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Versatile Glass in Tiberius’ Rome

Versatile Glass in Tiberius’ Rome

2023-08-04 22:29:47

Writer: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

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Beachcombing has by no means understood the irrational pleasure of glass. Holding a wine glass in our arms – regardless of the content material – is unquestionably one of many home’s hidden joys and conversely having a chipped glass or one with any line of imperfection is surprisingly irritating. It was whereas considering one such imperfect glass yesterday in Beachcombing’s favorite bistro that the will welled as much as inform the story of the unintentional if non permanent creation of a weird type of glass in Tiberius’ Roman Empire.

The story seems first in Petronius’ Satyricon (51 – early first century AD):

‘Nonetheless, there was an artificer as soon as who made a glass goblet that might not break.  So he was admitted to the Emperor’s presence to supply him his invention; then, on receiving the cup again from the Emperor’s arms, he dashed it down on the ground.  Who so startled because the Emperor? However the man quietly picked up the goblet once more, which was dinted as a vessel of bronze could be.  Then taking a bit of hammer from his pocket, he simply and neatly knocked the goblet into form once more.  This performed, the man thought he was nearly as good as in heaven already, particularly when Emperor stated to him, ‘Does anyone else in addition to your self perceive the manufacture of this glass?’  However, on his replying within the detrimental, Emperor ordered him to be beheaded, as a result of if as soon as the key grew to become recognized, we must always suppose no extra of gold than of a lot dust.’

In fact, it will be straightforward to ignore this story, for the actual fact that it’s so pleasing. However then it seems in Cassius Dio (obit after 229) two centuries later:

About this time one of many largest porticos in Rome started to lean to 1 aspect, and was set upright in a exceptional approach by an architect whose identify nobody is aware of, as a result of Tiberius, jealous of his great achievement, wouldn’t allow it to be entered within the information. This architect, then, no matter his identify might have been, first strengthened the foundations spherical about, in order that they need to not collapse, and wrapped all the remainder of the construction in fleeces and thick clothes, binding it firmly collectively on all sides by way of ropes; then with assistance from many males and windlasses he raised it again to its authentic place. On the time Tiberius each admired and envied him; for the previous motive he honoured him with a gift of cash, and for the latter he expelled him from the town. Later the exile approached him to crave pardon, and whereas doing so purposely let fall a crystal goblet; and although it was bruised ultimately or shattered, but by passing his arms over it he promptly exhibited it complete as soon as extra. For this he hoped to acquire pardon, however as an alternative the emperor put him to dying (57,21).

The story right here is hooked up, fairly than to a generic emperor (as in Petronius) to Tiberius (obit 37 AD) and it has additionally acquired caught up in a extra concerned story about an ingenious architect. But once more there’s the temptation to only disregard this as Imperial metropolitan legend and likewise to write down off as a late conflation a seventh-century variant in Isidores, Etymologies (Tiberius once more). Smoke doesn’t indisputably imply fireplace… In actual fact, in historical past it hardly ever does, particularly if there’s fable within the fireside.

Nonetheless, this may simply be an exception for Pliny the Elder (obit 79 AD), a close to up to date, experiences that within the time of Tiberius, forty years earlier than he introduced out his Pure Historical past, a brand new type of versatile glass was produced that the Emperor did every thing attainable to outlaw, even destroying the workshop of the inventor (‘totam officinam artificis eius abolitam’). It then turns into notably thrilling that the Satyricon predates Pliny: no less than if that work is really Neronian as most students imagine.

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So what was invented within the time of Tiberius? Most students draw back from any direct inquiry mumbling about mould blown glass that was making its presence felt at this date. One scholar recognized to Beachcombing is braver although: ‘Essentially the most convincing clarification of what this versatile glass might have been is glass embellished with designs that resembled these generally embossed in steel’.  It isn’t clear to Beachcombing along with his substandard scientific data why this is able to make glass bendable, anybody keen to elucidate please drop a line: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. The likelihood {that a} Roman had found the key of plastic presumably doesn’t bear desirous about?


23 Feb 2011: Ostrich to the rescue: I are likely to marvel if somebody hadn’t found the key of tempered glass.  In trendy occasions, the Corning company patented the stuff within the Nineteen Thirties,and it was thought of fairly the marvel in its day, simply earlier than plastics got here alongside.  It’s glass that has been shaped into form (e.g., a moulded consuming cup) then slowly heated till it nearly melts, then quickly cooled.  The glass takes on a considerably plastic-like nature.  It received’t dent, however it’s going to bend fairly dramatically then spring again into form, and is very proof against breaking if dropped or struck.  I don’t have any specialised data of Roman glassworking expertise, however I’d need to think about that the heating and cooling cycles have been inside their skills, if somebody had simply thought to experiment. I’m blatantly speculating right here, however I ponder if the half about it being dented then hammered out was a fictional enhancement to an in any other case true story?

2 March 2011: Moonman has an attention-grabbing concept right here. ‘In Corliss’ Archaeological Anomalies: Small Artifacts: Bone, Stone, Metallic Artifacts, Footprints, Excessive Know-how, p. 248,  there are two references to the attainable manufacturing of aluminum up to now.  One is the Tiberius story.  Glass wouldn’t dent, however aluminum would.  The opposite story is a couple of tomb from the Jin Dynasty which had a belt with 4 items of pure aluminum.  Referred to as the Nanjing belt. Different ‘misplaced’ strategies which are claimed (within the Corliss ebook) embrace stone softening within the New World to assemble buildings and their components.  Additionally, the concrete/mortar utilized in historic occasions appeared to last more than present merchandise (9000 years for Jericho lime mortar, 4500 years for Nice Pyramid cement vs. 50 years for contemporary cement).  Some speculate in regards to the “pouring” of some Nice Pyramid blocks utilizing a geopolymer and crushed limestone.  Additionally, historic murrhine vases are imagined to be shaped on this approach as an alternative of shaping a pure stone (the prior technique was talked about historic texts of which I have no idea the reference however are in The Pyramids, Joseph Davidovits, pp., 76, 113, 158, 166)’. Moonman then despatched the related documentation and Seashore has copied it out for basic edification. It appears unattainable but… ‘Though aluminum is the commonest metallic ingredient within the earth’s crust, each of the encyclopedias consulted insisted that’s by no means discovered free in nature. It should be received from its ores by chemical means or, extra generally, by electrochemistry. Accepted historical past claims that it was not till 1825 that H.C. Oersted lastly chemically separated comparatively pure aluminum. Consequently it will be extremely anomalous, if metical aluminum have been discovered to have been accessible in historic occasions. However, two such claims [Tiberius and the Nanjing belt] are herewith catalogued…. [Tiberius story] It’s a nice story that’s maybe apocryphal but in addition probably the primary indication of the invention of a lightweight, silvery steel frequent within the earth’s crust; i.e. aluminum. In a 1903 variety of Data, A. Duboin made the above story sound extra believable: ‘A couple of years after the invention of aluminum, a memorandum from M. Chapelle appeared within the Reviews of the Academy of Sciences, tending to show that by heating a combination of chloride of sodium, clay, and charcoal, a mess of metallic globules are obtained, which might be aluminum.’  Duboin additionally talked about different chemical strategies for successful aluminum from clay. May the Romans workman have by accident have come across one in all these formulation? The Nanjing belt… one other put up, one other day. Thanks, Moonman! BTW Moonman has not been capable of observe down Duboin.

30 Dec 2014: Chris S writes, ‘Out of the blue, studying this, I instantly considered Starlite. It’s a powdery compound that’s flame and warmth retardant. Maurice Ward was the genius behind this miracle materials, however he was so secretive about its chemistry and manufacturing that Starlite died with him in 2011. For a second, I imagined humanity’s descendents rummaging via the detritus of western twenty first century civilization, discovering whispers about this singular compound, and probably twisting it into “… After which Beachcombing the Elder wrote that Maurice Ward was slain by President Barack Thatcher for his creation, for concern of upsetting the order of civilization.” thanks Chris!

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