All About Glass

You are here

Glass in the Epigrams of Martial

Glass in the Epigrams of Martial

The Verses of Martial, which were composed between A.D. 83 and 102, mostly in Rome, contain 12 explicit references to objects made of glass (for which Martial uses the noun vitrium or the adjective vitreus), together with two references to "Vatinian cups" (calices Vatinii) , which appear to be made of glass, and several references to objects of "crystal" (identified by the nouns crystalla [crystal] and crystallinum [a crystal object]). The verses also contain single references to specularia (windows) and diatreta, which are frequently taken to be glass vessels with openwork. Collectively, these passages provide us with anecdotal information about the uses of glass, the collection of broken glass for recycling, and the importation of glass from Egypt, toward the end of the first century A.D. The following pages contain texts and translations of the passages in question, and my attempts to interpret them from the point of view of a student of Roman glass.

Marcus Valerius Martialis was born at Bilbilis (now Calatayud, Spain) about A.D. 40.1 He was, he tells us (at 10.65.3–4 and 7), a real Spaniard, but he received a Roman education (9.73.7–8). He settled in Rome about 64. Here, it is probable that he was supported by wealthy friends, who may have included the younger Seneca. Martial acquired a modest fortune, and he entered the equestrian order during the reign of Titus (79–81). He boasted that the handwriting of his slave was known to caesares (1.101.2), presumably Titus and Domitian (r. 81–96), and he dedicated Book 8 of his Epigrams to the latter. Despite his success at Rome, Martial found the city frivolous and expensive. About 87, he retreated to the small town of Forum Cornelii, between Bologna and Imola in northern Italy, but he returned to Rome shortly afterwards. Martial retired to Spain in 98, the younger Pliny helping to pay the cost of his relocation,2 and he died there in or about 104.

Martial is remembered for his Epigrams, which are collected in 14 books. Books 1–12, containing the epigrams proper, were published at intervals between A.D. 85/86 and 101/102. Books 13 and 14, consisting of the Xenia and the Apophoreta, two collections of mottoes intended to be inscribed on gifts, were published in or shortly after 83.3 The first poem in Book 14 states that the theme of the book is gifts presented during the Saturnalia, a festival in honor of the god Saturn, which, by the time of Martial, was a five-day public holiday in December. The festival was remarkable for the degree of license permitted to all sections of society; drunkenness and gambling abounded, and slaves were exempt from punishment.4 Another feature of the Saturnalia was the giving of presents. The presents described in Book 13 are almost entirely food or wine, while those in Book 14 are a variety of useful and luxurious items. Martial explains (at 14.1.5) that the mottoes in Book 14 alternately describe cheap and expensive gifts, an allusion to the custom of giving presents whose value reflected the social status of the giver and the recipient (clients, for example, would give inexpensive presents, while their patrons would be more lavish). Of the four poems that certainly or probably refer to objects made of glass, two (14.18 and 14.115, describing gaming pieces and drinking vessels) apparently fall into the expensive category and two (14.94 and 14.112, describing a drinking vessel and a sprinkler) into the cheap category.5

Martial frequently addresses his verses to a named person. While some of the names are real, others appear to be pseudonyms. Indeed, in the preface to Book I, Martial maintains that the personal names he uses are fictitious. Usually, we have no means of knowing whether a name—Caecilianus, for example—is a pseudonym that conceals the identity of a real person, or whether it refers to a figment of Martial's imagination.

Objects Made of Glass

1. Ampulla: A Flask

Septem clepsydras magna tibi voce petenti
arbiter invictus, Caeciliane, dedit.
at tu multa diu dicis vitreisque tepentem
ampullis potas semisupinus aquam.
ut tandem saties vocemque sitimque, rogamus
iam de clepsydra, Caeciliane, bibas.6

Caecilianus was a lawyer, whom Martial attacks for his long-winded speeches. The time allotted for a speech was measured by a clepsydra, a water clock similar to a sandglass. Martial urges Caecilianus to drink the contents of his water clock and thereby cut short the time available for his peroration. For another reference to the use of water clocks in court, see Martial 8.7.

Martial also uses the name Caecilianus to attack behavior outside the courtroom. He scolds Caecilianus for taking food from his host's dinner party and passing it to his attendant to be taken home (2.37), implies that he is a poor versifier (2.71), implies again that he is mean (2.78), and remarks that he behaved ostentatiously when he was poor, but in a miserly fashion after he inherited money (4.51).

Ampulla is a diminutive form of amphora, a vessel with two handles. The word was applied to containers with a variety of functions: for example, for taking oil to the baths, for holding medicine, and for drinking.7

2. Calices Vitrei: Glass Cups

Calices vitrei
Aspicis ingenium Nili: quibus addere plure
dum cupit, a quoties perdidit auctor opus.8

Leary suggested that these lines refer to mosaic glass.9 This is improbable. By the 80s, when the verses were written, mosaic glass was no longer fashionable,10 and in any case it was not especially vulnerable to damage either during the forming process or when it was ground and polished. It is much more likely that Martial was thinking of cut glass: either faceted beakers, as Oliver implied,11 or vessels with openwork, such as the beakers from Nijmegen and Begram (see section 22).12 Facet-cut glass came into use in the 60s, and it seems to have been particularly popular between about 75 and 125.13 The date of the finds from Begram is disputed, but the beaker from Nijmegen is reliably dated to the period between about 80 and 100.

The word calices (sing. calix) usually, but not always, refers to drinking vessels.14

Egypt in general and Alexandria in particular were well-known sources of glassware, as the following extracts from other writers testify:

dominatus est enim," inquit, "Alexandriae .... Ac permutata aliquando pecunia est; subductae naves Postumi Puteolis sunt; auditae visaeque merces fallaces quidem et fucosae et chartis et linteis et vitro delatis; quibus cum multae naves refertae fuissent, una non patuit parva.15

’Ηκουσα δ’έν τη Αλεξανδρεία παρά των ύαλουργων, έιναί τινα καί κατ’ Α’ίγυπτον ύαλιτιν γην, ής χωρίς ούχ οίον τε τάς πολυχρόους καί πολτελεις κατασκενάς άποτελεσθηναι καθάπερ και άλλοις άλλων μιγμάτων δειν.16

Κατασκευάςουσι δέ, φησιν, οι έν Αλεξανδρεία τήν ύαλον μεταρρυθμιζοντες πολλαις και ποικίλαις ίδέαις ποτηρίων, παντός του πανταχόθεν κατακομιζομιζομένου κεράμου την ίδέαν μιμούμενοι.17

3. Latro Vitreus: A Glass Gaming Piece

sic vincas Noviumque Publiumque
mandris et vitreo latrone clusos.18

In the board game latrunculi (bandits or mercenaries), the latro (robber) was a superior piece. Each square on the board was called a mandra (stall or cattle pen), and the plural mandrae referred to the board itself.

Martial returns to gaming pieces in the Apophoreta:

insidiosorum si ludis bella latronum,
gemmeus iste tibi miles et hostis erit. 19

Miles (soldier) usually refers to one's own piece and hostis (enemy) to that of one's opponent. The primary meaning of the adjective gemmeus is "of precious stones" or "adorned with precious stones." Leary, however, argued that in this context it refers to glass, on the grounds that elsewhere Martial uses the noun gemma when referring to the transparent walls of a conservatory, which can hardly be other than glass (see section 15). Furthermore, most of the gaming pieces mentioned in Latin literature (e.g., by Ovid, Ars 2.208) were made of glass.20 On the other hand, Leary regarded the gaming pieces as an expensive present,21 and the surviving Roman examples in glass are hardly luxurious.

4. Nimbus: A Vessel for Pouring Wine

nimbus vitreus
a love qui veniet, miscenda ad pocula largas
fundet nimbus aquas; hic tibi vina dabit.22

The primary meaning of nimbus is a shower of rain or a storm cloud. Martial associates the storm with Jupiter because of his role as the god of rain.23 Nimbus was also the name of a sprinkler or pourer used (as in this case) to dispense wine or (as at Martial 5.25.7) to sprinkle perfume at a performance in the theater.24 The form of these vessels, which Leary supposed to have many small holes, perhaps like the rose of a watering can,25 is unknown.

5. Toreumata Made of Glass

calices audaces
nos sumus audacis plebeia toreumata vitri,
nostra neque ardenti gemma feritur aqua.26

The noun toreuma (from Greek τορέω, bore through) means an object that is decorated in relief or with filigree. It carries no implication about the material from which the object was made. Generally speaking, however, toreumata were made of precious materials, and gemma, when used of a drinking vessel, usually means a cup or goblet made of a precious stone. Here, however, the words are used ironically, as the adjective plebeia ("pertaining to the common people") makes clear. The position of these lines in the Apophoreta led Leary to suppose that the calices audaces were an inexpensive present.27 This would make sense if the cups in question, like the "brave cups" from the Circus Flaminius in 12.74, were made of earthenware (see section 19). The fact that they were decorated in relief suggests that they were Arretine ware, which Martial mentions at 1.53.6 (see section 18).

Martial describes drinking vessels as toreumata in another passage:

Tolle, puer, calices tepidique toreumata Nili
et mihi secura paula trade manu
trita patrum labris et tonsu pura ministro:
anticus mensis restituatur honor.
te potare decet gemma, qui Mentora frangis
in scaphium moechae, Sardanapalle, tuae.28

This is an attack on conspicuous spending, which conservative Romans saw as a serious social problem. Augustus had passed a sumptuary law (Suetonius, Aug. 34.1; Dio 54.2.3), as had others before him.29 Sardanapallus, a legendary king of Assyria, was notorious for his extravagant life style. Mentor was a Greek silversmith of the fourth century B.C., whose work was held in very high esteem. To make a chamber pot from one of Mentor's creations, therefore, would be an act of extreme extravagance.

Isings suggested that the toreumata were mold-blown beakers (such as her form 31, which imitated embossed metal vessels),30 and this suggestion was repeated by Harden.31

6. Vitrum: A Glass

Caecuba saccantur quaeque annus coxit Opimi,
conduntur parco fusca Falerna vitro.32

The context is a cynical comment on reports that Tongilius is seriously ill with a fever. In Martial's opinion, Tongilius is feigning sickness in order to attract gourmet presents, including fine wines, from legacy seekers who assume that he may be near death.

7. Vitrum: A Glass

Ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro,
Basse, bibis vitro. carius ergo cacas.33

Howell noted that some manuscripts render the name as Basse (i.e., with the vocative case ending of Bassus, a male) and others as Bassa (referring to Bassa, a female).34 Perhaps the subject is female: the same Bassa whose age and beauty Martial denigrates at 5.45.

Regardless of the gender of Bassus/Bassa, this is another attack on conspicuous spending.

8. Vitrum: A Glass

nos bibimus vitro, tu murra, Pontice. quare?
prodat perspicuus ne duo vina calix.35

Murra was a more or less opaque, variegated substance (Martial describes it as maculosa, speckled, at 10.80.1 ). Its identity has been discussed at length. In the most recent contribution to the debate, Vickers supported the view that murra is fluorspar.36 In this context, the point is that murra was opaque. Consequently, Ponticus could fill the transparent glasses of his guests with wine of one quality while drinking, unobserved, superior wine from his opaque murrhine vessel. Martial (at 3.60) also criticizes Ponticus for serving his guests inferior food, and at 3.82 and 4.68 he returns to the theme of a double standard of refreshments for hosts and guests.

9. Vitrum: A Glass

Quod quacumque venis Cosmum migrare putamus
et fluere excusso cinnama fusa vitro,
nolo peregrinis placeas tibi, Gellia, nugis.
scis, puto, posse meum sic bene olere canem.37

Cosmus apparently was a well-known perfume seller in Rome (cf. Juvenal 8.86). The Greek word κόσμος means "personal adornment, especially of women," and so Cosmus may have been a professional pseudonym.38 Martial mentions him so frequently that Ball suggested that the poet was deliberately advertising his products.39

10. Vitrum: Glass

Primos passa toros et adhuc placanda marito
merserat in nitidos se Cleopatra lacus,
dum figit amplexus. sed prodidit unda latentem;
lucebat, totis cum tegeretur aquis:
condita sic puro numerantur Iilia vitro,
sic prohibet tenues gemma latere rosas.
Insilui mersusque vadis luctantia carpsi
basia: perspicuae plus vetuistis aquae.40

One might assume that the lilies and roses are in glass vases. It is more likely, however, that the flowers are growing in cloches or conservatories such as Martial describes at 8.14.3, and at 8.68.5, where he again uses gemma to mean glass (see section 15).

In conclusion, it is noteworthy that Martial uses the adjective vitreus to mean not only "made of glass" but also "glasslike":

fons ibi Castalius vitreo torrente superbit,
unde novem dominas saepe bibisse ferunt:41

The Castalian spring is on Parnassus, the mountain home of Apollo and the Muses (the nine ladies). Martial uses the adjective vitreus to describe the sparkling clarity of the water, just as Horace uses the noun vitrum to describe a spring at Bandusia.42

Recycling Glass in Rome


Urbanus tibi, Caecili, videris.
non es, crede mihi. Quid ergo? Verna es,
hoc quod Transtiberinus ambulator,
qui pallentia sulphurata fractis
permutat vitreis,43

Transtiberinus means "from across the Tiber." Then, as now, this referred to the part of the city on the west bank of the Tiber. In Roman times, Trastevere was an undesirable place to live, being the location of tanneries and other offensive trades.44

For a similar reference to the exchange of sulfur for broken glass, see Statius, Silvae 1.6.70-74:

Hoc plaudunt grege Lydiae tumentes,
Illic cymbala tinnulaeque Gades:
Illic agmina confremunt Syrorum,
Hic plebs scenica quique comminutis
permutant vitreis gregale sulphur.45

These passages in Martial and Statius have been the subject of intermittent discussion by philologists since at least 1908, when Post explained them by suggesting that broken glass was mended with an adhesive made from sulfur.46 Although Cato (De Agricultura 39.1-2) mentions cement that contained sulfur and was used to repair earthenware vessels, there is no evidence that the Romans made extensive use of any adhesive containing sulfur, or that such a substance would be effective for repairing glass. Leon suggested instead that the street seller acquired the broken glass for recycling, exchanging it for sulfur,47 and Smyth suggested that the fragments were used by mosaicists.48 Both Howell and Harrison doubted Smyth's conjecture on the grounds that there was not sufficient demand for mosaics made with glass tesserae.49 One might add that few, if any, glass tesserae in first-century mosaics appear to contain pieces of broken glass vessels.

"Vatinian Cups"


Vernaculorum dicta, sordidum dentem,
et foeda linguae probra circulatricis,
quae sulphurato nolit empta ramento
Vatiniorum proxeneta fractorum,
poeta quidam clancularius spargit
et vult videri nostra.50


Calices Vatinii
Vilia sutoris calicem monimenta Vatini
accipe; sed nasus longior ille fuit.51

These verses tell us that certain late first-century cups were named for Vatinius, and the preceding passage, by associating the barter of broken "Vatinians" for sulfur, leads us to suppose that at least some of them were made of glass (see note 50). Juvenal provides additional information and repeats the association of Vatinian cups and sulfur:

tu Beneventani sutoris nomen habentem
siccabis calicem nasorum quattuor ac iam
quassatum et rupto poscentem sulpura vitro.52

Vatinius was a sinister figure at the court of Nero (r. 54-68) who is mentioned by the historians Tacitus (Ann. 15.34 and Hist. 1.37.2) and Dio (63.15). According to Tacitus, "Vatinius was one of the most hideous monstrosities at the Court. Bred in a cobbler's booth, deformed in body and scurrilous of wit, he was taken up at first as a butt; but in the course of time he so ingratiated himself by accusing distinguished persons that he became pre-eminent, even among evil men, in influence, wealth, and the power to inflict injury." Dio reports that Nero's hatred of the Senate was so fierce that he took particular pleasure in Vatinius, who was always saying to him, "I hate you, Caesar, for being of senatorial rank."

Lewis and Short supposed that Vatiniani were cups made by Vatinius.53 The combined evidence of Martial and Juvenal, however, suggests that Vatinian cups may have been grotesque drinking vessels that took their name from Nero's notoriously ugly—and dangerous—courtier. This interpretation, however, is problematic. No first-century glass cup with four mouths or spouts appears to have been published. Perhaps, by alluding to four noses, Juvenal is mocking the enormous size or the shape of a single nose (cf. Martial's allusion to the length of Vatinius's nose at 14.96). If this is so, Vatinian cups might be grotesque head flasks such as those that were made in the third century.54



Pallida ne Cilicum timeant pomaria brumam,
mordeat et tenerum fortior aura nemus,
hibernis obiecta Notis specularia puros
admittunt soles et sine faece diem.55

Although the material from which the windowpanes were made is not identified, their transparency suggests that they were made of glass. It is generally agreed that the first window glass was made by the Romans in the first century A.D.56 Fragments of flat glass that are thought to be pieces of windowpanes occur at numerous first-century sites, including Pompeii, which was destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Window glass seems to have become relatively common, and, like glass vessels, it is found in every province of the Roman Empire, sometimes in large quantities. At Sardis, for example, fragments of window glass literally outweighed the fragments of glass vessels in deposits of the early Byzantine period (about A.D. 400- 616).57


In another poem, Martial describes a grapevine protected by glass:

Qui Corcyraei vidit pomaria regis,
rus, Entelle, tuae praeferet ille domus.
invida purpureos urat ne bruma racemos
et gelidum Bacchi munera frigus edat,
condita perspicua vivit vindemia gemma
et tegitur felix nec tamen uva latet:58

Elsewhere, Martial uses gemma to mean glass (see section 10), and the adjective perspicua (transparent or clear) seems to confirm that this is the material in Entellus 's conservatory. Moreover, no other meaning of gemma is appropriate in this context.

The protection of vines, vegetables, and flowers appears to have been one of the earliest uses of flat glass. Pliny the Elder, whose Natural History was dedicated to Emperor Titus in A.D. 77, notes that Tiberius (r. A.D. 14-37) was particularly fond of cucumbers and that his gardeners were able to supply him year-round by growing them in cloches or frames with wheels. The frames were fitted with specularia to protect the plants in cold weather, and in good weather they were wheeled around the garden, following the sun.59

Glass and Crystal

16. Vitrum and Crystallina

et turbata brevi questus crystallina vitro
murrina signavit seposuitque decem.60

Although the subject of these verses, Mamurra, is penniless, he is an inveterate window-shopper for rare and exotic luxury items. Such is the degree of his ostentatious behavior that he rejects luxurious rock crystal because it has been "devalued" by glass imitations, and instead he chooses even more expensive murra (see section 10). This is foolish because, as Pliny the Elder remarks, "Glass-ware has now come to resemble rock-crystal in a remarkable manner, but the effect has been to flout the laws of Nature and actually to increase the value of the former without diminishing that of the latter. "61


17. Crystallina: Crystal [Cups]

Frangere dum metuis, franges crystallina; peccant
securae nimium sollicitaeque manus.62


Una est in nostris tua, Fidentine, libellis
pagina, sed certa domini signata figura,
quae tua traducit manifesto carmina furto ... .
sic Arretinae violant crystallina testae. 63

Martial is accusing Fidentinus of plagiarism. Fidentinus had inserted a single page into a book of Martial's verses and passed them off as his own. Martial makes a series of unflattering comparisons between his verses ("crystal vessels") and those of Fidentinus ("Arretine vessels," which were made of earthenware).64 At 14.186, Martial tells us that books sometimes contained portraits of the author, and the single page mentioned above presumably bore the image (figura) of Fidentinus. Martial again attacks Fidentinus for plagiarism at 1.72.


Dum tibi Niliacus portat crystalla cataplus
accipe de circo pocula Flaminio.
hi magis audaces, an sunt qui talia mittunt
munera? sed geminus vilibus usus inest:
nullum sollicitant haec, Flacce, toreumata furens,
et nimium calidis non vitiantur aquis.65

The name Flaccus appears 22 times in Books 1-12. Despite Martial's claim that he concealed the names of real persons, Kay suggested that in every case Flaccus was probably the same person.66 For another allusion to "brave" vessels, presumably made of earthenware, which was not susceptible to thermal shock, see section 5.


nec labris nisi magma meis crystalla terantur
et faciant nigras nostra Falerna nives;67


rumpis et ardenti madidus crystalla Falerno68



o quantum diatreta valent et quinque comati!
tunc, cum pauper erat, non sitiebat Aper.69

Martial describes how Aper inherited 300,000 sesterces from an uncle and changed his life style. Previously, when he was too poor to join them, he used to criticize those who drank expensive Falemian wine at the baths and said that their cups ought to be broken. Now, however, he does not return from the baths sober.

The adjective diatretus means "pierced with holes," and so the neuter nominative plural, diatreta, refers to objects with openwork or filigree. Diatreta are mentioned by Ulpian in the Digest (, but the text does not specify the materials from which they were made. Frequently, however, they are assumed to be glass cage cups. While it is reasonable to suppose that cage cups were known as diatreta, the evidence does not support the conclusion that all diatreta were made of glass. If, however, Aper's diatreta were made of glass, perhaps they were vessels with openwork, such as the beakers from Begram and Nijmegen mentioned in section 2.

This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 41 (1999), 73–81.

1. Peter Howell, A Commentary on Book One of the Epigrams of Martial, London: The Athlone Press, 1980, pp. 1-5.

2. Pliny, Ep. 3.21.

3. T. J. Leary, Marital Book XIV. The Apophoreta. Text with Introduction and Commentary, London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1996, pp. 9-13.

4. Ibid., pp. 1- 8. Martial describes the mood of the Saturnalia in 14.1 and alludes to it at 5.84, 11.6.1-2, and elsewhere.

5. Ibid., pp. 13-18.

6. Seven water clocks' allowance you asked for in demanding tones, Caecilianus, and the judge, although unconvinced, gave them. But you speak much and long, and, with back-tilted head, you swill tepid water out of glass flasks. That you may once and for all still your oratory and your thirst, we beg you, Caecilianus, now to drink out of the water clock (6.35).

7. Werner Hilgers, Lateinische Gefässnamen. Bezeichnungen, Funktion und Form römischer Gefässe nach den antiken Schriftquellen, Beihefte der Bonner Jahrbücher, v. 31, Dusseldorf: Rheinland-Verlag, 1969, pp. 102-104.

8. Glass cups. You observe the ingenuity of Egypt. Ah, how often when he wishes to make additions, the author ruins his work! (14.115).

9. Leary [note 3], pp. 178-179.

10. David Frederick Grose, The Toledo Museum of Art. Early Ancient Glass. Core-formed, Rod-formed, and Cast Vessels and Objects from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Roman Empire, 1600 B.C. to A.D. 50, New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the museum, 1989, p. 262.

11 . Andrew Oliver Jr., "Early Roman Faceted Glass," Journal of Glass Studies, v. 26, 1984, pp. 35-58.

12. Annelies Koster and David Whitehouse, "Early Roman Cage Cups," Journal of Glass Studies, v. 3 1, 1989, pp. 25-33.

13. David Whitehouse, Roman Glass in The Corning Museum of Glass, Volume One, Corning, New York: The Corning Museum of Glass, 1997, pp. 221-222.

14. Hilgers [note 7], pp. 130-134.

15. "He behaved like a despot in Alexandria," says [the prosecutor]. . .. "And in the end he used the money for commerce; ships belonging to him put in at Puteoli; merchandise belonging to him was reported and seen there. It is true that the goods invoiced were cheap and showy items of paper, linen, and glass; but there was one small ship whose cargo was not revealed" (Cicero, Pro Rabir. Post. 14.39-40). Cicero was defending C. Rabirius Postumus against charges of receiving funds illegally obtained by bribery or extortion in Egypt. The trial took place in 54 B.C.

16. I heard at Alexandria from the glassworkers that there is in Egypt a kind of vitreous earth without which multicolored and expensive designs cannot be executed, just as elsewhere other countries require other compounds (Strabo, 16.758).

17. He further says that the men of Alexandria make glass, working it into many varied shapes of drinking vessels, and copying the shape of every kind of pottery that is imported among them from everywhere (Athenaeus, 11.784c).

18. Thus may you beat Novius and Publius, penned up in the squares, with a glass robber (7.72.7-8).

19. Gaming pieces. If you play the war games of robbers in ambush [or stealthy mercenaries], this piece of glass will be both your soldier and your enemy (14.18).

20. Leary [note 3], p. 71.

21 . Ibid., p. 14.

22. A glass nimbus. The nimbus that comes from Jupiter will pour down a great abundance of water for mixing your cups; this nimbus will give you the wine (14.112).

23. H. J. Rose, "Jupiter," in N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, ed., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd edn., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970, p. 569.

24. Hilgers [note 7], p. 231.

25. Leary [note 3], p. 174.

26. Brave glasses. We are common relief-decorated cups of brave glass, and our fine form is not cracked by boiling water (14.94).

27. Leary [note 3], p. 155.

28. Boy, take away these relief-decorated goblets from the warm Nile, and with nothing to fear hand me cups worn down by my ancestors' lips and a short-haired attendant to go with them; let old-world honor be restored to my table. It is appropriate for you, Sardanapallus, to drink from a bejeweled cup, you who break a Mentor to make a chamber pot for your mistress (11.11).

29. N. M. Kay, Martial Book XI: A Commentary, London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1985, pp. 89-91.

30. C. Isings, Roman Glass from Dated Finds, Groningen and Djakarta: J. B. Wolkers, 1957, p. 45.

31. Donald B. Harden in Donald B. Harden and others, Glass of the Caesars, Milan: Olivetti, 1987, p. 157.

32. Caecuban [wine] is strained and dark Falemian is poured into a small glass (2.40.5- 6). At 12.60.9, Martial tells us that the wine of Caecubum is turbid and needs to be filtered.

33. You catch your bowels' load in a golden vessel, Bassus, and you feel no shame. You drink from a glass. It is more expensive, therefore, to crap (1.37.2).

34. Howell [note 1], p. 188.

35. We drink out of glass; you from murra, Ponticus. Why? Lest a transparent goblet reveal two kinds of wine (4.85).

36. Michael Vickers, "Hamilton, Geology, Stone Vases and Taste," Journal of the History of Collections, v. 9, no. 2, 1997, pp. 263-273, esp. pp. 265-267.

37. Whenever you come, we think that Cosmus is on the move and that oil of cinnamon flows streaming from a shaken glass bottle. I do not want you, Gellia, to pride yourself on foreign trash. You know, I think, my dog can smell sweet in the same way (3.55.1-4).

38. Kay [note 29], p. 85.

39. Allan Perley Ball, "A Forerunner of the Advertising Agent," Classical Journal, v. 2, 1906, pp. 165-170, esp. pp. 168-169.

40. Cleopatra, new to the marriage bed and not yet reconciled to her husband, had plunged into a gleaming pool, fleeing embraces. But the water betrayed her hiding place; covered by all of it, she still shone. So lilies enclosed in clear glass are counted; so thin crystal does not let roses hide. I jumped in and, plunged in the pool, snatched reluctant kisses. The clear waters forbade more (4.22). Insilui ("I jumped in") in verse seven indicates that the poet is the husband mentioned in verse one.

41. Here a Castalian spring shows off with its glassy stream, from which they say the nine ladies have often drunk (12.2[3].13-14).

42. O fons Bandusiae splendidior vitro: O spring at Bandusia, more brilliant than glass (Carm. 3.13.1).

43. Caecilius, you think that you are urbane. Believe me, you are not. What, then? A home-born slave, just like a hawker from Trastevere, who barters pale sulfur for broken glass (1.41.1-5).

44. Howell [note 1], p. 193.

45. Here ripe Lydian girls are clapping, there cymbals and bells from Cadiz, there Syrian troops raise a shout, here are plebeians from the theater and those who exchange sulfur for broken glass.

46. Edwin Post, Selected Epigrams of Martial, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967, p. 21. This is a reprint of the original (1908) edition, published by Ginn and Company.

47. H. J. Leon, "Sulphur for Broken Glass," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, v. 72, 1941, pp. 233-236, esp. p. 236.

48. W. R. Smyth, " Statius, Silvae 1.6.73-4 and Martial 1.41.3-5," Classical Revue, v. 61, 1947, pp. 46-47.

49. Howell [note 1], p. 194; George W. M. Harrison, "Martial 1.41: Sulphur and Glass," Classical Quarterly, v. 37, 1987, pp. 203-207, esp. p. 204.

50. The sayings of home-born slaves, filthy abuse, and the foul insults of a hawker's tongue, such as a dealer in broken Vatinians would not want to buy for a sulfur match, a certain anonymous poet scatters abroad, and would make them appear as mine (10.3. 1-6).

51. Vatinian cups. Receive a cup, a cheap memento of the cobbler Vatinius, but that nose [i.e., Vatinius's] was longer (14.96).

52. You will empty a cracked cup with four nozzles that takes its name from a Beneventan cobbler and craves sulfur for its broken glass (5.46-48).

53. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, s.v. "Vatinianus."

54. E.g., Harden and others [note 31], p. 172, no. 93.

55. Lest your orchard from Cilicia grow wan and dread the winter, and too keen an air nip the tender grove, windowpanes facing the wintry south winds admit the clear suns and unadulterated daylight (8. 14. 1-4). D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Martial, Epigrams, Volume II, The Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press, 1993, p. 170) suggested that the "orchard from Cilicia" refers to saffron.

56. T. Haevernick and P. Hahn-Weinheimer, " Untersuchungen römischer Fenstergläser," Saalburg Jahrbuch, v. 14, 1955, pp. 65-73; D. B. Harden, "Domestic Window Glass: Roman, Saxon and Medieval," in Studies in Building History. Essays in Recognition of the Work of B.H. St. J. O'Neil, ed. E. M. Jope, London: Odhams Press Ltd., 1961 , pp. 39-63.

57. Axel von Saldern, Ancient and Byzantine Glass from Sardis, Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, Monograph no. 6, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 91-92.

58. He who has seen the orchards of the king of Corcyra will prefer the country inside your city mansion, Entellus. Lest envious winter bite the purple clusters and chill frost devour the gifts of Bacchus, the vintage lives enclosed in transparent glass and the blooming grape is covered but not concealed (8.68.1-6).

59. 19.64.

60. And having complained that crystal vessels were spoiled by a little glass, he marked and set aside 10 murrhines (9.59.13-14).

61. 37.29. The translation is that of D. E. Eichholz, Pliny, Natural History, with an English Translation in Ten Volumes, The Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press and William Heinemann, 1962, v. l 0, p. 185. The same sentence is rendered somewhat differently by Michael Vickers: "Today we have cups and vessels of glass that rival those of crystal: but it is extraordinary that, notwithstanding the resemblance, glass cups have not lowered the price of crystal [cups] but have rather caused them to increase in price" (M. Vickers, "Rock Crystal: The Key to Cut Glass and Diatreta in Persia and Rome," Journal of Roman Archaeology, v. 9, 1996, pp. 48- 65; the translation is on page 48). The passage in question is: "mire his ad similitudinem accessere vitrea, sed prodigii modo, ut suum pretium auxerint, crystalli non deminuerint."

62. Crystal [cups]. So long as you are afraid of breaking them, you will break crystal cups; hands too careless and too anxious alike make mistakes (14.111).

63. Fidentinus, there is one page of yours in my little book, but it is marked with the sure likeness of its owner and it exposes "your" poems to disgrace as an obvious theft.... In the same way, pots from Arretium degrade crystal vessels (1.53.1-3 and 6).

64. Howell [note 1], pp. 230-235.

65. While the shipment from the Nile is bringing you crystal, accept cups from the Circus Flaminius. Are they more "brave" or are those who send such presents? But cheap vessels have their uses: these embossed cups attract no thief, Flaccus, and they are not cracked by water that is too hot (12.74.1-6).

66. Kay [note 29], p. 130.

67. Nor that only large crystal [cups] be rubbed by my lips or my Falernian [wine] blacken snow (9.22.7-8).

68. And when you are drunk you break crystal with hot Falernian (9.73.5).

69. Oh, the power of diatreta and five long-haired slaves! When he was poor, Aper was not thirsty (12.70.9-10).

Published on June 14, 2013

David Whitehouse, Senior Scholar
David Whitehouse (1941-2013) joined The Corning Museum of Glass in 1984 as chief curator. He was named deputy director of collections in 1987, was promoted to deputy director of the Museum in 1988, and became director in 1992. He was appointed to...