"Nero, on receiving a message that all was
lost, broke two crystal cups in a final burst of rage...as the
vengeance of one who would punish his whole generation." (Pliny
the Elder, Natural History XXXVII.29)
It may be because so many ancient writers made
a point of commenting on the excesses of the emperor Nero, but his
reign does seem to have been a period of exceptional extravagance.
Certainly some Romans had plenty of money to spend on all manner
of luxuries. Silks from China, perfumes from Arabia, hardwoods from
North Africa, marble from Greece: the list is endless.
For whatever reason, rock crystal now became
the most fashionable of hardstones among Rome's wealthy. Its surface
could be sculpted in low relief, or it could be delicately faceted.
The glassmaking industry followed this swing in the pendulum of
Roman taste at once, producing both mold-cast dishes and a whole
range of free-blown vessels in colorless glass.
Aureus of Emperor
reigned, A.D. 5468
1) Cool, H.E.M.,
1995: "Glass Vessels of the Fourth and Early Fifth Century
in Roman Britain," in Le Verre de l'Antique Tardive et
du Moyen Age, 11-23, ed., D. Foy (Val d'Oise: Cergy-Pontoise Musee Archeologique Departmental).
2) Grose, D.F., 1991: "Early Imperial
Roman Cast Glass: The Translucent Coloured and Colourless Fine Wares,"
in Roman Glass: Two Centuries of Art and Invention, 1-18,
eds., M. Newby and K. Painter (London: The Society of Antiquaries
J., 1978: "Trade in Glass," in Roman Shipping and Trade:
Britain and the Rhine Provinces, 70-78, eds., J. du Plat Taylor and H. Cleere (London: C.B.A.).
4) Stern, E.M., 1997: "Glass and Rock
Crystal: A Multifacted Relationship," Journal of Roman Archaeology
5) Vickers, M., 1996: "Rock Crystal:
The Key to Cut Glass and Diatreta in Persia and Rome," Journal
of Roman Archaeology 9, 48-65.