Glass bowl

From excavations at Cumae, Italy
Probably made in the Persian Empire around 350 BC

This glass drinking vessel was made by slumping a preformed disc into a negative form (mould). The form was rotated while the glass was forced downwards with a tool, to fill the form completely. When cold, the glass was ground and a design cut on the lower part: eight petals in relief and eight in intaglio. Finally the vessel was polished all over.

The Greeks had a name for glass that signified 'transparency' or 'clarity'. It could apply to this glass dish and to others of this series of elegant and highly polished bowls of greenish, or completely clear glass with cut decoration. They were made in the Persian Empire in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and mirror Persian vessels of silver and bronze in their shapes and decoration. The glass versions were highly prized, and were distributed throughout western Asia and the Mediterranean. Some may have been made in the western provinces of the Persian Empire in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). This piece is reported to come from Cumae in southern Italy, (from the mid-nineteenth century excavations of the Count of Syracuse) which would make it one of the few examples found outside the Persian Empire. Their use in Persia is, however, attested by the Greek playwright Aristophanes, who in The Acharnians (about 425 BC) tells of Athenian ambassadors at the court of the Great King of Persia drinking from vessels of clear glass.

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More information


H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass-1, 2nd paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

V. Tatton-Brown and W. Gudenrath, Catalogue of Greek and Roman g (London, The British Museum Press, forthcoming)

D.B. Harden and others, The British Museum: masterpiec (London, 1968)

D. Barag, Catalogue of Western Asiatic g (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


Diameter: 17.400 cm
Height: 3.900 cm

Museum number

GR 1870.6-6.7


Bequeathed by Felix Slade


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