The Late Hellenistic period saw the intensification of pottery mass-production processes, of which Eastern Sigillata may be considered the pearl in the crown. Reddish tableware had a long tradition in the Levant and its evolution culminated around 150 B.C., in the region between Tarsos and Laodikeia, with the production of Eastern Sigillata A (ESA). More or less simultaneously, but independently, the manufacturing of Eastern Sigillata C (ESC) was initiated at Pergamon. Within a couple of decades the new range of tableware would establish itself in both regions of production, and other pottery production centres picked up the trend with, for instance, the production of Eastern Sigillata D (ESD) in SW Cyprus and the Late Hellenistic predecessor of Sagalassos red slip ware (SRSW) at Pisidian Sagalassos. No doubt, many more regional centres followed suit.
The new tableware only gradually made its way, starting to replace other common Late Hellenistic types of fine ware. Only by the end of the Hellenistic period did sigillata become common on most Eastern tables. ESA was clearly in a league of its own, predominating through out the E Mediterranean and beyond. ESD was mainly restricted to Cyprus and the Levant, whereas ESC and Late Hellenistic SRSW remained of regional importance. More research is needed to evaluate the supra-regional demand for ESA in a social context, how this demand may have formed part of wider-ranging commercial activities of Levantine merchants in the E Mediterranean, how the geo-political shifts orchestrated by Rome may have influenced the exchange patterns, and how the other types of Eastern Sigillata and Late Hellenistic tablewares fit into this pattern and relate to prototypes in precious metal, For instance, the island emporion of Delos, handed over to Athens in 167 B.C. and especially favoured by the Romans after the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C., may have been of crucial importance in establishing the distribution pattern of early ESA. Delos catered to the needs of Italy, which had grown powerful and rich in the 2nd c. B.C., by funnelling large numbers of slaves and a wide variety of luxury products, mainly from the Near East, to Rome. Levantine merchants contributed greatly to the success of Delos by controlling the supply mechanisms. As a result, ESA may have grown into a desirable surrogate for Eastern precious metal plate and thus acquired an esteemed position in the tableware market (cf. Cic, ad Att. 115 [VI.1] 13, dated 50 B.C., on vasa Rhosica).