Greeks in South Italy: Apulian Red-Figure Pottery

Puglia in Classical Times

Apulia was one of the regions in Southern Italy colonised by the Greeks. More than half of pottery vases recovered from Southern Italy come from Apulia, modern Puglia, and were potted in Tarentum, the major Greek polis of the region. The greatest output of Apulian pottery production occurred during the 4th century BC. Ancient Greeks started colonising the western Mediterranean sea from the 8th century BC until the 5th century BC, creating colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily: an area which would later be known as Magna Graecia, meaning ‘Great Greece’. Numerous Greek artisans and pottery makers moved to the colonies in Southern Italy, allowing the creation of a totally new artistic style, mixing local Italic traditions with Attic aesthetics.

apulian vessel
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Decoration on Apulian Vases

Typical decoration on Apulian vessels includes scenes from Ancient Greek tragedy and mythology: the Greek deity Dionysus appears often depicted as god of theatre and wine. Other decorations feature isolated, highly decorated female heads, dancing draped female figures and votive offerings performed by youths and women, sometimes in the company of a winged Eros.

Glossy Black Slip and Pigments

Apulian pottery was famed for its glossy black slip ware and for its polychromatic decoration – often using shades of white, ochre and red. Apulian vessels were also distinguished by their red-figure decoration and monumental shapes: kraters, amphorae and loutrophoroi were extremely popular shapes.

apulian terracotta pelike
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