University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Romans all but ignored glass as a material until the 1st century BC when blown glass was invented. There was not even a Latin word for it until about 65 BC. Yet scarcely a century later glass vessels could be found in virtually every Roman house. The glassworking craft had been transformed into an industry, with perhaps as many as 100 million vessels being made every year--everything from delicate perfume bottles to heavy storage jars, and all kinds of tableware.

The first glass workers in Italy were slaves, Syrian and Judaean craftsmen shipped over as spoils of war around 10 BC. They brought with them the crafts of mold-casting and free-blowing that were essential for the glassworking industry's success. Their descendants, as freedmen, most likely ran the workshops that sprang up close to every provincial city and military camp throughout the empire. By the early 1st century AD, all of the aesthetic techniques of our modern glass industry--among them mold-blowing, lathe-cutting, and faceting--were standard in the Roman glassworking repertoire.

Mold-blown glass made sturdy vessels suitable for short- and medium-range shipments of marketplace goods. Wine and olive oil, preserved fruits and cooking sauces, dried herbs and medicines were common contents. Compared with massive pottery amphoras, glass bottles figured little in long-range trade. Nevertheless, they often traveled far from where they were made. Filled and refilled, bottles were carted from town to town until they rested finally as storage vessels in some distant provincial kitchen. Glassware could travel long distances swiftly, however, if it was part of a military legion's transfer to a new trouble spot.

The invention of glassblowing, around 70 BC and its industrial-scale use around the time of Christ made glassware affordable for all Romans. The wealthy stored their cosmetics and medicinal lotions in silver and bronze. Poorer folk could now use both pottery and glass. Bottles called unguentaria were used to store oils or lotions. At first small and crudely finished, their shapes became greatly refined over the centuries. Various other kinds of glass juglets and jars stored herbal ingredients and oils so that lotions could be prepared fresh each morning.

(From "Guide to the Etruscan and Roman Worlds at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology" 2002)


1 - 30 of 30 Records

Goblet

MS5549

MS5549

This object is on display

Flask

MS5248

MS5248

This object is on display

Jar

MS4939

MS4939



Plaque

MS5656A

MS5656A

This object is on display

Pitcher

MS5026

MS5026

This object is on display

Patella Cup

MS5561

MS5561



Unguentarium

MS5285A

MS5285A

Unguentarium

91-26-10

91-26-10

Flask

86-35-139

86-35-139

This object is on display


Beaker

86-35-79

86-35-79

This object is on display

Bottle Stopper

86-35-151

86-35-151

This object is on display

Oinochoe

92-23-1

92-23-1

This object is on display


Janus Flask

MS4991

MS4991

This object is on display

Flask

MS5007

MS5007

This object is on display

Mammiform Bowl

86-35-29

86-35-29

This object is on display


Patella Cup

MS5002

MS5002

This object is on display

Jar

38-28-66

38-28-66

This object is on display

Pitcher

MS5027

MS5027

This object is on display


Ribbed Bowl

86-35-45

86-35-45

This object is on display

Beaker

86-35-80

86-35-80

This object is on display

Jar

MS4933A

MS4933A

This object is on display


Flask

MS4946

MS4946

This object is on display

Goblet

MS5121

MS5121

This object is on display

Jar

86-35-40

86-35-40

This object is on display


Aryballos

MS4967

MS4967

This object is on display

Flask

MS4929

MS4929

Balsamarium

MS5109

MS5109

This object is on display


Oinochoe

MS5134

MS5134

This object is on display

Saddleflask

MS5237A

MS5237A

This object is on display

Oinochoe

MS5494

MS5494

This object is on display


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