Why Did Athenian Pots Appeal to the Etruscans?

Osborne, R. 2001. “Why Did Athenian pots appeal to the Etruscans?.” World Archaeology 33, No. 2: 277-295.

Presenter: Vasiliki Barakos

Ross Adler;
Loren Berry;
Jenna Bittenbender;
Clareese Chin;
Morgan Fitzgerald;
Courtney Freese;
Ali Gonzalez;
Allen Kupetz

18 thoughts on “Why Did Athenian Pots Appeal to the Etruscans?

  1. I enjoyed the structure and cohesion of this article, but I wish there were more images that depicted what the author was drawing our focus to. The article focuses on whether or not Greek ceramics were made intentionally for Etruscans. The article highlights many different pots that were found all over Etruria and compares them to the iconography of the pots found in Greece. From the evidence presented it seems that the Etruscans were critical consumers. Though they were critical, the consumers did not require an independent or uniquely Etruscan iconography. They seem to have been perfectly happy with Greek representations of secular and nonsecular subjects. Though they adopted these Greek subjects, the evidence shows that the Etruscans collectively favored certain subjects, and in contrast did not favor others. I found it very interesting that the Etruscans had a very low/ almost nonexistent amount of pots that depicted scenes from Troy. I likewise found it interesting that they had an abundance of ceramics that represented Greek and Etruscan gods. I am unsure as to whether there were workshops that created ceramics specifically for Etruscans, but I do think the Etruscans wants and needs played a large part in the creation and consumption of pottery. I don’t think the Etruscans were consumers of the left over products that the Greeks couldn’t sell.

    • Why do you think there was such little representation of Troy in their pottery? Do you think they just wanted to focus on other types of iconography or do you think they didn’t know how to handle the subject matter of others military strength?

      • I think that maybe if we go with the argument that Etruscans consumed Greek pottery partially because they were able to incorporate the objects and iconography into their own culture, then maybe it is logical that they would not necessarily care for the Trojan war. We’ve seen in class that they are able to adapt violence between Greeks and others (Amazons in particular) to suit their own purposes, but perhaps the Trojan War was not a good fit for the Etruscans because they were unable to relate.

        However (now that I am thinking about it a little more), the other reason behind Etruscan consumption of Greek wares was that Etruscans viewed Greek pottery kind of as a prestige good. In this case, it would seem like the iconography really shouldn’t even matter. I can understand why this imagery might not have been produced specifically for Etruscans, but it still seems like Etruscans shouldn’t have minded pottery with depictions of the Trojan War. If this actually was the case though, and Etruscans really didn’t mind the War depiction themselves, then it is very strange that they don’t have pottery with Trojan War images. Would there be any reason that the Greeks would have chosen specifically not to include these images on the pottery exported to Etruria?

      • I think they did not include Troy because they were interested in other iconography. Troy was probably a legend that didn’t pertain much to Etruscan culture and it had no part of their history like it did to the Greeks. During the 6th and 5th centuries, Etruscans were more in luxurious and prestige goods and depictions of Troy and warfare would not match the time period.

        • I agree. Why would the Etruscans buy pottery with the imagery of something that had nothing to do with them. It is to specific to be able to give an etruscan meaning or spin to it unlike the amazonmanoachy which has a certain amount of interpretation allowed in the imagery. Troy is just a certain battle in Greek History, according to some so the Etruscans can’t take the images and attach a different meaning to them.

    • So does this mean you believe the Greek style to be the more important?

      What does everyone else think since Athenian potters were producing for both home consumption and Etruscan export whose style preferences dictated the images on the majority of the pottery?

    • I agree with the statement that the Etruscans weren’t just passive consumers of leftover Greek pots. Both the quantity of Greek pots in Etruria and the bricolage associated with Etruscan variations on Greek art clearly point to the Etruscans as active consumers of Greek pottery. The existence of 30,000 Greek pots in Etruscan tombs alone does more than suggest that these were not just artistic hand-me-downs. Yes, there is perhaps a difference between what styles or themes are popular in Greece and what are popular in Etruria, but the absence of scenes of Troy in Etruscan vases says only that Etruscans just had different tastes than the Greeks did – which, I think is safe to say based on religion, culture, and everything we’ve learned in class already, is true. The differences in Etruria are just the result of supply and demand: what was popular was created more often and what wasn’t, wasn’t.

      • I wasn’t a big fan of how this article was set up, but I liked the examples and points the author had. Like Allen, I think it would be ridiculous to think the Etruscans were consumers of leftover Greek pots. Of course there are differences in Etruscan and Greek pots; they had different interests. Depictions of Troy would have been received differently by a Greek as opposed to an Etruscan, making it better imagery for Greek pottery. The Etruscans adopted what they wanted, filling their tombs proves they were not just “leftovers” from the Greeks.

        • I agree with you. Cultural imagery isn’t something that can be re-appropriated by another culture. I mean I guess you could but it just wouldn’t make sense especially because these cultures were in such close contact with each other. As far as the imagery of Troy is concerned, I agree with you, it would be an event perceived differently by both the Greeks and the Etruscans.

        • To add to the argument that the Etruscans were not just “passive consumers”, I think it is worthy to point out the example of Tyrrhenian amphora that Osborne discusses. These amphoras were produced in Athens but appealed to Etruscan interests and included familiar imagery to their culture. These amphoras illustrated scenes of violence and sex. I believe this sort of imagery fascinated and agreed more with the Etruscan society, as we saw in the Tomb of the Bulls, than the conventions of the Greeks.

          Another instance in which Osborne argues that the Athenians thought of the Etruscans as they produced pottery was the example she gives of the Perizoma Group. This workshop illustrated images of athletes wearing clothing not conventional of the Greek garment but instead similar to the clothes seen in an Etruscan tomb. They also produced pottery with images of an symposium which included women, a practice which was looked down upon to Greek culture. Thus, these examples serve to underscore the fact that the Athenians specifically produced this pottery for trade with the Etruscans.

          I guess who can imply that the incentive behind this kind of pottery was money and trade oriented because why else would the Greeks produce this kind of pottery? Clearly, the purpose of this pottery was not for distribution into their own society.

    • I largely agree with you Jenna, I found the way the author utilized evidence and analysis to be pretty convincing. However, I agree that there really did seem to be a lack of images in the article which would have helped me visualize the sorts of goods Osborne was describing. I did enjoy the table that was included, though, which I felt made her point clearer.

      As a side note, did any one else find the author’s writing style off-putting/annoying?

  2. Do you agree with Robin Osborne’s belief in an Etruscan ” lively relationship” between an objects purpose and the scenes depicted on the pottery is what caused Etruscans to take this Greek style into their own community so greatly?

  3. Also what do you guys think about the one Athenian workshop mentioned that in the late sixth century was copying the form native to Etruscan bucchero pottery? Why was such Etruscan style being imported and created in Greek workshops when Etruscans were perfectly capable of making their own style of pottery?

    • This part was definitely interesting to me. The article seems to suggest that the reason for this Greek bucchero production lies in the fact that Greeks were creating specific shapes for the Etruscans. If this is, in fact, what the author intended to imply, I’m not sure I agree. I think the Etruscans were also capable of making the shapes they preferred. Personally, I think it’s likely that Etruscans valued a Greek-made item more highly than an item they made themselves. This might be similar to the fact that we can make perfectly good leather shoes here in the U.S., but Italian leather shoes (or other items) are still a big deal and often more valued by American consumers (perhaps this isn’t the best example, but it’s the first I could think of, and I think it at least explains my point).

      However, the rest of the article, particularly the conclusion, seems to say that the main reason Etruscans imported Greek pottery was because they were able to use the imagery to suit their own needs. In cases when Etruscan scenes were not specifically depicted, the Etruscans used Greek imagery to fit into their own lives. I find it so peculiar that the Etruscans seemed to latch so closely onto Greek mythology. The Etruscans, of course, had their own deities, but from what I understand, many of them were very similar to Greek deities and even depended on Greek iconography for their representations (to a degree). Although we can obviously argue that this is normal (because the Romans definitely had a similar pattern going on), it seems like the Etruscans almost had to do this because their own religion was not satisfactory in leaving behind an abundance of myths. A single individual laid down the basics of the Etruscan religion in a single day. As such, I don’t find it surprising that the Etruscans were left with fewer stories than the Greeks. My main point here is that I would have thought that the lack of Etruscan myths and mythical imagery would be central to Etruscan identity, yet the Etruscans were eager to import mythical supplements. Overall, the concept leads me to think that the Etruscans somehow saw themselves as being incomplete and possessing an inadequate history as opposed to simply being different.

      I may have just completely jumped to all kinds of conclusions there, since I probably don’t have all the background information, but that was kind of my thought process when reading the article, given the very small amount of information I do have.

    • In my opinion there are two possiblilities one that Athenian workshop was trying to get the etruscan to specifically buy their pots or two they could have been trying to make their pots stand out from the rest of the pot makers in Athens to get more people to buy them both Athenians and Etruscans. People will generally go buy the more exotic because it makes you stand out more at least that is true today. I’m not sure if it worked the same back then. Again the Etruscans probably prefered the Greek made etruscan vessels because they were more of a luxury good or status symbol. “I’m more important because I can import my pots from Greece” kind of thing.

    • I agree with the sentiment put forth by Abby; that it was something akin to commodities that we as Americans hold to be more prestigious specifically because they are from exotic locations and, presumably, of higher quality. The idea that they were being imported as a way of having a greater breadth of myth and representations of these myths is also attractive to me, due to the voracious consumption of Greek goods we have seen the Etruscans demonstrate throughout the semester.

      In regards to the Athenian workshop that was creating Etruscan bucchero pottery, I believe this was working on two levels: first, by creating a non-native style of pottery they were producing a commoditiy that may have held appeal for a specific market within their community, and/or second, it is likely that these goods were being made for export to the Etruscans as a way of infiltrating their native market.

  4. I too found it interesting to see the direct relationship between Etruscan and Greek commodities. I think that Osbourne did a good job in summarizing the Etruscan demand and subsequent Greek supply of pottery. Thinking about the large role that Etruria played in the production of Greek pottery is a different way of viewing the styles and imagery that were produced by the Greeks. Like Jenna mentioned before, I too would have liked the addition of visual aids to further Osbourne’s argument. However, I think that Osbourne did a satisfactory job in presenting her argument and supporting it with a lot of evidence and examples. The article definitely succeeded in relaying the message that Etruscans were not simply consumers of Greek pottery but rather, the voracious culture that helped support the Greek pottery market.

    • Even though visual aids would have been helpful, I agree that Osbourne did a good job in explaining his her point. The fact remains that the Etruscans and the Greeks were consumers just like we are today, and there is no reason to assume that they were just given hand-me-downs that the Greeks didn’t want. There was a specific market for Greek pottery in Etruria, and Etruscans simultaneously adopted new styles while the Greeks changed their art to satisfy Etruscan demand.

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