Pots and Pans of Classical Athens

Pots and Pans of Classical Athens

Pots and Pans of Classical Athens

Pots and Pans of Classical Athens


The pots and pans of classical Athens, to which this booklet is devoted, illustrate the contrast between the materials used in ancient households and in our own; they also show the care taken by the ancients in the making of ordinary utensils for everyday needs.

These two particulars, contrast in material and care in execution, stem from the same root: in ancient times domestic equipment was a product of the potter's craft. Modern housewives have other materials at their service--steel, aluminum, plastic; the Athenian housewife depended on utensils made of clay, either turned on the wheel or built up by hand, and fired in a simple kiln. This equipment included both tableware, fired to produce that shining black glaze which was the pride of Athenian potters, and the unglazed or partly glazed kitchen and storage pots --saucepans, ovens, frying pans, stoves, casseroles, braziers. Even bathtubs and other toilet fixtures, water pipes, pails and light fittings in classical times were made of pottery.

The rivalry of potters was proverbial; the range of shapes figured on these pages shows how the demand for skill and ingenuity was answered. Moreover metal was dear, clay cheap. The householder who might own a single metal pail would possess two dozen or more clay vessels. This disproportion is brought out clearly in Aristophanes' comedy Wealth of 388 B.C., when the god himself brings good fortune to an impoverished citizen. Not only do the supplies of all staples suddenly become boundless: flour, wine, oil, perfume and fruits, but even thekitchen equipment itself is affected by the dispensation:

'The cruet, tiny casserole and cooking pot
Have turned to bronze! These wretched plates
For fish, well, they are silver, if you care to look.'

Shown in the following pages are these and many other ordinaryobjects of household use, as they appeared on Athenian tables and in Athenian kitchens without the benefit of any miraculous transformation.

As to the ways in which these vases were used in antiquity, awealth of evidence has been preserved in paintings on vases of theblack-figured . . .

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