BMCR 2005.04.35

Attische Vasen in etruskischem Kontext. Funde aus Häusern und Heiligtümern, Beihefte zum CVA Deutschland 2

, , Attische Vasen in etruskischem Kontext : Funde aus Häusern und Heiligtümern. Beihefte zum Corpus vasorum antiquorum ; Bd. 2. München: C.H. Beck, 2004. 120 pages : illustrations, maps ; 31 cm.. ISBN 3406519040. €51.30.

[A list of the essays will be found at the end of the review.]

This volume publishes the papers given in Regensburg in November 2002 at a conference devoted to Attic vases in Etruscan contexts, specifically domestic buildings and sanctuaries. The papers are arranged in geographical order of the subjects, starting in Adria and working south and west to Pyrgi. The last two papers, on dedicatory inscriptions and vases in Gaul and Spain, stand outside this framework. As may be expected in such a collection the papers range in nature, and while the quality of work is generally high, some papers give the reader much more to think about than others.

The first three papers are concerned with Adria and its surroundings. The material from Adria excavated in the nineteenth century by Francesco Bocchi is summarized in the first two articles (Vallicelli, black-figure, and Weil-Marin, red-figure), with photographs of 7 black-figure fragments including most of a floral band cup and a cup-skyphos, and 14 red-figure fragments mostly of cups. We are given details about the painters and a rough distribution (not surprisingly most date to the end of the sixth and first part of the fifth century), but, beyond listing and distribution statistics, no real use is made of this information. Harari presents the results of an excavation of a domestic area near Adria (San Cassiano). Most of the pottery is either Etruscan coarse ware or Etruscan fine ware. It is instructive to see how small the number of Attic vases is in comparison with the total finds (see figs. 4 and 5). Harari gives just enough material to tantalize but not enough to satisfy. Fragments of three black-figure and four red-figure vases are given.1

Bentz and Reusser present the pottery from early excavations of an atrium house in Marzabotto (House 2, IV, 1). Of the more than 6000 pottery fragments, only 121 are Attic, ranging from late 6th to 4th century. The authors take note of this low percentage (2%) compared to other known locations. Millemaci describes the excavation of an Etruscan house at Gonfienti in Tuscany, and Poggesi presents fragments of 2 black-figure kylixes and 6 red-figure vases dating to the late 6th and early 5th centuries. None of these is particularly unusual or in themselves noteworthy. More extensive is Bruni’s report of pottery (more than 30 fragments are illustrated) from two locations in Pisa where the finds range from the late 6th through the 4th century. Here Bruni notes that there is a secondary stage of importation since these vases are arriving from another Etruscan site (probably Volterra, see below).

Iozzo’s report on Attic vases from the sanctuary on the acropolis of Volterra follows naturally after this. Vases were excavated in several different campaigns from 1892 to 1987. Here there is a more generous supply of vases, ranging from a krater from the school of Lydos to a Campanian krater by the Toya Painter. Iozzo has brought together a number of pieces from the late 6th century through the beginning of the 4th century, some of which have been in various American and European museums since the late nineteenth century. Two issues arise from this article: 1) the examination of the Populonia-Volterra-Pisa trade route and 2) the nature of the sanctuary at Temple B in Volterra. Given the similarity of vase types and iconography, Iozzo proposes that this is a cult reserved for women similar to the Thesmophoria of Athens and Magna Grecia. This is problematic because it has not been shown in this volume or elsewhere is that when the Etruscans take over Greek iconography the context stays the same. Moreover, suggesting that there is a night ritual on the basis of later Hellenistic evidence is methodologically suspect.

Wehgartner presents a solid study of the Attic pottery from the small costal settlement of Castellina del Marangone, between Caere and Tarquinia. She reports on a number of pieces, in chronological order, from each excavation area, noting the important painters and groups that are represented and thus the taste of the Etruscan customers in a relatively out-of-the-way Etruscan settlement.

The most ambitious work in this volume is Baglione’s study of the pottery from a sanctuary south of Pyrgi. Here is a quantitative and qualitative study of the pottery to advance a thesis of a multi-ethnic sanctuary dedicated to feminine deities (Demeter and Persephone?) in the late archaic and classical periods. This is supported by an examination of similar types of vases in sanctuaries in Greece and Sicily. While this thesis has a certain attractiveness, what is missing is a comparison of the pottery from the sanctuary with pottery from outside the sanctuary to see if there really is an iconographical concentration of certain (cult inspired) motifs for cult here or whether we are dealing with the standard range of Attic pottery decoration found in Etruria. The evidence here is intriguing but needs a wider context.

Steinbauer’s note is primarily philological and gives us essentially a footnote to Maggiani’s volume,2 ending with the text on 14 Attic vases. In doing this, he makes a quick survey of the problems of working with Etruscan inscriptions on vases, including the agglutinative nature of the language, its subsystem, vocabulary, loan words, personal names and names of deities. Finally, Rouillard’s brief survey is, as he admits, a quick orientation on where to look and little more.

Taken together these studies raise several questions in their present format. The topic is a most important one since, as the editors stress in their introduction, most of our knowledge of Attic vases from Italy is derived from tombs. Clearly, studies that examine the differences in quantity, proportion of Attic to non-Attic vases, shape distribution and iconography of settlements and sanctuaries are very welcome. Yet, without explicit comparison to the materials from tombs, we have only part of the picture. The present set of articles is more the beginning of the work than a usable contribution. Further, these studies, with the exception of Bruni, Iozzo and Wehgartner, only occasionally hint at the implication about trade and customer usage.3 Workshop concentration needs to be examined in some detail to see not only marketing strategies but customer patterns. I note that while a large number of painters can be connected to the workshop of Nikosthenes and are well represented in Etruscan tombs, very little of this production shows up in these studies — particularly in the northern Italic sites. In working with habitation and sanctuary pottery these issues surely must be considered.

Finally, a small question about the position of this volume in relation to the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. While the articles in the first volume of this series4 had a direct bearing of the nature and direction of the Corpus itself and the German volumes in particular, the present volume does not follow it in this regard, nor is the pottery presented in standard CVA format, which would also justify its presentation in the present series. Still, these studies deserve a niche in the literature as the publication from a symposium on an important topic.


Maria Cristina Vallicelli, La ceramica a figure nere di Adria: i rinvenimenti da abitato.

Federica Weil-Marin, La ceramica attica a figure rosse dall’antico abitato di Adria: material inediti.

Maurizio Harari, Ceramica attica figurata nella chora di Adria: il caso di Crespino, San Cassiano.

Martin Bentz and Christoph Reusser, Keramik aus Marzabotto, Haus IV, 1,2 — die alten Grabungen.

Giovanni Millemaci and Gabriella Poggesi, Ceramica attica dall’abitato etrusco di Gonfienti (scavi 1996-2001).

Stefano Bruni, La ceramica attica a Pisa: i casi di piazza dei Cavalieri e di piazza del Duomo.

Mario Iozzo, Il santuario sull’acropoli di Volterra.

Irma Wehgartner, Castellina del Marangone — Attische Keramik einer etruskischen Küstensiedlung zwischen Cerveteri und Tarquinia.

Maria Paola Baglione, Il Santuario Sud di Pyrgi.

Dieter H. Steinbauer, Zu Weihinschriften auf attischer Keramik.

Pierre Rouillaid, Vase grecs entre habitats et sanctuaires en Gaul et en Espagne. Introduction à une enquête.


1. Fig 11 show a series of fragments that may be from a red-figure one-handled kantharos but notes that it may also be from a kyathos. Listed as “techica mista” is a plastic head attached to part of a wall fragment with two arms extended to the left at the right of the head; however, there is no illustration of the other side of the fragment. A head in this position is most unusual and not in the position normally found on kyathoi or one-handled kantharoi. Of course, it is impossible to tell from photographs, but it may be that the fragments are from different vases, with the small fragment with the base of the handle being from one vase and the other fragments from another vase.

2. A Maggiani (ed.), Vasi attici figurati con dediche a divinità etrusche, 1997.

3. The few efforts that have been made in this area have foundered on methodological issues. See T.B.L. Webster, Potter and Patron in Classical Athens, 1972, and Roberto Rosati (ed), La ceramica attica nel Mediterraneo, 1989, and my reviews in AJA 77 (1973) 447-449 and AJA 95 (1991) 550-51 respectively.

4. M. Bentz (ed.) Vasenforschung und Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum — Standort Bestimmung und Perspectiven, Beihefte zum CVA Deutschland, 1, 2002.