Who ran these glassmaking centers and glassblowing
workshops? We get the impression that, early on, both of them may
have been spin-off ventures for craftsmençmost likely, metalsmithsçalready well placed in the back streets of cities and the outskirts
of large rural estates or cities, and with the furnace technology
available to fuse or melt the new material. Their workforce was
the Syrian and Judaean slaves who have been lifted wholesale as
plunder, in the aftermath of each Roman military campaign in the
Not all of the slaves who had been brought to
Italy by force in earlier times, however, were the rough soldiers
or farming peasantry of illiterate neighboring regions who then
worked the land or ended life as gladiatorial fodder in an amphitheater.
Besides the skilled craftsmen of the Augustan pottery-making and glassmaking
industries that I have already discussed, there also would have
been innovative textile weavers, experienced builders, cultured
men who could teach Greek to Rome's children, and actors and poets
who carried with them a knowledge of Classical verse and drama.
As freedmen, each of these eventually could aspire to middle-class
Roman life and hope for their offspring to prosper. The increasingly
common economic, and thus political success of ex-slaves and/or
their heirs did not sit well with many Republican-minded Romans.
But it was a tide of change they simply could not hold back.
Syrian slave's head
cast in bronze
2nd century A.D.
1) Bell, H.I., 1924: Jews and Christians
in Egypt, 72-88 (London: The British Museum).
2) Bradley, K., 1994: Slavery and Society
at Rome, 1-182 (New York: Cambridge University Press).
3) Green, K., 1986: The Archaeology of
the Roman Economy, 156-168 (Berkeley: University of California
4) McMullen, R., 1990: Changes in the
Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary, 204-217 and 236-249 (Princeton:
Princeton University Press).
5) Shelton, J.A., 1988: As the Romans
Did, various entries (New York: Oxford University Press).