Roman World 800 BC – AD 324
Case 12: Rome: wealth & empire 44 BC- AD 337
From about 500 BC, the small, central Italian state of Rome grew within just a few centuries into a great imperial power. Some individuals became personally wealthy through the expansion of Rome – either directly from the fruits of conquest, or indirectly from the business opportunities the empire offered. Using costly materials such as coloured marble to decorate the house was a way of displaying this wealth, and showed an ability to gather material from far and wide.
Images of Imperial Power
Within the Roman empire, many different languages were spoken, and the majority of people could not read or write. This meant that images, more easily understood than words, were extremely important in transmitting values and messages across the whole empire. Roman emperors deliberately used their official portraits in this way, most importantly to assert their right to succeed the previous emperor. Imperial portraits could be large statues set up in public places all over the Roman empire, but small-scale, portable images also played a crucial part.
Glass-making technology was already long established in the Greek bronze age, but it was in the Roman period that glass tableware became commonly used and experimentation with different glass-making techniques became widespread. Glass blowing was invented in 1st century BC and elaborate decoration was ever more popular. Gallery 21 Guide: Decorative Effects