History of the Classical World

From richly decorated Greek terracotta to Etruscan urns and fragile Roman glassware.

Influences from classical antiquity are evident in the Dutch language, system of government, and also in architecture. This antiquity come to life at the Allard Pierson. From richly decorated Greek terracotta to Etruscan urns and fragile Roman glassware: original artefacts have much to tell us about Ancient Greece, Etruria (the region in Italy to the north of Rome) and the Roman Empire. They sketch a picture of cultures that enjoyed close contact with each other, fought each other, carried on trade and influenced each other in all sorts of ways.


The oldest items in the classical collections are the Cycladic idols, stylised female figures that were carved from marble on the Cyclades from approximately 3000 BC onwards. The collections of painted terracotta from Greece and Southern Italy from the 6th and 5th centuries BC are world famous. Figurines of baked clay from Greece and Southern Italy, primarily from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, tell us about life in the classical world.

Glass bowls, Syria, circa 150-100 BCApollo next to his temple in Delphi.  Fragment of mixing vessel. Southern Italy, Taranto, 400-390 BC


Etruscan cabinet

A selection of artefacts, including terracotta pottery, bronze figurines and utensils, as well as sculpture can be seen in the Etruscan cabinet. The presentation has been inspired by an Etruscan grave.

The Etruscans inhabited that part of Italy that we now call Tuscany, between the Tiber and Arno rivers, from around 1000 to 30 BC. The Allard Pierson Etruscan collection reflects an important aspect of their culture. They held feasts with wine and music in honour of the dead. Afterwards they left the eating utensils behind in the grave.

Items from the Roman Empire

The Roman collection contains artefacts primarily from the imperial period, 27 BC to 476 AD. The items come from across the entire Roman Empire, from England to North Africa, and from Rome to the far eastern Mediterranean region. They include items of everyday use, such as oil lamps, jugs and bowls made of terracotta and glass, and coins. The collection of busts is characteristic of Roman sculpture from the late republican and imperial periods.


Oinochoe, or wine jug with trefoil mouth from Etruria, 650-625 BC

Collection Specialists

drs. René van Beek
Email: r.vanbeek@uva.nl
Phone number: 020 525 25 40
UvA staff page: René van Beek

Laurien de Gelder, MA
Email: l.i.degelder@uva.nl
Telefoonnummer: 020 525 25 38
UvA staff page: Laurien de Gelder