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Forms and Functions of Ancient Greek Pottery Designs


Laws of Unity

Greek pottery is one of the most fascinating, and probably the oldest of the Greek minor arts. The most common finds of ancient handmade ceramic art from Greece include versatile jars, vases, clay pots, pitchers, and earthenware plates.

Some of the earliest applications of the 'laws of unity' and the proportional relationship of pure Greek designs (of ancient antiquity) are seen through the pottery designs and inscriptions of these art pieces.

Lebes - Used during marriage ceremonies

Lebes - Used during marriage ceremonies

Exquisite and Illustrative Motifs

Pottery from ancient Greece came with exquisite and illustrative motifs, the designs of which serve to inform today's generation of their diverse but interesting customs. With subject matter that was both ornamental and educational, the motifs had themes that were meant to communicate some form of knowledge and were an expedient and unique method to educate their youth.

The inscriptions depicted life, its realities, and its daily happenings. Scenes of every possible event in the life of the citizens including the legends of the deities were etched into their clay pottery works.

Motifs indicated sporting events such as races, wrestling, ball games, agriculture and harvesting, basket weaving, cooking, and baking. These actions were all indicated in ways to show the right methods of how to achieve tasks and how things should be properly done.

Pottery Types and Their Uses

The beautiful relics of ancient Greek pots, jars, and vases were common in every household and were used for functions such as drinking, storing, and pouring. There were six basic shapes and sizes:

  • Oinochoe: A wine pitcher with one handle.
  • Chytrai: These were designed for cooking. They were large and made out of rough clay because their function never went beyond cooking. Chytrai pots were not like many of the other pottery designs.
  • Hydria: This is a Greek water jar. It is formed with three handles and used for pouring out or carrying liquid.
  • Amphora: A large pottery vessel with two handles and a lid. The amphora was mainly for the storage of grains.
  • Kylix: This piece is a flat-shaped drinking cup set on a slim centre pedestal. There was also the stemless Kylix that was moulded with a flat base.
  • Krater: Styled with spiral scroll-like forms, the type that is found in their Iconic capitals. This pottery was used for mixing.
  • Lekythos: This is a narrow-necked and long flask, It was used for pouring olive and other edible oils.
  • Aryballos: These are smaller vessels used to contain perfume oils and therapeutic oils.
  • Alabastron: Most of these were made without handles and have a narrow body with a rounded end, a narrow neck, and a broad, splayed mouth. They were also used as perfume oil jars.

Practical and Functional Shapes

The potters’ wheel was used extensively, but while the forms were chosen by each individual potter, they still followed the lines of curved silhouettes which were always ovoid in shapes and followed the general changing degrees of curvature associated with mathematics.

Shapes formed were practical and very functional for their intended use, with their handles designed and sited for the convenience of use, and in perfect proportions with the vessel silhouette.

Greek pottery was technically perfect in its designs and modelling, and with archaeological finds and art history records, there is much evidence to show that their artworks must have required extraordinary concentration, good eyesight, with a deft and sensitive hand to produce the perfection of their delineation.

Teaching Through Pottery

Young boys were taught how to use armour, spears, shields, and the like from the inscriptions on the pottery, and religious functions like alter and funerary ceremonies, hunting scenes, and races (chariots) were intricately and beautifully represented.

And for young lovers, the designs showed them the right methods of their display of affection.

Greek Arts Influence

There is hardly any nation or race that has had so much influence on western civilization as ancient Greece. From architectural art to literature, poetry, stone sculpturing, and pottery making, the Greek influence has rarely been equalled or surpassed.

Ancient Greek pottery artworks have stood as models of excellence for hundreds of years, and still do, even up to the present day.

Further Reading

© 2011 artsofthetimes


TheGlitchReaper on May 09, 2020:

good job,I like the video and it showed me how to make/draw greek vases,also the filming was really good,love this video,Good Bye!

bro man on November 18, 2019:

thank you

Martha Nekoto on April 28, 2019:

Wow... great Artwork

artsofthetimes (author) on May 18, 2018:

You are welcome.

Thanks for reading Theophanes.

Theophanes Avery from New England on May 17, 2018:

Very nice. I hadn't realized different shapes of pottery had their own word or that their pottery was as mathematically obsessive over perfection as their statues. Interesting. Even better still there are craftsman that can create similar pottery even today. Such a beautiful link to the past! Thanks for sharing!

Jorja on January 02, 2015:

You are so awesome for helping me solve this myrtyse.