Ancient Greek Pottery

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Ivy Painter Amphora

Amphora from c. 530 B.C.; attributed to the Ivy Painter. At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Amphora from c. 530 B.C.; attributed to the Ivy Painter. At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. A.M. Kuchling at Flickr.com

Pictures of ancient pottery vases from Greece

These photos of ancient Greek pottery show the early geometric period designs using the technological advance of a quickly turning potter's wheel, as well as later black figure and red figure. Many of the scenes depicted come from Greek mythology.

Not all Greek pottery appears red. Mark Cartwright's article on Greek pottery, in the Ancient History Encyclopedia, mentions that Corinthian clay was pale, buff colored, but the clay or ceramos (whence, ceramics) used in Athens was iron-rich and therefore orange-red. Firing was at a relatively low temperature compared with Chinese porcelain, but was done repeatedly. [See Chinese Pottery.]

The Geometric period featured horizontal bands of geometric designs. Human and animal figures adorn pottery from the later Geometric period. Here you can see a dolphin jumping.

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Late Geometric Amphora

Large late Geometric Attic amphora, c. 725 B.C. - 700 B.C. at the Louvre.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Large late Geometric Attic amphora, c. 725 B.C. - 700 B.C. at the Louvre. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.
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Oinochoe - Black Figure

Aeneas carrying Anchises. Attic black-figure oinochoe, c. 520-510 BC.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Aeneas carrying Anchises. Attic black-figure oinochoe, c. 520-510 BC. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

An oinochoe is a wine-pouring jug. The Greek for wine is oinos. Oinochoe were produced during both the Black-Figure and Red-Figure periods. (More below.)

Aeneas Carrying Anchises: At the end of the Trojan War, the Trojan prince Aeneas left the burning city carrying his father Anchises on his shoulders. Eventually Aeneas founded the city that was to become Rome.

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Oinochoe

Late Geometric Period Oinochoe With Battle Scene. 750-725 B.C.
Late Geometric Period Oinochoe With Battle Scene. 750-725 B.C. CC Photo Flickr User *clairity*

The holes may be for pipes to place the oinochoe in water to cool the wine. The scene may show the fight between Pylos and Epians (Iliad XI). The human figures are highly stylized in the Geometric period (1100-700 B.C.) and horizontal bands and decorative abstract designs cover most of the surface including the handle. The Greek word for wine is "oinos" and an oinochoe was a wine pouring jar. The shape of the mouth of the oinochoe is described as trefoil.

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Olpe, by the Amasis Painter - Black Figure

Heracles entering Olympus, olpe by the Amasis Painter, 550–530 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Heracles entering Olympus, olpe by the Amasis Painter, 550–530 B.C. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

Herakles entering Olympus

Herakles or Hercules was the Greek demi-god son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene. His step-mother Hera took out her jealousy on Hercules, but it was not her actions that led to his death. Instead it was centaur-poison administered by a loving wife that burned him and made him seek release. After he died, Hercules and Hera reconciled.

The olpe is a pitcher with a spot and handle for ease of wine pouring.

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Calyx-Krater - Red Figure

Dionysos, Ariadne, satyrs and maenads. Side A of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater, c. 400-375 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Dionysos, Ariadne, satyrs and maenads. Side A of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater, c. 400-375 B.C. From Thebes. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

Dionysus, Maenads, Ariadne, and Satyrs

A krater was a mixing bowl for mixing wine and water. Calyx refers to the floral shape of the bowl. The bowl has a foot and upward facing curved handles.

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Hercules Black Figure

Hercules leading a big headed four-legged monster, late black figure bowl
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Hercules leading a big headed four-legged monster, with black woolly fur, white belly, and floppy puppy ears. A late black figure bowl at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Photo © by Adrienne Mayor

Hercules leading a big headed four-legged monster, late black figure bowl.

A headless Hercules is leading a four-legged beast in this piece from National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Do you know or have a good guess as to what the creature is?

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Calyx-Krater - Red Figure

Theseus. From Theseus and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx, 460-450 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Theseus. From Theseus and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx, 460-450 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Theseus, from Gathering of the Argonauts

Theseus was an ancient Greek hero and legendary king of Athens. He stars in many of his own myths, like the Minotaur's labyrinth, as well as in the adventures of other heroes -- here, Jason's gathering of the Argonauts to go on a quest for the Golden Fleece.

This krater, a vessel that could be used for wine, is in red figure, meaning the red of the vase is colored black where the figures are not.

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Calyx-Krater - Red Figure

Castor. From Theseus and the Gathering of the Argonauts.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Castor. From Theseus and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx-krater, 460-450 B.C. From Orvieto. Niobid Painter. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Castor, from Gathering of the Argonauts

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Calx-Krater - Red Figure

Heracles and the gathering of the Argonauts
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Heracles and the gathering of the Argonauts. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hercules and the Argonauts

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Kylix - Red Figure

Theseus Fighting the Crommyonian Sow
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Theseus Fighting the Crommyonian Sow. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Theseus Fighting the Crommyonian Sow

The man-killing Crommyonian Sow ravaged the countryside around the Corinthian Isthmus. When Theseus was en route to Athens from Troizenos, he encountered the sow and it owner and killed them both. Pseudo-Apolldorus says both the owner and the sow were named Phaia and that the parents of the sow were thought by some to have been Echidna and Typhon, parents or Cerberus.Plutarch suggests that Phaia may have been a robber who was called a sow because of her manners.

Source: Theoi - Crommyonian Sow.

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Kylix Krater - Red Figure

Eos and Her Chariot. Red-figure krater from South Italy, from 430-420 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Eos and Her Chariot. Red-figure krater from South Italy, from 430-420 B.C. At Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

South Italian Eos (Dawn) and Her Chariot

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Bell-Krater, by the Eumenides Painter - Red Figure

Vase, by Eumenides Painter showing Clytemnestra trying to awaken the Erinyes, at the Louvre.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Apulian red-figure bell-krater, from 380–370 B.C., by the Eumenides Painter, showing Clytemnestra trying to awaken the Erinyes, at the Louvre. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia Commons.

Clytemnestra and Erinyes

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Psykter, by the Pan Painter - Red Figure

Idas and Marpessa are separated by Zeus. Attic red-figure psykter, c. 480 B.C., by the Pan Painter.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Idas and Marpessa are separated by Zeus. Attic red-figure psykter, c. 480 B.C., by the Pan Painter. Public Domain. Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Idas and Marpessa: A psykter was a cooling device for wine. It could be filled with snow.

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Pelike - Red Figure

Women washing clothes. Side A from an Attic red-figure pelike, c. 470 B.C.-460 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Women washing clothes. Side A from an Attic red-figure pelike, c. 470 B.C.-460 B.C. Public Domain. Jastrow at Wikipedia.

Clothes-Washing

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Amphora, by the Berlin Painter - Red Figure

Dionysus holding a kantharos. Red-figure amphora, by the Berlin Painter, c. 490-480 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Dionysus holding a kantharos. Red-figure amphora, by the Berlin Painter, c. 490-480 B.C. Bibi Saint-Pol

Dionysus Holding a Kantharos

A kantharos is a drinking cup. Dionysus, as god of wine is shown with his kantharos wine cup. The container on which this red-figure appears is an amphora, a two-handled oval storage jar usually used for wine, but sometimes for oil.

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Attic Tondo - Red Figure

Satyr and maenad, tondo of a red-figure Attic cup, ca. 510 BC–500 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Satyr pursues a maenad, tondo of a red-figure Attic cup, ca. 510 BC–500 B.C. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

Described as a satyr pursuing a maenad, this is probably Silenus (or one of the sileni) pursuing one of the nymphs of Nysa.

Silenus was a companion of the wine god Dionysus and one of the woodland half-man half-beast creatures. Maenads were intoxicated female revelers -- the kind that tear apart family members.
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Calix-Krater, by Euxitheos - Red Figure

Heracles and Antaios on a calyx krater.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Heracles and Antaios on a calyx krater, from 515–510 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Heracles and Antaeos: Until Hercules realized the giant Antaeus' strength came from its mother, Earth, Hercules had no way to kill him.

A krater is a mixing bowl. Calyx (calix) describes the shape. The handles are on the bottom part, curving up. Euxitheos is thought to be the potter. The krater was signed by Euphronios as painter.

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Chalice Krater, by Euphronios and Euxitheos - Red Figure

Chalice krater by Euphronios and Euxitheos. Dionysos and his thiasos.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Chalice krater by Euphronios and Euxitheos. Dionysos and his thiasos. 510-500 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Dionysus and Thiasos: Dionysus' thiasos is his group of dedicated worshipers.

This red-figure chalice krater (mixing bowl) was created and signed by the potter Euxitheos, and painted by Euphronios. It is at the Louvre.

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Attic Amphora - Red Figure

Scythian archer. Attic red-figure neck-amphora, 510-500 B.C.
Photos of ancient pottery from Greece Scythian archer. Attic red-figure neck-amphora, 510-500 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Scythian Archer

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Euthymides Painter Red-Figure Amphora

Euthymides Red-Figure Amphora
Euthymides Red-Figure Amphora Showing Theseus' abduction of Helen on both sides of an amphora (Munich 2309;) Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany. Public Domain Courtesy of Bibi St-Pol

Theseus holds Helen as a young woman, lifting her off the ground. Another young woman, named Korone, tries to free Helen, while Peirithoos looks behind, according to Jenifer Neils, Phintias and Euthymides.

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Pyxis With Lid 750 B.C.

Pyxis With Lid 750 B.C.
Pyxis With Lid 750 B.C. CC Photo Flickr User *clairity*

Geometric period pyxis. A pyxis might be used for cosmetics or jewelry.

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Etruscan Stamnos Red Figure

Flute Player on Dolphin Stamnos Red Figure 360-340 B.C. National Archaeological Museum of Spain
Flute Player on Dolphin Stamnos Red Figure 360-340 B.C. Etruscan. National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid. CC Flickr User Zaqarbal

Red-figure Etruscan stamnos, from the mid-fourth century, showing a flute (aulos) player on a dolphin.

A stamnos is a lidded storage jar for liquids. See Greek Pottery Types.

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Apulian Red-Figure Oenochoe

Rape of Oreithyia by Boreas
Rape of Oreithyia by Boreas. Detail from an Apulian red-figure oenochoe, c. 360 B.C. PD Courtesy Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

An oinochoe (oenochoe) is a jug for pouring wine. The scene shown in red-figure is the rape of the daughter of the Athenian king Erechtheus by the wind god.

The painting is attributed to the Salting Painter. The oenochoe is at the Louvre whose website describes the art as baroque, and the oenochoe as large, in the ornate style, and with the following dimensions: H. 44.5 cm; Diam. 27.4 cm.

Source: Louvre: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities : Classical Greek Art (5th-4th Centuries BC)

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Ancient Greek Potty Chair

Ancient Greek Potty Training Chair.
Picture of an ancient Greek pottery potty. Ancient Greek Potty Training Chair. In a museum in the Agora, Athens. CC Flickr User BillBl

There is an illustration on the wall behind the pottery potty training chair showing how the child would sit in this clay potty chair.

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Hemikotylion

Hemikotylion
Hemikotylion. "History of ancient pottery: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, Volume 1," by Henry Beauchamp Walters, Samuel Birch (1905). Henry Beauchamp Walters, Samuel Birch (1905)

This was a kitchen tool for measuring. Its name means a half-kotyle and it would have measured approximately a cup.