Black-Gloss Ware in Italy

Production management and local histories

Helga Di Giuseppe


Black-gloss ware is a fine ware produced from the 4th to the 1st centuries BC – in some areas until the early Empire – and used as table ware, for funerary vessels and for ritual purposes. This ware developed in part from later Attic production, spread widely in the Mediterranean, and in part from local traditions. This work focuses on two main topics: A reconstruction of the geography of black-gloss ware workshops in ancient Italy, including aspects of the organization and management of production; and a proposal for a new approach to the study of black-gloss ware with the aim of compiling local and regional histories of ancient Italy in relation to the growth and development of Roman power. Whoever studies the Republican period will inevitably come across black-gloss ware and all its complexities. This class of vessels represents one of the main chronological and cultural indicators of this period and can reflect, in the development of its shapes, decorations and its quantitative distribution, the process of meetings between Rome and the various cultures of ancient Italy. In some parts of Italy the appearance of black-gloss ware takes place at the same time as Roman expansion, with the foundation of colonies and the spread of Roman cults. The study of black-gloss ware, therefore, also necessitates studying the course of the Roman military conquest and consequent integration of the peoples of ancient Italy, as well as trading patterns and the movements of the craftsmen, who carried the techniques, styles and methods of decorating pottery typical of their original region, to the new colonies to which they moved.