Last Updated: Apr 02, 2019     Views: 2501

Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change by Stuart James Fleming, published in 1999 discusses windows in Rome during that time period:

Among the more mundane developments in glassworking of these times was the production of the first window panes. Which is not to say that soon thereafter every Roman house was a well sheltered environment, insulated from the cold of winter and the street odors of summer. Most of these panes, being cast slabs that were thick and so not overly transparent, were made for Roman bath-houses -- a careful balance between a good sealing against heat loss and a source of at least some natural light. The household use of window glass was quite sparing: perhaps for a screen in a bedroom alcove, while the windows everywhere else were shielded by hanging cloths or skins. The use of pane glass may well have extended beyond the usual household purpose of excluding the elements, to a greenhouse-like protection of certain special crops. Thus, early spring buds of the saffron crocus were shielded in this way, since they were a key ingredient in several of Rome's more fashionable scents...and the early flowering of vines at prestigious wineries may also have rated such care. p. 30 

As we might expect, window glass was used quite extensively in the cooler regions around the Empire, such as Britain, and in a variety of domestic settings (Baxter and Cool 1991). The earlier panes were rough cast into a wooden frame, onto either a smoothed layer of sand, or a slab of stone or wood (Boon 1966). From the late 3rd century A.D. onwards, however, window glass increasingly was made by the muff process, wherein a sheet is created from a blown cylinder that has been slit open and warmed until it flattened out. The glass windows of the 6th century A.D. version the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Constantinople surely were made this way (Forbes 1966; see also Harden 1939). Footnote 18, p. 168.

If you look in Marco Beretta and Giovanni Di Pasquale, Vitrum: Il vetro fra arte e scienza nel mondo romano, Florence: Giunti, 2004, you will find panes of window glass from Pompeii on pages 280 and fragments of window glass in situ at Herculaneum on pages 114 and 117. [In Italian] The video below speaks about life and artifacts found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, including glass objects.

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