Shallow Translucent Glass Dish - LO.938
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 400 AD

Collection: Biblical Art
Style: Roman
Medium: mould-blown glass

Glass plates and bowls were the most popular glass vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean area in the last centuries BC, during the Hellenistic period. Their manufacture continued even after the introduction of glass blowing. Dishes such as this one, featuring a tubular rim, folded outward, vertical sides and flat bottom thickened at the centre were made from the lower section of the glass bubble. The base was formed from an added ring wound once.

In the course of the 1st centuries AD, glassworkers began to specialise and produce objects for daily usage. Yet only by the beginning of the Roman period they learned that, by adding manganese or antimony to the glass batch, it was possible to counteract the effects of the metal oxides in the sand, which were responsible for the green or blue tinge of the glass and they succeeded in creating colourless vessels such as this beautiful dish.

This class of vessels was distributed throughout the Roman Empire, reaching Sweden, England and Portugal in the west and Afghanistan in the East. Yet it is not only through trade that glass propagated, but also and most prominently through the patronage of Roman officials, a patronage that encouraged uniformity of shapes and technique on a large scale. Everyday tableware was then used as a relatively inexpensive commodity attested also by the Sages in their description of a man in financial difficulties who “ used to use gold vessels but sold them and began using silver ones; then sold these and began using copper vessels, until he had to sell them and replace them with vessels made of glass”.

For a detailed history of colourless tableware during the first centuries AD see: Y. Israeli, Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum, 2003: pp.97-100: a comparable example is illustrated at p.156, pl.152. - (LO.938)