Roman mosaics/medieval mosaics -
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Roman mosaics/medieval mosaics

Vatican mosaic
People dancing from the Vatican Museum

If you want to get fancy, you can get stones in a lot of different colors, including colored glass so you can get just the colors you want. And you can make the stones very small, so you can make more detailed pictures. Many Roman houses for rich people, especially from the later part of the Roman Empire, around 300 AD, have these fancier mosaics. They may have been a cheaper, or more lasting, way to imitate the Persian carpets that rich Sassanians and Sogdians were putting on their floors about the same time.

mosaic from byzantium
Around the time that people were beginning to build big Christian churches, in the 300s AD, they also began to decorate the walls of these churches with mosaics. These wall mosaics generally have gold backgrounds (not really gold, but gold-colored glass). In the Roman Empire, in what's now Greece and Turkey, people kept on making these church mosaics right up to the 1400s, and people in Europe also decorated churches with mosaics until about 1300 AD.

Bibliography and further reading:

Mosaics (Step-By-Step Children's Crafts Series), by Michelle Powell (2001). How to make your own mosaics using easily available materials, for kids.

Ancient Mosaics, by Roger Ling (1998). A look not only at the mosaics themselves, but also why people made them, who made them, and how.

What is a Mosaic?
Fresco painting
Roman houses home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 22 February, 2017