Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on December 21, 2020

Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire

6th century


The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in 330 transferred his capital from Rome to Byzantium, an event that marks the de facto division of the Roman empire into an eastern and western half and the beginning of the Byzantine period in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Much enlarged and renamed Constantinople, the city was the seat of the Eastern Roman Byzantine empire until its demise in 1453.

Glass vessel shapes in the Byzantine period did not deviate greatly from those of the Roman Empire high point. Beginning in the late fifth century, glassblowers in the near east produced increasingly larger vessels. They also introduced the folded, stemmed foot. In the sixth and seventh centuries Byzantine glass vessels typically feature a delicate u-shaped mouth. A number of “classical” Roman glassware shapes were phased out by the fifth century including: bowls, flat- bottomed cups and beakers, and footed wine jugs featuring trefoil mouths.

  A major innovation of the Byzantine period was the invention of the glass lamp. Glass lamps were first attested in the first half of the fourth century CE in Palestine, where they began to replace the clay lamps in use at the time as they were much more efficient. By the middle of the fifth century their use was rapidly spreading westward. Initially these lamps were shaped just like drinking vessels, though the number of shapes expanded over the course of the sixth and seventh centuries.

Chemical analyses of Byzantine glassware have demonstrated that Byzantine glass was composed of the same basic materials as Roman glass as well as various coloring agents. Roman and Byzantine glass-making was divided into two separate steps. The first, involved the conversion of sand and stabilizer into raw glass. The raw glass was shipped to many separate workshops which would then re-heat the glass and shape it into objects. Although there is considerable archaeological evidence establishing primary glass-making sites, secondary glass-making sites remain difficult to pinpoint. It is also the reason why chemical analyses can’t give you exact information on where an object was made.

Roman Republic 510 BC-27 BC

Roman Empire 2BC-476 AD

Roman Empire high point 96-192 AD

Western Empire 476-480 AD


The information above and following examples are from the book: Roman, Byzantine, Early Medieval Glass 10 BCE-700CE, Marianne Stern, 2001. The Ernesto Wolf Collection

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2 Responses

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  1. theozandbergen said, on December 21, 2020 at 12:43 pm


    Love your postings.Such a joy to see all those beautiful objects in context.

    Perhaps our RF – 75 fits in the whole.

    kind regards, theo


    • Allaire Collection of Glass said, on December 22, 2020 at 5:48 am

      Your RF-75 does look Byzantine.

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