find the same characteristics reproduced. The number of such imitations is not large, but they are unmistakable, not only from the style, but from the pale yellow clay, dull black glaze, and bizarre character of the ornamentation. Nevertheless, in some cases fairly good results are obtained, as in the B.M. kylix F 478, which in its interior design at all events is an obvious attempt to imitate the work of the great Athenian kylix-painters. The artist seems to have learned his art from the school of Hieron and Brygos, but his Etruscan instincts are revealed in the over-elaboration and stiff mannerisms of the drawing. The Museum also possesses a very fine krater from Falerii (F 479), which appears to be an example of a local school, imitating the red-figured vases of the “fine” period and large style. But these comparatively successful imitations are exceptional.

The other red-figured Etruscan vases are far inferior, and are executed in a style which none can fail to recognise. It is dry and lifeless in the extreme, the drawing helpless, and the whole effect repulsive and disagreeable, as is so often the case with Etruscan art. These vases are not earlier than the third century B.C., and may be later. In them we observe, besides Greek mythological subjects, the introduction of local deities such as Charun and Ker. The British Museum possesses some ten examples of this class, in addition to the two already described. The most interesting is a krater (F 480 = Plate LVIII.), with, on one side, the death of Aktaeon, designated by his Etruscan name Ataiun ; on the other, Ajax, designated Aifas , throwing himself upon his sword, after the award of the armour of Achilles.

Another vase of this class has for its subject the farewell of Admetos and Alkestis, with Etruscan inscriptions accompanying the figures, and a speech issuing from the mouth of one of them. Behind Admetos is one of the demons of the Etruscan hell, probably intended for Hades or Thanatos, wearing a short tunic and holding in each hand a snake. Behind Alkestis is Charun with his mallet. On another vase found at Vulci Ajax is represented slaying a Trojan prisoner in the presence of Charun; and on the reverse the latter appears again with Penthesileia and two other women. On a third Leda is represented showing Tyndareus the egg from which Helen and Klytaemnestra were destined to be born; it is inscribed Elinai , the Etruscan form of Helen.

The latest specimens of these fabrics, which have been found at Orvieto and Orbetello, positively degenerate into barbarism; the figures are carelessly and roughly painted, and white is extensively used as an accessory, as in the later Apulian and Campanian vases. The subjects are usually borrowed from the infernal regions, and the gruesome figure of Charun is common.

Inscriptions on Etruscan vases are rare as compared with Greek, and in many cases have only been scratched in after the vase was made. There are also instances of imported Greek vases on which Etruscan inscriptions have been incised in this manner, as in the case of a vase in the form of a lion in the British Museum (A 1137, from Veii), on which is incised FΕΛΘΥΡ ἉΘΙΣΝΑΣfelthur hathisnas . The earliest known are incised on plain pots of black ware, and several of these take the form of what are known as abecedaria , or alphabets. Strictly speaking, some of these alphabets are of Hellenic origin, and do not give the forms of the Etruscan letters as they are known to us; but as the latter are derived from the Greek (western group), probably through Cumae these inscriptions would naturally represent their original forms in Etruria.

In 1882 an amphora was discovered at Formello near Veii, on which this Greek alphabet is written twice from left to right, together with a retrograde Etruscan inscription, and a “syllabary” or spelling exercise. The alphabet is as follows: α, β, γ, δ, ε, ϝ, ζ, h, θ, ι, κ, λ, μ, ν, samech,, ο, π, Ϻ, ϙ, ρ, σ, τ, υ, X, φ, ψ. This is the most complete abecedarium  extant, containing twenty-six letters and illustrating the archaic Greek forms of the twenty-two Phoenician letters in their Semitic order. The four additional ones are υ, X ( = ξ), φ, and ψ ( = χ). The character X is the representative of samech , and is not found in Greek inscriptions; Ϻ is shin  or san .

The Caere alphabet, on a vase now in the Museo Gregoriano, is also combined with an Etruscan syllabary, consisting of such forms as bi ba bu be gi ga gu ge , etc.; the alphabet resembles that from Formello, except for the omission of the ϙ, and the san, of the same type, extending as far as ο, was found at Colle near Siena. On another small black jar also found at Caere, and now in the Museo Gregoriano, is incised an Etruscan inscription in two lines, in which also the letters are certainly early Greek rather than Etruscan; these two from Caere must be of the same date as the Regulini-Galassi tomb, about 650-600 B.C.


The two following, however, are genuine Etruscan abecedaria : one from the foot of a cup found at Bomarzo, on which the alphabet runs (retrograde): α, γ, ε, ϝ, ζ, η, θ, ι, λ , μ, ν, π, Ϻ, ρ, σ, τ, υ, φ, χ, φ, the other in the museum at Grosseto, in which the letters are practically the same, but with the addition of κ and ϙ. In the first named the form ζ for Z should be noted, and in both occur the san  and two forms of φ, which in Etruscan generally appears as Etrusan phi. Among other instances of early Etruscan inscriptions are that on the Louvre vase from Caere, with white paintings on red ground, which dates from the seventh century; and on objects from the Regulini-Galassi and Del Duce tombs. They are, however, very rare on the pottery of the next two centuries, with the exception of those incised on the plain pottery, which bear no essential relation to the vase itself.These, as has been noted, are also found on imported Greek wares, one of the best instances being the kylix of Oltos and Euxitheos, at Corneto, on the foot of which is an inscription of thirty-eight letters not divided into words. Occasionally also painted inscriptions are found.

When, however, we come to the imitation Greek vases of the third and second centuries, we find a curious reversion to the old Greek practice of inscribing the names of the figures and even sentences on the paintings themselves. Some of these have already been mentioned. The best example is afforded by the krater with Admetos and Alkestis, on which the names of the two principals are given as ΑΤΜΙΤΕ,Atmite , and ΑΛCΣΤΙAlcsti ; while by the side of the figure of Charun is a long inscription 15 46ΕΓΗ: 15 72ΕΑΣΓΕ: 15 56ΝΑΓ: 15 94ΑΤΔΛΜ: 14 96ΦΛΕΔΟΔΓΕ On the vase with Ajax and Penthesileia the names are given as ΑΙFΑΣΨΑΔΥΠΕΝΤΑΣΙΛΑ, and ἹΝΘΙΑΛ TYRMYGAS. On a vase mentioned by Gerhard, Nike inscribes on a shield the word ΑΝΣΑΛLasna .

§ 2. Etruscan Terracotta Work

It remains to say a few words on the other uses of clay among the Etruscans. This subject has indeed been discussed to some extent in Chapter III., regarding the use of clay in general in classical times. But there are some features of work in terracotta which are peculiar to this people. For their extensive use of this material we are quite prepared by the evidence of the pottery found in their tombs, which shows that they understood the processes of manufacture perfectly, even if they failed in their attempts at decoration. As we shall see, they employed it constantly, not only for finer works of art, but for ordinary and more utilitarian purposes. This we know not only from the existing remains, but from many passages of ancient writers, who speak of the Etruscan preference for clay and their skill in its use.

Pliny, in particular, speaks of the art of modelling in clay as “brought to perfection in Italy, and especially in Etruria.” He attributes its introduction to the three craftsmen whom Demaratos brought with him from Corinth in the seventh century B.C.—Eucheir, Eugrammos, and Diopos—whom he styles fictores . This story of its origin need not, of course, be implicitly believed; nor, on the other hand, need the statement of Tatian, who, followed in modern times by Campana and other Italian writers, claimed for Italy a priority over Greece in the art of making terracotta figures. For their statues the Etruscans certainly seem to have preferred clay to any other material. Although few of these have descended to us, there are many passages in Roman literature which imply their excellence, and it is chiefly from these that our knowledge of Etruscan statues in terracotta is derived. The Romans, unablethemselves to execute such works, were obliged to employ Etruscan artists for the decoration of their temples, as in the notable instance of that of Jupiter on the Capitol. A certain Volca of Veii was employed by Tarquinius Priscus, about 509 B.C., to make the statue of the god, which was of colossal proportions, and was painted vermilion, the colour being solemnly renewed from time to time. The same artist made the famous chariot on the pediment of the temple, which, instead of contracting in the furnace, swelled to such an extent that the roof had to be taken off. This circumstance was held to prognosticate the future greatness of Rome. Volca also made a figure of Hercules in the Forum Boarium, and we read that Numa consecrated a statue of Janus; but the material in the latter case is not actually specified as terracotta.

Pliny goes on to say that such statues existed in many places even in his day. He also speaks of numerous temples in Rome and other towns with remarkable sculptured pediments and cornices; the existing remains of some of these will presently be discussed. There is no doubt that the use of terracotta for the external decoration of temples was even more general in Etruria than in Greece; and, whereas in Greece it ceased in the fifth century, in Etruria it lasted down to Roman times. The use of bricks in Etruria seems to have belonged entirely to the time when it had lost its independence, under Roman dominion. For instance, the brick walls of Arretium, which are highly spoken of by Pliny and Vitruvius, do not belong to the Etruscan, but to the later city; and although Gell alleged that he saw tufa walls with a substructure of tiling at Veii, Dennis sought for these in vain; even a pier of a bridge resting on tiles which he found there proved to be later work. For buildings and for tombs the principal material seems to have been tufa, but the tiles of the roofs were probably of terracotta, as were sometimes those used for covering tombs.

Etruscan temples were also largely built of wood, with a covering of terracotta slabs, as the evidence of recent excavations shows. This method of decoration, which, as we saw in a previous chapter, was largely practised in Italy and Sicily, and even spread thence to Greece, as at Olympia, is not alluded to by Vitruvius in his description of Etruscan temples (iv. 7), although he speaks of the wooden construction of the roofs; but he alludes to antepagmenta  fixed on the front of the temples, which may refer to the terracotta slabs. Earlier restorations made after his descriptions are imperfect in this respect, only regarding construction and not decorative effect. It is at any rate clear that the roof had a pediment on the front only, the other three sides projecting over and forming eaves, round which hung the pendent slabs (see below); they were not required in front because of the portico. Araeostyle temples, the same writer tells us, had wooden architraves and pediments, ornamented with sculpture in terracotta. The cinerary urns often supply evidence as to the construction of the roofs, with their exact imitation of tiles.

We have now remains of at least four temples built in this method, or, rather, of their terracotta decoration: from Cervetri in Berlin, from Civita Lavinia in the British Museum (Plates II.-III.), from Alatri (1882), and from Falerii or Civita Castellana (1886). Other remains of architectural terracotta work come from Orvieto, Pitigliano, and Luni (see below), and from Conca or Satricum, the latter being chiefly antefixal ornaments of the ordinary Italian types. The Cervetri remains consist of roof-tiles, antefixal ornaments with figures in relief in front, and friezes with chariots and warriors.Portions of a similar frieze from the same site are in the British Museum, as are also three antefixes in the same style as one in Berlin from Cervetri (Plate LIX.). They belong to the fifth century, and illustrate a later development from the ordinary archaic type—idealised female heads or heads of Satyrs with rich polychrome decoration. Another example in Berlin appears to represent Juno Sospita. The friezes are a good example of the Italo-Ionic style of the end of the sixth century, the points of comparison with the Chalcidian and other B.F. vases being particularly noteworthy.

But for information on the form of the Etruscan temple these are too fragmentary to be of any use. The remains from Alatri, Civita Castellana, and Civita Lavinia are much more illuminating. The last-named, of which some description has already been given, are partly archaic, partly of the fourth century, the two former wholly of the later date; but allowing for differences of style, the general arrangement was in all cases practically the same. The front of the temple was in the form of a pediment supported on columns, with ornamental raking cornices, and akroteria  in the form of figures or groups. Along the sides and back ran gutters, with lion-head spouts at intervals, faced by upright cornices, with pendent plates of terracotta, or “barge-boards” hanging free and ornamented with patterns in relief. These were for protection against weather, like the edgings to the roofs of Swiss châlets and modern railway stations. The practice was quite un-Greek, and peculiar to Etruria. The antefixal ornaments were continued along the sides above the cornice. The architraves were also ornamented with terracotta slabs, on which were palmette patterns; and thus the whole formed a rich and continuous system of terracotta plating which completely covered the woodwork of the architraves and roof. All the slabs were ornamented with coloured patterns in relief, or simply painted on a white slip, such as maeanders, tongue, scale-pattern, lotos-flowers, or various forms of the palmette.


1. Etruscan Antefix (Fifth Cent.)
2. Etruscan Sarcophagus (Third Cent.)
(British Museum ).

The existing remains of Etruscan monumental sculpture in clay are, as has been indicated, not large. Some of the architectural antefixes are almost important enough to be included under this head, especially those in the form of figures or groups modelled almost in the round. These belong mostly to the fifth century B.C., and the finest example is the group in the Berlin Museum from the Cervetri find already mentioned, representing Eos carrying off Kephalos; it is in the style of about 480 B.C. A smaller but still very effective example is the antefix from Civita Lavinia in the British Museum, representing a Satyr and Maenad awaiting the advent of Dionysos (Plate II.). With these must be reckoned the sculptured friezes from Cervetri in the British and Berlin Museums, and the reliefs on the British Museum sarcophagus from the same site. In all these the same prevalence of Ionic Greek influence may be observed, which is characteristic of so much Etruscan work of the late archaic period, both in terracotta and bronze, as in the reliefs of the Polledrara bust. This influence, which is due to the strong Hellenic element in the civilisation of Caere and the Campanian cities, we have also seen at work in the vase-paintings of the period.

One of the earliest instances, and perhaps the most remarkable, of Etruscan clay modelling in the round, for its size and execution, is the group on the top of the famous sarcophagus in the British Museum (Fig.183). The figures, a man and woman reclining on a couch, are life-size, of somewhat slender proportions, with smiling features, the drapery of the woman stiff and formal. Sir Charles Newton has described the style as “archaic, the treatment throughout very naturalistic, in which a curious striving after truth in anatomical details gives animation to the group, in spite of the extreme ungainliness of form and ungraceful composition.” The same difficulties that beset the sculptor of the Polledrara bust, in working in the round instead of relief, are visible here; and the contrast with the Hellenic style of the reliefs round the lower part is very marked. There are similar sarcophagi in the Louvre, and in the Museo Papa Giulio at Rome. M. Martha notes in regard to the figures on the former that the faces are remarkable for individuality and precision of type, but the limbs are stiff and rude. This is not an infrequent feature of early Greek art. Signor Savignoni claims these three monuments as purely Ionic Greek work, but repudiates much of the British Museum sarcophagus as un-antique.


Of later sculpture in terracotta the instances are comparatively few, by far the best being the pedimental sculptures from Luni in Northern Tuscany, discovered in 1842, and now at Florence. Their date is about 200 B.C., and they include figures of the Olympian deities, Muses, and a group of Apollo and Artemis slaying the Niobides. A few remains of similar figures were found at Orvieto.


It may be convenient to speak here of a small group of monuments in terracotta which illustrate in an interesting manner the achievements of Etruscan painting in the archaic period. This is a series of terracotta slabs, which were inserted into the walls of small tombs at Cervetri to receive the painted decoration which the Etruscans considered such an important feature of their sepulchral arrangements. Two sets have been found, one of which is in the Louvre, the other in the British Museum; both are of similar character, and belong to the beginning of the sixth century, but the style varies in some degree. Fig. 184 gives one of the slabs in the Louvre.

The surface of the slabs was covered with the usual white slip or λεύκωμα of early Greek paintings, on which the designs were sketched with a point and filled in with red and black outlines or washes. The white ground was left for the flesh of women and for white drapery, the flesh of the men being coloured red. Of the two the Louvre slabs seem the more advanced, and more directly under Ionic influence, while the others are more provincial in character. The Caeretan hydriae seem to have left some traces on the former, and in the latter it is interesting to note the use of borders of white dots for the drapery, such as we see on the Daphnae vases.

These paintings may also be compared with those in the Grotta Campana at Veii, which, in spirit at any rate, if not in date, are the oldest examples of Etruscan painting, while still under Oriental influence. But not being works in terracotta, they do not strictly concern us here.

Although the more important sarcophagi of the Etruscans were made of alabaster, tufa, and peperino, a considerable number, principally of small size, were of terracotta. All of these belong to a late stage of Etruscan art. Some few were large enough to receive a body laid at full length. Two large sarcophagi, from a tomb at Vulci, now in the British Museum, may be taken as typical. The lower part, which held the body, is shaped like a rectangular bin or trough, about three feet high and as many wide. On the covers are recumbent Etruscan women, modelled at full length. One has both its cover and chest divided into two portions, probably because it was found that masses of too large a size failed in the baking. The edges at the point of division are turned up, like flange tiles. These have on their fronts in one case dolphins, in the other branches of trees, incised with a tool in outline. Other sarcophagi of the same dimensions are imitations of the larger ones of stone. Many of the smaller sort, which held the ashes of the dead, are of the same shape, the body being a small rectangular chest, while the cover presents a figure of the deceased in a reclining posture. They generally have in front a composition in relief, freely modelled in the later style of Etruscan art, the subject being often of funeral import: such as the last farewell to the dead; combats of heroes (Plate LIX.), especially that of Eteokles and Polyneikes; a battle in which an unarmed hero is fighting with a ploughshare; the parting of Admetos and Alkestis in the presence of Death and Charun; and the slaying of the dragon by Kadmos at the fountain of Ares.Some few have a painted roof. All these were painted in tempera  upon a white ground, in bright and vivid tones, producing a gaudy effect. The inscriptions were also traced in paint, and rarely incised. A good and elaborate example of the colouring of terracotta occurs in the recumbent figure on a small sarcophagus in the British Museum (Plate LIX.). Here the flesh is red, the eyes black, the hair red, the wreath green, and the drapery of the figure is white, with purple and crimson borders; the phiale which the figure holds is yellow (to imitate gilding), and the cushions on which he reclines are red and blue. This system of colouring is maintained to an even greater degree in the relief on the front of the sarcophagus, the subject of which is a combat of five warriors. The background is coloured indigo, and every detail is rendered in colour, except the nude parts, which are covered with a white slip throughout. The pigments employed are red, yellow, black, green, and purple, and the inscription above is painted in brown on white, all the colours being marvellously fresh and well preserved; but the general effect is gaudy, fantastic, and scarcely appropriate. It may also be said in regard to the whole series that the subjects are monotonous and unpleasing, and the compositions crowded to excess.

By far the finest example of these terracotta sarcophagi is one found at Cervetri not many years ago, now in the British Museum (Plate LX.). It is known from the inscription in front to be the last resting-place of a lady named Seianti Thanunia, whose effigy, life-size, adorns the top—a most realistic specimen of Etruscan portrait-sculpture, and in splendid preservation. Within the lower part her skeleton is still preserved, together with a series of silver utensils. A very similar specimen, that of Larthia Seianti, is in the Museum at Florence, and from the coins found therewith the date of these two may be fixed at about 150 B.C. The figure of the lady was cast in two halves, the joint being below the hips; she is represented as a middle-aged matron, her head veiled in a mantle which she draws aside with her right hand. In her left she holds a mirror in an open case; she wears a sphendone  in her hair, and much jewellery. On the right arm are bracelets, and on the left hand six rings, the bezels of which are painted purple to imitate sard-stones; in her ears are pendants painted to imitate amber set in gold. The nude parts are painted flesh-colour, and colouring is freely employed throughout, the cushions being painted in stripes. The dimensions of the sarcophagus itself are 6 ft. by 2 ft. by 1 ft. 4 in.; it has no reliefs on the front, but is ornamented with pilasters, triglyphs, and quatrefoils.

For antefixal ornaments, masks, and the decoration of the smaller sarcophagi and other products of ordinary industry, the clay seems to have been invariably made in the form of a mould; but for the larger sarcophagi and the Canopic figures a rough clay model was made by hand and itself baked. Probably both processes were employed concurrently—large statues, for instance, being made in several pieces; in these it will generally be noted that the head and torso are modelled more carefully than the limbs.


Sarcophagus of Seianti Thanunia (Second Cent. B.C.) (Brit. Mus.)

M. Martha explains the invariable colouring of Etruscan terracottas on the supposition that the Etruscans did not profess to make figures in this material, but looked down on it as a common substance, to be concealed wherever possible. However this may be, the polychromy was not only a necessary artifice, but an admirable means of imparting life and realism to the figures. In the archaic period there is much less variety, yellow, red, brown, and black being the only colours employed as a rule. The dark red pigment usually applied for flesh-colour on the sarcophagi may suggest the minium  with which the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus was smeared. In later work the tints are lighter and much more varied, as we have seen, and this is especially noticeable on the figures from the Luni pediments, in which rose, yellow, green, and blue are employed with the same delicate nuances  that we see in the Tanagra figures.

§ 3. Southern Italy

In dealing with the indigenous non-Hellenic people of Southern Italy and their pottery, we are almost more at a disadvantage than in regard to the Etruscans. The peoples are almost unknown to us, and are vaguely characterised as “Iapygian,” “Messapian,” “Oscan,” and so on; but this does not really carry us much further. Moreover, this part of Italy has never been scientifically or thoroughly excavated, like Etruria, and even where finds have been made they are small and poor; nothing of very remote date appears to have come to light, and very few early Greek importations. Hence there has been until quite recently no attempt made at a scientific study of the pottery, or even to distinguish local from imported wares; in Heydemann's catalogue of the Naples vases it is practically ignored. Recently, however, Herr Max Mayer, and Signor Patroni, whose laudable investigations of the Graeco-Italian vases have already received attention (Chapter XI.), have turned their attention to the study of the less promising indigenous fabrics.

The region with which the present section deals is that comprised by the three districts of Apulia, Lucania, and Campania. The barbarian races by which it was occupied in classical times were known by various names, used with some vagueness; but roughly we may divide them into two groups: the Iapygians or Messapians and the Peucetians, occupying the south-east portion of the peninsula from modern Bari to the end of the “heel”; and the Osco-Samnites, who occupied Campania and the mountainous district of Samnium on its north-eastern border. In Lucania the district of Sala Consilina has yielded local pottery. The Osco-Samnites appear to have been more amenable to the influence of Greek civilisation than the others, owing to the existence in their midst of such centres of culture as Cumae, Capua, and Poseidonia (Paestum); hence we find that the pottery of that region shows a much more Hellenic character than that of Apulia, and is more like that of Etruria in its attempts to imitate the Greek imported fabrics.

Greek painted vases are found in Southern Italy as early as the seventh century B.C., though even in “Aegean” times they had penetrated as far as Sicily, and even Marseilles. At Cumae in particular, and also at Nola, “Proto-Corinthian” and Corinthian wares have been found; during the sixth century Ionic and Attic B.F. wares make their appearance, but never in large quantities, as in Etruria. They, however, gave rise to a class of imitative fabrics found chiefly in Campania: small amphorae and other forms rudely painted with black silhouettes, dating from the fifth century. At Tarentum the finds of vases have been mainly Greek, but even these are comparatively rare. The principal examples of local wares are to be seen in the museums of Bari, Lecce, Taranto, and Naples; the British Museum, Louvre, and Berlin only possess isolated specimens. The general scarcity of imports is due, Signor Patroni thinks, to the restricted intercourse between the colonies on the coast and the interior districts peopled by hostile local tribes. After the fifth century, when large numbers of Greek artists were established in the towns of Southern Italy, the circumstances became different, and we have already made in Chapter XI. a general survey of the various fabrics produced from that time in the various centres down to the total decay of the art.

All Italiote pottery, before this direct influence of Hellenism made itself felt, may be called “archaic”; but it must at the same time be borne in mind that these archaic types still went on during the time of Greek influence. They formed, in fact, a “domestic” style, as opposed to the “high-art” style of the Graeco-Italian wares, just as the early Geometrical pottery of Athens is thought to have been in relation to the Mycenaean vases. They must not, however, be regarded—as has been done by some writers—as deliberate archaistic revivals of older fabrics. It is true that they bear a remarkable resemblance in many cases to Aegean, Cypriote, and Geometrical wares; but this likeness is due to other causes, being the result of development, not of direct imitation. A learned Italian, on first seeing some of the local pottery excavated in Apulia, exclaimed, “This is the Mycenaean style of Italy.” Chronologically and ethnographically he was wrong, but artistically he was right; and as Signor Patroni has pointed out, parallels to nearly all the ornamental motives of local Apulian fabrics may be traced in Mycenaean pottery.

There is also a favourite shape, that of a large double-mouthed askos , examples of which may be seen in the British Museum (F 508 = Fig. 185, and F 509), which is obviously derived directly from the Mycenaean “false-necked amphora”. It is not a Hellenic type, although it is the forerunner of a form of askos found among the painted vases of Apulia. Another favourite form, which Signor Patroni calls the orcio appulo , a jar with three vertical handles round the nearly spherical body, and wide-spreading mouth, may similarly be derived from the Mycenaean three-handled pyxis . Other forms, again, are parallel with those of Cyprus, as is in some cases the system of geometrical decoration, a figure or pattern in a panel with borders of geometrical ornament.

The writers above-mentioned distinguish two main classes of the local pottery of Apulia (including the south-eastern extremity or “heel” of Italy). The central portion of this district was inhabited by a tribe known as the Peucetii, and the extremity by Messapians, or, as they are also styled, Iapygians. The vases, which appear to be the product of the latter race, are found in various places—such as Brindisi, Egnazia or Fasano, Lecce, Nardo, Ostuni, Otranto, Putignano, Rugge, Taranto, and Uzento—and they may best be studied in the museum at Bari. The pottery of the Peucetii, which Signor Patroni calls Apulian, covers the region round Bari, including Putignano on the south, Bitonto and Ruvo on the north, where the local civilisation seems to have been modified by the influence of such centres as Canosa.


The typical form of Messapian pottery is a krater with high angular handles, at the highest and lowest points of which are pairs of discs (rotelle ), a spherical body, and neck sloping inwards, without lip. The form is one which was adopted by the Greek vase-painters in Lucania at a later date. Mayer states that this form is only found in the “heel” of Italy, but Patroni seems to imply that it is typical of Central Apulia. It is painted in two colours—purple-red and dark brown or black; but the former colour is not found in the earlier examples. The decoration includes simple geometrical or vegetable patterns, such as wreaths, panels of lozenge-pattern, zigzags, and an ornament composed of two triangles point to point hourglass, which Mayer calls the “hour-glass“ ornament. The more developed examples have figures in panels, ranging from rows of ducks to human figures. Among these are a man gathering fruit from a tree and two stags confronted. Lenormant published two very interesting specimens in the Louvre, one of which has two cocks confronted, the other a man swimming accompanied by a dolphin.

The latter, with others of the same class, styled by Lenormant “Iapygian,” appear to be imitations of B.F. amphorae; but if they are imitations they must be almost contemporaneous with their prototypes, and cannot be later than the fifth century. The man with the dolphin recalls the story of Taras and the coin-types of Tarentum; but Lenormant pointed out that a similar legend was current relating to Iapys, the eponymous hero of Iapygia, and he may therefore be intended. Some of these vases have painted inscriptions, one of which runs, ΙΑΡ; but they are apparently nothing more than names, partly Hellenised.

Among other shapes are a kind of askos with simple decoration, a jug or pitcher with discs attached to the handles, also with simple patterns, and a unique variety of the krater with four flat-topped column-handles. Signor Patroni calls attention to another class of Messapian vases from which the geometrical decorative element is absent, the ornament being arranged in bands of equal width, and varying between linear and natural forms. A characteristic motive is a sort of chain-pattern. The wave and rows of pomegranate-buds also occur, and animals, such as dogs and dolphins; also human heads and figures. The shapes are either the double-necked askos, as given in Fig. 185, with an arched handle between the mouths, or a kind of double situla, formed of two jars on a cylindrical stand with a vertical handle between.

As Mayer has pointed out, there cannot here be any question of a very ancient class of vases, but rather of one of eclectic character. The Geometrical tendency appears chiefly in the north of the district, where the influence of Peucetia (see below) was felt. The vegetable ornaments, he suggests, have affinities with those of “Rhodian” vases. The date can hardly be earlier than the fifth century.

From Notizie degli Scavi .


The fabrics of Central or Peucetian Apulia centre, as has been noted, round Bari. They are all of a strongly Geometrical type, but the system of ornamentation is freer and more varied than in the Messapian class. They are easily recognisable by their forms and characteristic designs, painted only in brown or black. Here, again, the typical form is a krater, in which the handles are either arched in vertical fashion or else form flat bands. It has a shallow, spreading lip. The patterns are arranged in panels and bands, and are often executed with great care. Fig. 186 gives an example from Sala Consilina in Lucania. The favourite motives are chequers, zigzags, the “hour-glass,” hook-armed crosses, and lozenges filled with reticulated pattern, neatly arranged in friezes or saltire-wise. Round the lower part of the vase is often found what may be described as a comb-pattern, and on some vases is a curious rudimentary form of the maeander, arranged in triangles or diagonal crosses. Among the other shapes are a small askos with ring-handle on the back, a sort of high stand like a fruit-dish, large cups and bowls, and the orcio  already mentioned. One of the finest examples is a krater from Ruvo in the Jatta collection, with twisted handles and a very elaborate system of ornamentation, chiefly diaper and maeander patterns.

Like the Messapian, the Peucetian or Apulian pottery seems to have flourished during the fifth century; but there are some vases which seem to form connecting-links with their Hellenic prototypes, and probably belong to the sixth century. In any case, both fabrics must be regarded as much earlier than previously supposed; they are certainly not late archaistic work, and time must be allowed for their disappearance when the Hellenic fabrics of Apulia begin. In placing the majority of the products between 600 and 450 B.C., we shall probably not be far from the truth, although M. Pottierwould throw the origin of the fabrics as far back as the eighth century.