Roman Mosaics: History, Facts & Examples

Roman Mosaics: History, Facts & Examples
Coming up next: The Delian League of Ancient Greece: Definition & Overview

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Roman Mosaics
  • 0:51 Techniques
  • 1:32 Types
  • 2:22 Topics
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, we will explore the history, styles, subjects, and techniques of Roman mosaics to help us better understand Ancient Roman culture, art, and interior decorating.

Roman Mosaics

A mosaic is a piece of art created by assembling small pieces of colored glass, ceramic, stone, or other materials into an image. Mosaics became a very popular art form during the time of the Roman Empire, although they were used in Italy both before and after this period. Roman mosaics appeared on floors in houses as early as the 2nd century BCE. Romans used mosaics to decorate floors and walls in homes and temples. They were a complex and beautiful art that often indicated the importance of a place or the wealth of a homeowner. Roman mosaics, especially floor mosaics, are found all across what was once the Roman Empire, which indicates how popular the art form was back then.

Techniques

Mosaics are created with small pieces of material, usually glass or stone. An individual tile of mosaic materials is called a tessera or tesserae if pluralized. Originally, naturally small, colorful stones were used for tesserae, but the ancient Romans began the practice of cutting large panels of stones into tesserae to ensure the same shape and size of each piece. Marble and limestone were two of the most commonly used stones because they are soft, break easily into predictable shapes, and naturally appear in a variety of colors. Later, more tesserae were made from painted or colored glass as well.

Types

Roman mosaics, which probably evolved from Greek art, can be categorized into two types: opus vermiculatum and opus tessellatum. Opus vermiculatum used only tesserae of 4 millimeters or less, allowing the artists to create lots of detail and make a mosaic that looks almost like a painting. Since this was expensive and time consuming, sometimes only small panels of opus vermiculatum, called emblemata, would be inserted into a mosaic for greater detail of specific portions. The more common technique, opus tessellatum, used larger tesserae of varying sizes, which limited the amount of detail that was possible, but they were cheaper to make.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support