This lavishly illustrated book places glass in its social setting within the Roman household. The volume was written to accompany the traveling exhibition Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change. Through a series of vignettes, the author tells the story of the development of the glass industry in the Roman Empire and the role of glass in the daily routines of the ancient Romans.
During the reign of Rome's first emperor, Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), as several well-established industries such as pottery- and textile-making were being expanded, the craft of glassmaking was adopted from the East, turned into an industry, and adapted to Roman taste. By the mid-first century A.D. glass rivaled pottery in the domestic marketplace. It was used for tableware and storage containers to hold everything from preserved fish to fine perfumes. Glass featured strongly in the Roman daily routine, from the early morning, when maids would apply perfumed lotions to their mistress in preparation for her social rounds, to the late afternoon, when slaves would bring platters of food, bowls of fruit, and jugs of wine—all of glass—to the supper table. And there was a place for glass even in Roman funerary ritual, because it was custom to include all manner of domestic items among the grave furnishings, to add comfort to the afterlife.