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Page 9

The Potter of Athens

 

    There is one other form of economic activity in Athens which deserves our especial notice, different as it is from the bankers' tables,—the manufacture of earthen vases. A long time might be spent investigating the subject; here there is room only for a hasty glance. For more than two hundred years Attica has been supplying the world with a pottery which is in some respects superior to any that has gone before, and also (all things considered) to any that will follow, through night two and a half millenniums. The articles are primarily tall vases and urns, some for mere ornament or for religious purposes,—some for very humble household utility; however, besides the regular vases there is a great variety of dishes, plates, pitchers, bowls, and cups all of the same general pattern,—a smooth, black glaze[10] covered with figures in the delicate red of the unglazed clay. At first the figures had been in black and the background in red, but by about 500 B.C. the superiority of the black backgrounds had been fully realized and the process perfected. For a long time Athens had a monopoly of this beautiful earthenware, but now in 360 B.C. there are creditable manufactories in other cities, and especially in the Greek towns of Southern Italy. The Athenian industry is, however, still considerable; in fifty places up and down the city, but particularly in the busy quarter of the Ceramicus, the potters' wheels are whirling, and the glazers are adding the elegant patterns.

 

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