Why Was Pottery Important In Ancient Rome

Economic Significance

Pottery was essential for Ancient Rome’s economy as it provided a commodity for the manufacture and trade of goods. It allowed for the storage and transportation of food products, as well as a medium for communication and representation. Pottery was also an important source of revenue for the Roman state. The use of pottery for artistic purposes was also highly valued in Rome, with potters becoming renowned for creating stunning pieces of art and decoration. Additionally, pottery was also a major component of trade networks between Rome and its Mediterranean neighbours, as well as between Rome and the wider world.

Social Significance

In Ancient Rome, pottery was a powerful symbol of status, with certain ceramics reserved for the aristocracy and wealthy. It was also a way of expressing communal or religious identity, as well as a source of pride. For example, many of the mosaics that are still visible in Rome today were created with pottery. Pottery was also an important source of currency in ancient Rome, with its ability to be transferred, sold, exchanged, and melted down. Merchants used pottery to barter goods and services, while urban dwellers relied on it to expand their homes.

Cultural Significance

Pottery was an important part of Ancient Rome’s culture, with many of its art pieces used for storytelling and embellishment. In Ancient Rome, pottery was used to tell the stories of characters from ancient legends and folklore, often with impressive and powerful imagery. Pottery was also a way of remembrance and commemoration, with many funerary urns created out of pottery to house the ashes of loved ones.

Functional Significance

Traditional pottery in Ancient Rome was actually used for a variety of practical functions. Food storage was made easier with the presence of pottery containers, reducing the need for costly wooden containers. Pottery could also be used for food preparation and cooking, as well as for holding wine and olive oil. Additionally, many of the aqueducts of Ancient Rome were constructed using pottery tiles.

Architectural Significance

Pottery was also essential in the construction of grand buildings and monuments in Ancient Rome. Some of the most impressive structures like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Circus Maximus were made out of thousands of pieces of pottery. In addition to creating a durable and long-term architectural structure, the use of pottery in construction also enabled Roman architects to create impressive displays of mosaic art or vibrant pottery reliefs.

Manufacturing Process

Pottery manufacturing in ancient Rome was a skilled craft and could be found in areas such as Ostia and Pompeii. The manufacturing process began by preparing the clay, which was acquired from rivers or local clay deposits. This was then wet-molded onto a potter’s wheel, fired in ovens, and then decorated with an array of colourful paints and mosaic designs.


Pottery played an important role in Ancient Rome, from its functional, economic, social and cultural uses all the way through to its significance in architecture. Not only did pottery significantly shape the culture, beliefs and technology of Ancient Rome, but it continues to impress us to this day with its stunning pieces of art and stories. Even in the present day, pottery is still an essential component of many industries and for communication and representation.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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