Clay pottery may be said to have reached its perfection under the artistic hands of the Greeks, whose exquisite shapes, designs and decorations, perfecting the slow progress of the Egyptians, raised it from the position of merely filling household wants, to that of a vehicle for expressing the rapid and wonderful development of Greek art. The earliest specimens of Greek pottery date back to about 800 B. C., and in some cases show traces of Eastern influences in their decoration. The earliest Greek pottery was made at Samos, Athens, and Corinth, and was slightly lustred. It was produced from yellowish earth, and fashioned into very simple forms which were, in the beginning, copied from Egyptian models, and indeed made by Egyptian hands, but soon the Greeks, accepting and improving the civilization of the Egyptian colonists, developed their industries and their arts, and acquired the secrets of making the finest ceramic pastes. If we may credit Herodotus, the potteries at Samos existed ten centuries before Christ. It was as modellers and not as decorators that the Greeks especially excelled. Phidias and other celebrated artists furnished designs for the potters.
From the defeat of the Greeks at Cronia (338 B. C.), by Philip of Macedon, which left their country little better than a Macedonian province, we date the decadence of their arts. From their alliance with the Romans to the capture of Corinth, when they passed under the Roman yoke, ease and luxury also had corrupted them and finally in our IVth century the barbarians swept their country and destroyed even the remains of this nation to whom we owe so much that is pure and beautiful in art.