Southern Italy and Sicily were known in antiquity as 'Magna Graecia', due to the many Greek colonies there since the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The colonists had taken with them their artistic skills - making and decorating pottery - and these in turn led to a distinct 'south Italian' style of vase-painting during the 4th century BC.
The 'cross-pollination' of ideas, subject-matter and techniques between the major pottery centres such as Corinth, Athens, Etruria and South Italy, was formidable and South Italian vase manufacture and painting began to gather its own style and momentum. Potters from Apulia in particular take traditional forms like the amphora and oinochoe and exaggerate their flares, add volute handles and moulded gorgoneia and end up with elegant, if rather 'baroque' varieties of pottery and decoration.
Characteristics of south Italian painting include a mass of dramatis personae on each vase, often in several bands, each with a theme of its own. In fact, much of the iconography was based on drama : Dionysiac revelry, the staging of plays such as the Phlyax play and on dramatic scenes from the heritage of the Athenian dramatic tradition of the 5th century BC.