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date: 01 February 2023

pottery, Greek, inscriptions onfree

pottery, Greek, inscriptions onfree

  • Alan Johnston


  • Greek Material Culture

Inscriptions can be painted on pots (dipinti), before or after firing, or incised (graffiti), normally after firing. Post-firing dipinti consist mainly of notations of a broadly commercial character on plain amphorae. The bulk of written material from many parts of the Greek world earlier than c.400 bce, and especially in the first generations of writing, before c.650, consists of texts on pots. Most are informally inscribed, though pre-firing dipinti can be used to aesthetic effect on decorated ware, and some graffito dedications (notably on Panathenaic amphorae; see panathenaea) are in full ‘lapidary’ style. Vase inscriptions are a prime source of evidence for e.g. the identification of painted figures, names of potters and painters, distributors of pottery and its cost, aspects of local scripts, variations of dialect and spelling, identity of cults (see ostracism). Painted inscriptions are most commonly labels for figures, commencing as near the head as possible; sometimes words uttered by the figures appear. Signatures of potters and painters are first attested soon after 700 bce, become common on Attic vases of c.525–475, but thin out over the following century. We also find the names of favoured youths (rarely girls) with the epithet kalos, ‘beautiful’; these are of chronological, historical, and social interest. Graffiti cover an enormous range; owner's marks and dedications, often abbreviated, are frequent; alphabets, shopping-lists and messages can be exciting, but are much rarer. See also epigraphy, greek; pottery, greek.


  • D. M. Robinson and E. J. Fluck, Greek Love Names (1937).
  • M. L. Lang, The Athenian Agora, 11.
  • M. L. Lang, Graffiti and Dipinti (1976).
  • A. W. Johnston, Trademarks on Greek Vases (1980).
  • H. R. Immerwahr, Attic Script: A Survey (1990).
  • Jeffery, Local Scripts of Archaic Greece (1990).
  • R. Wachter, Non-Attic Vase Inscriptions (2001).
  • R. Vollkommer (ed.), Künstlerlexikon der Antike (2004).