Thursday, May 14, 2015


T.H. Carpenter, K.M. Lynch, E.G.D. Robinson (ed.), The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xvi, 353. ISBN 9781107041868. $125.00.

Reviewed by John W. Wonder, San Francisco State University (

Version at BMCR home site


This book focuses on recent studies of Apulian red-figure pottery from the fourth century B.C. and on such studies' implications for understanding Italic cultures of Apulia. Material evidence suggests the indigenous culture of Apulia reached its apogee during the fourth century. The book assesses current evidence with contributions from a number of scholars writing (or translated) for an English speaking audience. The bulk of Apulian red-figure vases (with known find spots) comes from Italic sites, and the tastes of the Italic market influenced manufacturers of Apulian red-figure pottery from the beginning of production.

Following a general introduction, thirteen chapters (by different authors) are divided into five parts. Part I (Chapter 1 by A. Small and Chapter 2 by M. Lombardo) is a comprehensive overview of indigenous populations in Apulia. This informative section provides a cultural and historical framework for the studies that follow; it includes a geographical description and a political history of Apulia, as well as a brief survey of material culture, political organization, and ethnographical, literary and epigraphic evidence. There is also a short description of burials, funerary customs, grave goods and an account of indigenous alphabets. M. Lombardo adds a useful appendix of Greek and Latin sources for Apulia.

The three chapters of Part II focus on red-figure workshops associated with ancient Taranto and Metaponto. Scholars believe that the earliest South Italian red-figure potters (working in the so-called Lucanian style) were established at Metaponto in the second half of the fifth century. Their workshops influenced the subsequent development of Apulian style vases. As the authors state, the two styles (Lucanian and Apulian) continued to affect each other. Ancient Taranto is usually considered the main production center of Apulian red-figure pottery, at least until c. 330 B.C. when workshops were probably established at Italic centers such as Canosa and Ruvo. The evidence for Taranto, however, is not conclusive, particularly considering the difficulty in identifying places making red-figure pottery in the city and the primacy of the Italic market.

D. Fontannaz (Chapter 3) examines evidence at Taranto for workshops, vase functions and vase chronology, concluding that the city was indeed an important center of red-figure pottery manufacture from the second half of the fifth to the first part of the third century B.C. This is an instructive chapter. The author notes that the largest amount of South Italian red-figure pottery has been found in Taranto, although many pieces are fragments or minor vases. The author examines evidence (some unpublished) from tombs, pits, dumps and wells in necropoleis. D. Fontannaz suggests that red-figure vases were used for graves as well as daily life. Tomb functions included vases as grave markers, votives, and pots that "played a role in meals, libations or rites around the tomb." The author attempts to identify production centers, and one area in particular is seen as containing a possible workshop of red-figure pottery. Unfortunately, much of the city has not been thoroughly explored. D. Fontannaz identifies some painters and workshops, particularly those from Early Apulian styles. The author concludes that "...the adjective "Tarentine" seems ... completely justified for some of the Early Apulian hands and groups." There is much less evidence for Middle and Late Apulian styles.

In the next two chapters (4 and 5), F. Silvestrelli and M. Denoyelle examine Lucanian red-figure vases. Apulia has yielded Lucanian vases dated throughout the first quarter of the fourth century, after which Apulian becomes the main fabric. In their studies, the two authors note a close relationship between Lucanian and Apulian wares. F. Silvestrelli analyzes red-figure vases from Metapontine coastal necropoleis, identifying many Lucanian painters and discussing a number of vase scenes. The study indicates that red-figure pottery was made for both local (Metapontine) and Italic markets. M. Denoyelle's chapter (5) is a study of the Amykos Painter and his workshop; many of these products have been found in Apulia.

Part III concentrates on Apulian red-figure vases from Italic sites. Chapters 6 and 7 are studies of red-figure pottery from the area of Peucetia in central Apulia. A. Riccardi's study (Chapter 6) analyzes pottery from sites along the coast. The author discusses red-figure vases found in tombs (some attributed to known painters) as well as tomb assemblages. In Chapter 7, A. Ciancio examines Middle and Late Apulian vases from tombs and funeral assemblages at three necropoleis. Her study indicates that in the second half of the fourth century there was an increased demand for low to medium quality figured pottery resulting in serial production. Vases made for elites, however, are found at only certain places.

Chapter 8 (by M. Corrente) presents an in-depth analysis of three hypogeal tombs from Canosa dated to the second quarter of the fourth century. Funeral assemblages suggest that the deceased participated in rites of communal feasting and drinking or imply the deceased was part of a particular social group. Assemblages are similar for both female and male burials and were possibly utilized for the same purpose. The author's research indicates that Early and Middle Apulian red-figure vases were widespread and there was some affluence among the population. This changes in the second half of the fourth with the ascent of a few elite families. M. Giannotta (Chapter 9) analyzes red-figure vases from Messapia (southern Apulia). Most red-figure pottery from this region comes from grave sites, and evidence is marshaled from published material and vases in Salentine museums. The author provides a study of the distribution of red-figure vases in the fourth century, according to proveniences, numbers and shapes. Many graves contained few grave goods, but throughout the century some monumental tombs with rich furnishings existed for the elite. The important sites of Vaste, Egnazia and Rudiae are discussed, with examination of vase shapes, painters, and noteworthy scenes. Rudiae was a particularly important place for red-figure pottery, and the author suggests it may have been a production center.

Part IV is perhaps the most interesting section, consisting of three informative studies. F. Colivicchi (Chapter 10) analyzes kantharoid vessels — vases with "two tall, vertical handles; a flaring rim; a fairly large mouth; and a round, oval, or biconical body". He discusses the history of kantharoid shapes in Apulia and Lucania and various types that developed over time. While the various kinds of kantharoid vases are usually analyzed separately in local studies, Colivicchi believes a more inclusive approach demonstrates that a group of related shapes share a common origin and similar development. The author provides evidence that these vases (normally found as grave goods) were connected with ritual wine consumption. He thinks the early native forms demonstrate that a wine culture preceded Greek colonization and was different from Greek rituals.

F. Colivicchi then discusses evidence (citing vases and painters) for various types of Apulian and Lucanian red-figure Italiote imitations of native kantharoid forms in southern Italy, noting iconography that demonstrate the pots were made for an indigenous market. The author assembles evidence suggesting that in the early phases of manufacture the Italiote vases were rare and not made for Greek cities. They were special commissions used as gifts to create contacts between Italiotes and Italics. Later, when red-figure workshops developed at Italic sites (such as the interior of Lucania), production of these types of vases increased. Thus these vases ceased being a special export product. The author presents a number of original ideas, provides extensive detail and has produced a noteworthy study. The chapter, however, could benefit from a conclusion and perhaps a clarification of terms used for the types of vases.

Chapter 11 (E. G. D. Robinson) is a summary of results from chemical analyses of clays from Apulian and Lucanian red-figure vases in the Nicholson Museum, Sydney. The study is an attempt to determine production centers for the vases. A process called PIXE-PIGME (proton induced X-ray and gamma-ray emission spectrometry) was utilized. The author discusses earlier studies of chemical analyses of southern Italian red-figure vases and outlines the various problems inherent in a study of this type. He notes that earlier attempts in southern Italy have proved inconclusive for various reasons. A major factor is that Metaponto, Taranto and other important settlements are situated in an area where the clays are very similar. The results of this study are suggestive. For example, two major groups were detected from chemical analyses. After a review of the evidence, Robinson argues that both groups of samples come from vases made in Taranto (which the author, no doubt correctly, cites as a major production center). This would indicate that two different clays were used for manufacturing vases in this city. Another significant discovery is the fact that clays from vases thought to have been made in central Apulia (Ruvo and Canosa) differed chemically from the two main groups presumed manufactured in Taranto. Throughout the chapter Robinson presents a number of interesting suppositions and concludes with ideas for further research.

In Chapter 12, T. H. Carpenter analyzes images on Apulian red-figure vases to propose that tragedy and comedy were performed in Italic settlements in the fourth century. He focuses on evidence from Ruvo di Puglia. Many Apulian red-figure vases contain complex myth scenes (some with Attic inscriptions), several of which are connected to the theater. The author cites about fifty Apulian kraters on which comic scenes are depicted (over half the proveniences are from Italic sites in Apulia) and suggests that Italic inhabitants in general were familiar with comic plays. About seven of the Apulian kraters with comic scenes are from tombs in Ruvo, six with stages depicted in some detail. He argues for a theater at Ruvo and that some spectators may have understood Greek. Carpenter furthermore suggests tragedies were also well understood in Ruvo and examines three mythical scenes from Apulian volute kraters found in this settlement (two by the Iliupersis Painter and one by the Darius Painter). Many of the figures in the scenes are named. Carpenter assembles evidence to propose the scenes were inspired by Euripidean stories (Iphigenia in Tauris, Andromache and Hypsipyle); therefore the inhabitants must have understood the particular versions of myths used by Greek playwrights to appreciate scenes on these vases. He suggests that texts of the plays could have been available in Ruvo and that troops of performing actors possibly traveled from Athens to Ruvo.

Finally, the last chapter (M. Masci) is an historical and archival study of Apulian (and some Lucanian) red-figure vases that joined private collections at the end of the seventeenth and in the eighteenth centuries. Proveniences for many South Italian vases are unknown, particularly those from early collections. The author compares her data with information from fieldwork to posit find spots for the red-figure vases. M. Masci examined information from libraries, correspondence, manuscripts and drawings associated with 27 collections. She discusses and analyzes the collections starting with those in northern Italy and moves to collections in the south. 146 Apulian and 15 Lucanian vases were identified. While Trendall had attributed 86 of the Apulian vases, the author assigns 55 others to circles and workshops. She uses various methods to obtain possible proveniences. To cite only two examples, she connects the date of the establishment of collections to archaeological sites explored at the same time. By examining the history of vases, she proposes that certain vases were associated with each other and possibly found together or near one another.

In general, this book has a good thematic focus, and the short summaries at the beginning of each part are helpful. One could quibble over some of the authors' propositions, but overall the scholarly quality is good and the material well researched. There is much detail, and a reader may find some chapters more interesting than others. Nevertheless, a wide range of different studies are presented, and the reader will learn much about Apulian red-figure pottery as well as gain further insights into Italic culture of the fourth century. A useful addition, particularly for a book focusing on vases, is an online site ( including illustrations found in the book (many in color) as well as many additional images.

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