Beaker in Pergamene Relief Ware

From Laodikaea, Turkey
Made in Pergamum (Pergamon), modern Turkey, about 125-75 BC

Popular tableware from the east

The beaker was hand-thrown, ring handles (now missing) were added separately, then mould-made appliqués were applied in the form of festoons of ivy leaves and berries. The vessel was then dipped into a red clay suspension or slip, and fired, resulting in a red glossy finish. Finally, freehand incision was used to create tendrils and leaves below the festoons and handles. The beaker was used at table for the drinking of wine.

Although Red Slip Ware, sometimes known by the Italian term terra sigillata, is best known as a product of the Western Mediterranean, its origins are to be found in the major cities of Asia Minor (modern western Turkey) and Syria. In these areas, in the second century BC, potters first began to manufacture vessels with a distinctive red slip, as opposed to the black finish which had characterised most Mediterranean tableware for the past four centuries.

The new red-slipped wares used forms and decorative motifs from contemporary silver ware, but, being made of pottery, were infinitely more affordable and accessible to the general populace. Mass-produced in nucleated workshops, they were distributed throughout the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. One eastern product, the so-called 'Eastern Sigillata A' from northern Syria, was probably the inspiration for the Red Slip Ware (Arretine Ware) tradition in Italy. Arretine Ware and other Italian products in turn inspired Red Slip Ware manufacture from Spain to Egypt, and established a tradition of red tablewares that was to last until the Arab invasions of the seventh century.

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More information


J.W. Hayes, Handbook of Mediterranean Roma (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)

P. Roberts, 'Mass-production of Roman fine wares' in Pottery in the making: world-5 (London. The British Museum Press, 1997), pp. 188-93


Height: 16.600 cm

Museum number

GR 1902.10-12.2 (Vase L 35)



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