This striking water vessel – or hydria – dates from a powerfully dynamic time in the Classical world. The hydria was a vessel designed for holding water, with a vertical handle at the back for dipping and pouring and two horizontal handles at the side for lifting. Such a large and elaborately decorated version might have been used at a symposium (where wine was diluted with water) or alternatively as a funeral offering for a wealthy member of society. Red- and black-figure wares constitute a narrative of Mediterranean social mores in the first millennium BC, as well as a general guide to mythological heritage and stylistic trends. This piece is unusual in that it comes from one of the earliest Greek Colonies. A series of demographic, political and economic problems in the 8th and 7th centuries BC brought about a major exodus to Southern Italy as well as other sites such as Southern France and the Black Sea. There were so many Greeks living in Italy that the area was dubbed “Magna Graecia” – Greater Greece – and the immigrants brought many artistic and social traditions with them. Perhaps most significant was the Chalcidean alphabet, which was used by the Etruscans, and their sculptural and painting methods.Apulia – the origin of this piece – is a portion of Southern Italy bounded by the Ionian and the Adriatic, culminating in the peninsula of Salento. Magna Graecia was eventually absorbed by the Roman Empire in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, yet many of the stylistic trends that distinguish the Greeks from other Classical groups can be seen on pieces such as this. Most of the notable Greek-Italian fusion red figure ware vessels currently known come from Apulia; there is a good chance that this piece was made in the city of Taras, as this was the main production centre for the area. Two main styles were distinguished, that have a social and a chronological basis. The main variant was the “plain style”, which differs from the “ornate [rich] style” in terms of the number of figures and the manner in which they are represented. The ornate painters tended to use larger vessels (such as hydriai, amphorae and volute kraters) with numerous figures arranged in multiple registers and in extravagant colour schemes. Grandiose decoration with more than one tier, as evident in this example, had a short vogue in Athens in the second half of the fifth century but was most fully developed in southern Italy.