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
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
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.