Athenaeus (2) Mechanicus is the named author of a surviving treatise On Machines; military ones, for use in siege-warfare. The work is addressed to a ‘Marcellus,’ and nowadays orthodoxy identifies him with M. Claudius Marcellus, the short-lived (42–23
Short and not always coherent though it is, the On Machines has a two-fold importance. One is in the material mentioned already: Athenaeus and Vitruvius in tandem (together with a middle-Byzantine version of the same material) provide a succinct but useful summary history of military machinery from its beginnings to the early Hellenistic period, highlighting especially the mechanici who served Alexander the Great. But beyond that, Athenaeus offers valuable insights into late-Hellenistic culture, when an educated dilettante felt entitled to make his own contribution to such a technical genre.
Jared T. Benton
Marcus Cetius Faventinus, (3rd–4th cent.
M. Stephen Spurr
Frederick Norman Pryce and Michael Vickers
Glass came of age during the Roman period. Within the ancient world it had been used from the mid-second millennium
Vessels, windows and other items spread widely throughout the empire and beyond, and to all levels of society. Over the next 400 years, how the material was used changed with time and place as the various regional industries responded to the needs and preferences of their communities.
This was a major high-temperature industry which would have made considerable demands on resources such as fuel, but there are still many things that are unknown about it. Where, for example, was the glass itself made? Waste from secondary workshops producing vessels is regularly encountered, but evidence for the primary production is extremely rare. This has led to considerable debate, with competing models being proposed. Glass is not a material where scientific techniques such as those used to provenance pottery have proved very helpful. The composition of Roman glass is extremely uniform throughout the empire, and again there has been much debate about why this might be. Of late, some useful advances have started to be made in approaching these questions, and this may eventually disentangle what was going on.
The study of Roman glass provides a unique window into the past. Through it the impact of new technologies and materials can be seen, as well as the choices people made about what was useful in their lives—all against the background of some of the most beautiful and skilful vessels ever made.
Oliver Davies and David William John Gill
Donald Emrys Strong and Hazel Dodge
M. Stephen Spurr
The polychromy of Greek and Etrusco-Roman architecture comprises the chromatic effects and surface treatments of exterior façades and roofs, as well as interior floors, walls, and ceilings. Colour and/or contrasts of light and shadow are the basis for all architectural ornamentation. The practice is characterized by a large variety of materials and techniques, which draw from different genres of the visual arts such as stone, plaster and stucco working, toreutics, tessellation, sculpture, panel painting, terracotta, and glass making. The treatment of architectural surfaces is thus intimately connected to changes in both construction knowledge and building economies, while their visual effects depend on changing architectural forms and designs. Both texts and archaeological remains underline the importance of colour and material as an integral part of ancient architectural design; they play a key role for the sensory and atmospheric experience of architecture and could influence its symbolic meaning.
Despite strong regional traditions and a general lack of standardization, a few overall developments can be pinpointed: a triple colour scheme of dark (black, blue), light (white, cream), and red hues dominated both Archaic Greek and Etrusco-Italic architectural polychromy; its chromatic polarity became fundamental for the Greek Doric order and, as a basic combination, it remained a recurring motif of architectural surfaces into the Roman Imperial periods. During the Greek Classical period, green, yellow, and increasingly, gilding joined the basic colour palette. Late Classical/Hellenistic innovations included illusionistic painting techniques, intermediality (the imitation of one material by means of another), as well as the increase of light and shadow effects. While variation (Greek poikilia) of both colours and materials was a guiding principle, it seems that there were also occasional reductions of polychrome accentuations on exteriors.
Etrusco-Italic and Roman architecture participated in many of these developments, despite its own materiality and designs. On Italic soil, some of the Hellenistic concepts were even brought to entirely new levels of application, especially the achievement of colour effects through an antithetical combination of material colours (coloured marbles, metals), which became a veritable signature of Roman architecture. The concept of variation (Latin varietas) remained fundamentally important, especially for interiors; mono- or bichromatisms were also advanced, along with stark light and shadow contrasts achieved through surface carving and texturing. Rather than specific colour combinations, Late Antique and early Byzantine architecture favored general polychromacity and, in particular, surfaces with light-bearing qualities to create effects of glitter, brilliance, and reflectance; they were seen as a quality of divinity.
Deborah N. Carlson
The Lake Nemi ships were two enormous, palatial houseboats built by the Roman emperor Caligula (r. 37–41