Black Gloss boss-centred dish (phiale) with relief decoration

Roman, early 3rd century BC
Made in Rome and at Cales (Calvi) in Campania, Italy, 250-180 BC

Imitating a silver vessel

The phiale, with its distinctive bossed centre, was a shallow dish used primarily for pouring libations during religious rituals. This mould-made example was clearly a conscious imitation of contemporary silver vessels: the interior is covered with relief decoration showing Sol the god of the sun and his chariot. An inscription runs around the interior of the floor in old Latin LUCIUS CANOLEIOS L.F. FECIT CALENOS, 'Lucius Canoleius of Cales, the son of Lucius, made (this)'. Cales (Calvi) in Campania, near Naples, was one of the first cities to be settled by Latin colonists from Rome in 334 BC and it is interesting to see this relatively early use of Latin on a vessel from a predominantly Greek-speaking part of Italy.

Black Gloss pottery, though not a Roman invention was the first pottery to be exported in quantity from Cales and other Roman towns of southern Italy from the third century BC. Pottery wholly or partly covered by a black slip or gloss (not a glaze as the misnomer 'Black Glaze' might suggest) had its origins in early Greece, but by the Hellenistic period (about 330-30 BC) was the most popular fineware type throughout the Mediterranean. The quantity and quality of production ranged enormously, from the huge export-orientated output of the workshops of Athens and other major centres to the widespread, but much smaller scale, production of local centres.

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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


Diameter: 18.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1928.1-17.71



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