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Introduction If you were

Introduction If you were to ask anyone to describe a Roman villa at some point they would mention a mosaic floor. An idea the Romans took from the Greeks and expanded on it until it was so pervasive that it was something that is seen all over the Empire. They can be found not only in the high class villas and palaces but also in other buildings such as public bath houses, offices and street food bars. We see the work involved. The thousands upon thousands of tesserae (mosaic tiles) set. What else can we see? What else can these decorated floors tell us about their makers and about the people they were made for? Hopefully, by the end of this short guide, you will understand more about one of the most iconic decorative crafts of the ancient Roman Empire. Lawrence Payne 2017 5

Timeline 5th BCE Greece 3rd BCE Greece 1st BCE Greece & Rome 1st - 2nd CE Mosaics spread throughout the Roman Empire 4th - 6th CE Pebble mosaics in Greece - high class villas, palaces Cut stone begins to be used with the pebbles. Gradually, all cut stone is used. The cut stone mosaics become finer, the tesserae smaller. Then begins the Hellenistic style of mosaics, literally ‘Paintings in stone’. The Romans begin importing Greek mosaics and craftsmen. Demand is created for them. Still the Hellenistic style in the main. The golden age of Roman mosaics. Tesserae become larger, 8mm - 12mm (⅜”) and floor mosaics trickle down to many other levels of society. The Roman Empire expands which means more buildings needing mosaic floors. Their building technology improves which means bigger buildings creating even more demand. Mosaics are not just for the palaces and high class villas but also bathhouses, street cafes, business offices. The Roman Empire is fragmenting. Christianity is on the ascendancy. The mosaics begin to move from the floors to the walls with the material being used, changing from stone to glass. Opus Sectile (larger cut shapes of stone) is then mostly used for floors from the 6th CE. 6

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