Genuine Ancient Roman Iridescent Blown Glass Vial.
CLASSIFICATION: Ancient Roman Blown Glass Vial.
ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Syria), 1st Century A.D.
Height: 80 millimeters (3 1/4 inches).
Bowl Diameter: 11 millimeters (1/2 inch).
Neck Diameter: 8 millimeters (1/3 inch).
Top Lip Diameter: 16 millimeters (2/3 inch).
Weight: 5.99 grams.
CONDITION: Very good, complete but likely repaired (professionally, probably by a conservator). Fairly uncommon style. Minor scratches and scuffs consistent with use and then burial in soil. Heavy layer of iridescence and soil deposits caused by prolonged burial in soil).
DETAIL: This is a very handsome first century A.D. Roman blown glass vial of reasonably nice dimensions. Most Roman glass vessels recovered complete (intact or repairable) are between 1 ½ and 3 inches in size. This specimen is over 3 inches tall! It possesses a heavy (albeit patchy) iridescent burial patina which is silver in color with plays of green, blue, pink and purple. Though you can see some of the original green-colored glass peeking out, the silver iridescent covering is quite striking, very beautiful, and relatively uncommon. These small jars, pitchers, unguentariums, jugs, bottles, jars and flasks were used to contain aromatic oils, perfumes, medicinal ointments, and cosmetics.
It is not to say that the Romans did not use larger pieces of glass on their tables such as bowls and cups; and even larger containers for transporting foodstuffs; because they did. In fact whatever the Romans had produced in clay in the first and second centuries B.C. was by the first and second centuries A.D. more commonly produced in glass. However the larger pieces of glass are rarely found intact. The Romans for instance produced fluted, engraved, multi-tiered, and cut glass bowls of fantastic quality and design – and only a few intact specimens have ever been recovered intact. In fact even the medium-sized pieces such as this, and even smaller sized pieces are rarely recovered intact except as grave goods.
This piece as you can see has almost resembles a modern test tube one would expect to see sitting in a chemical laboratory. Normally this would have been used to dispense medicinal potions or aromatic unguents. While the style is not rare, it is certainly less common than the more often found, plain and undecorated jars and pots. The vial possesses some soil deposits both inside and outside the bottle. Possessing a very pleasing green color beneath a stunning silver layer of iridescence, this bottle is probably amongst the earlier Roman specimens, as in later years colorless glass was to prove most popular with the Romans. It was of course carefully cleaned, but some of the soil adhesions are pretty stubborn. They could be cleaned off by someone very patient and persistent, but as it is, the vial is very beautiful. Though complete, it seems like that it was unearthed in two pieces, as there does seem to be evidence of a very neat, professional repair toward the base, likely done by a conservator. Even if repaired (and it seems likely it was), it is complete, and as such it’s a truly remarkable and authentic ancient glass vessel from the Roman Province of Syria.
If you wish to display it, it would look very nice in a shadow box or plaque. If you so desire we can provide a framed plaque and mount the artifact for you (so that it could be removed without damage at a later date) – or we could also mount it into a glass-fronted shadow box. If you did choose to have the vial mounted onto a plaque or shadow box, you would be quite pleased by the outcome. You can see a small version of such a framed display plaque (see it here). It would make a wonderfully handsome and historically significant gift. The plaque narrates a brief outline of the history of the Roman Empire, along with a very nice image of ruins dating from the Roman Empire, and a map of the Roman Empire at its apex. It would make a great gift, for yourself or a friend, and would surely delight a son or daughter. It would not only make a very handsome display, but would be very educational as well. Whether simply displayed as it is, or mounted into a shadow box or plaque, this is a wonderfully significant artifact of that magnificent empire which spanned Europe from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. It is sure to make someone very pleased.
One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”, a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousand years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of “booty” from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle. If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day 2,000 years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.
HISTORY OF ROMAN SYRIA: Antioch was the capitol city of the Roman Province of Syria. Antioch stands at the focal point for communications with Palestine to the south and with the Euphrates to the east. A road led southwest through the suburb of Daphne to the Seleucid seaport of Laodicea, and another road to Antioch's own harbor town, Seleuceia. The ancient city extended along both sides of the Orontes River, which was crossed by five bridges (of which one of Roman origin still remains). Daphne was the celebrated sanctuary of Apollo. The road between Antioch and Daphne - a distance of five miles - was bordered by parks, fountains, villas and splendid structures appropriate to the gay procession that thronged from the city gate to the scene of consecrated pleasure. Daphne itself was a pleasure garden.
Pompey added Antioch to the Roman Empire in 64 BC. The city still flourished after annexation to the Roman Empire, and was one of the two largest cities in the East, the other being Alexandria. Its continued prosperity was due to its position as an administrative center and its excellent trade routes to the hinterland and overseas. Antioch, the famous "Queen of the East", with its population of more than half a million, its beautiful site, its trade and culture, and its important military position, was a rival of Alexandria (Egypt). The two cities vied for position as the most significant city in the empire after Rome itself. The Greco-Macedorian colonies which comprised Syria had been in the past organized as self-governing city-states. Required to pay taxes and obey royal ordinances but allowed to administer their internal affairs. These semi-independent satrapies were begun by the Persian Empire, retained by Seleucid, and essentially the system used by the Romans.
When Pompey established the Roman province of Syria in 64 B.C., Antioch was included within it as a nominally free city, and as such it continued until the time of Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.). The early emperors raised some large and important structures, such as aqueducts, amphitheaters and baths. Antioch seems to have had almost a monopoly in the valuable ivory trade from the elephants that existed in the region at the time. It long enjoyed the right of coinage even during the Republican period when it was the only city in the entire empire (other than Rome itself) which was permitted to strike coinage with the inscription “SC”, which was the abbreviation for Senatus Consultus (with the permission of the Senate). The Roman emperors Caligula, Trajan, and Hadrian built aqueducts to supply Antioch with excellent water. Under Diocletian an Imperial armament factory was established at Antioch. Under Roman rule, Alexandria and Antioch, with their unruly, pleasure-seeking and highly industrious populations were great eastern capitals. Their busy trade brought strange peoples and cargoes from as far away as India and China, and at the same time, as centers of learning, they continued to attract intellectual leaders.
The population of Antioch was an agglomeration of peoples and races, and the city was divided into sections, or quarters. There were Greeks, Macedonians, Jews, and Syrians, with occasional Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Persians. Proud, turbulent and satirical, the Antiochians were noted for their mastery of the art of ridicule, coupled with an inability to hold their tongue. Having enjoyed autonomy for most of their history, they chafed under Roman rule. They insulted each Roman Emperor, General, or Governor, sent their way. They also suffered the wrath of the insulted party. Hadrian withdrew the right of coinage; Marcus Aurelius the right of assembly; Septimius Severus transferred the primacy (capitol city) of Syria to away from Antioch to Laodicea, where it temporarily remained. Emperors bestowed titles and rights upon a city as a reward for good behavior; they withdrew these privileges as a punishment for disloyalty. Though diminished by repeated severe earthquakes and several sacks by the Persians, Antioch remained a significant city well in the timeframe of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire.
GLASS HISTORY: Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, has been used since the Stone Age in many localities across the globe for the production of sharp cutting tools and, due to its limited source areas, was extensively traded. With respect to man-made glass, the ancient Romans were the first to mass produce glass articles, and this included glass jewelry and gemstones. In the ancient world, glass jewelry was very costly, not only for the ancient Romans, but particular so going back another 3,000 years further to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Sumeria. Though glass jewelry, especially gemstones and beads, have been fashioned for perhaps 5,000 years, very little is known about the production of glass in the ancient world.
Perhaps about 4,000 B.C. the ancient Egyptians started fashioning amulets, beads, and small vessels out of a material known as “faience”, an ancient precursor of glass created by crushing quartz sand and mixing it with an alkali binder and mineral oxides to provide color. The discovery of the techniques for producing glass was probably the accidental byproduct of the ancient production of faience. Ancient lumps of glass have been discovered in the area of ancient Mesopotamia, as well as ancient Syria and Egypt, dating as far back as 4,000 B.C. Written records from ancient Mesopotamia refer to the manufacture of glass, describing the manufacturing process as difficult and a closely-guarded secret. Initially ancient glass vessels were produced in with the use of molds of forms. Some of the earliest surviving examples were from the 15th century B.C. tombs of the wives of ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh Thutmose III. Glass beads dating to about 1,800 B.C. were produced by the Indus Valley Civilization.
Around 1,500 B.C. two new production techniques gave rise to more frequent manufacture of glass in Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. Both techniques involved the use of molten glass rods, either wrapped around a mud core, or placed within a mold. However the end product was still nonetheless frightfully expensive and the process both lengthy and labor-intensive. The disasters that overtook Late Bronze Age civilizations seem to have brought glass-making to a halt. It picked up again in its former sites, as well as in Syria and Cyprus, in the 9th century B.C., when the techniques for making colorless glass were discovered. The first glassmaking "manual" dates back to about 650 B.C., in cuneiform tablets discovered in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. In Egypt glass-making did not revive until it was reintroduced in third century B.C. Ptolemaic Alexandria. During the Greek Hellenistic (colonizing) period many new techniques of glass production were introduced and glass began to be used to make larger pieces, notably table wares.
The term “glass” originated in the late Roman Empire in the Roman glassmaking center at Trier, now in modern Germany. The Romans utilized glass in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles, window glass, jewelry, beads and gemstones were also produced. Roman glass production developed from Hellenistic technical traditions, initially concentrating on the production of intensely colored cast glass vessels. However, during the 1st century AD the industry underwent rapid technical growth that saw the introduction of glass blowing techniques (introduced a century earlier in Palestine and Syria), wherein a blob of molten glass was inflated either free form or into a mold by blowing through a hollow metal blowpipe. Glass blowing became widespread during the later Roman Empire, and with it the dominance of colorless or “aqua” colored glass, and the inexpensive process created huge demand for glass products, including jewelry.
Syria became the "glass factory" of the Roman Empire and glassware came to be widely disseminated throughout the Roman Empire. Roman glass ware which had already been traded as far as China and Western Asia (Roman glass has been found in first century B.C. tombs in China as well as what was Parthian Persia) now came to be exported throughout the known world in vast quantity. Glassblowing allowed glass workers to produce vessels with considerably thinner walls, decreasing the amount of glass needed for each vessel. Glass blowing was also considerably quicker than other techniques, and vessels required considerably less finishing, representing a further saving in time, raw material and equipment. Although earlier techniques dominated during the early first century A.D., by the middle to late first century earlier production techniques had been largely abandoned in favor of blowing.
Glass making reached its peak at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, with glass objects in domestic contexts of every kind. An eight ton glass slab uncovered by archaeologists indicates that glass was being produced in very large batches contained in tanks situated inside highly specialized furnaces. Glass was seemingly manufactured on a large scale by a limited number of workshops, and then broken into chunks for distribution to a multitude of local producers of end products. Otherwise there is only limited evidence for small-scale local glass manufacture, and only in context of window glass. The first-century A.D. Roman Naturalist and Historian “Pliny the Elder” documented the furnace-production of molten glass and the development of related production technologies.
The Roman writers Statius and Martial both indicate that recycling broken glass was an important part of the glass industry, and that quantities of broken glassware were concentrated at local sites prior to melting back into raw glass. This is supported by the fact that only rarely are glass fragments of any size recovered by archaeologists from domestic sites of this period. With respect to glass jewelry, it is well known that the Romans and their successors in the East, the Byzantines (and Eastern Europe in general), were very fond of elaborate jewelry and other personal adornments. Typical jewelry included bracelets worn both on the forearm as well as upper arm, rings, earrings, and pendants, and in the classical world, glass jewelry was just as costly its counterparts made in gold and/or gemstones.
Though introduced in first century A.D. Alexandria, the use of glass windows gained widespread popularity in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. throughout Europe, mostly in conjunction with churches and royal structures. In the 8th century A.D. glass was described in Arab poetry, and in another 8th century book a Persian chemist recorded 46 recipes for colored glass (a later edition of the book included 12 additional recipes). By the 11th century clear glass mirrors were being produced in Islamic Spain. In Germany the 11th century saw the introduction of a technique which mass-produced thin sheet glass, and in the 12th century the use of stained glass rapidly became an important medium in Romanesque and Gothic art. However the mass-production of glass during the era of the Roman Empire was not matched by the modern world until the advent of the industrial revolution. Glass remained expensive through the 17th century, and glass gemstones though less expensive than natural gemstones, were still expensive. The “gemstones” in the least expensive “costume” jewelry were generally made from colored amber. Excepting of course genuine precious and semi-precious gemstones, glass “gemstones” were still the domain of relatively more costly pieces.
Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. Domestic shipping (insured first class mail) is included in the price shown. Domestic shipping also includes USPS Delivery Confirmation (you might be able to update the status of your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Canadian shipments are an extra $12.99 for Insured Air Mail; International shipments are an extra $20.99 for Air Mail (and generally are NOT tracked; trackable shipments are EXTRA). ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per item so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers.
We do NOT recommend uninsured shipments, and expressly disclaim any responsibility for the loss of an uninsured shipment. Unfortunately the contents of parcels are easily “lost” or misdelivered by postal employees – even in the USA. If you intend to pay via PayPal, please be aware that PayPal Protection Policies REQUIRE insured, trackable shipments, which is included in our price (international tracking is at additional cost). We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price (less our original shipping costs).
Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on Ebay (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world – but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the "business" of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly - even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."