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Roman Glassblowing in a Cultural Context

E. Marianne Stern
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 103, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), pp. 441-484
DOI: 10.2307/506970
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506970
Page Count: 44
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Roman Glassblowing in a Cultural Context
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Abstract

Commercial glassblowing dates from the beginning of Augustus' rule. This paper focuses on the impact of this novel technique on Roman society: the development of the technique, the artisans who made the glass, the merchants who marketed it, and the customers who bought and used glass vessels. The perfection of glassblowing is characterized by improvements in tools and equipment and the discovery that molten glass can be blown, a discovery that was closely connected with recycling. The division into two separate branches-one for making raw glass from primary ingredients, the other for working the material and creating glass objects-determined the structure of the industry. Gender, names, and business relationships between glassblowers are explored. Diocletian's Price Edict (PE) provides important clues to start-up business expenses. Dominated by the division into two branches, glass commerce and trade were brisk, both within and beyond the borders of the empire. Glass vessels played a significant role in the daily life of all segments of society. The forms and function of glass vessels in the West and in the East are discussed separately.

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