The History of Roman Mosaics

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The History of Roman Mosaics

What Are Mosaics?

A mosaic is an image or picture that is created from assembling small parts of stone or glass, that are flat, come in different colours and are approximately square. Usually placed on the wall or floor, mosaics were used to decorate the interiors of buildings or as decorative art. Mosaics were first used in ancient Iraq in 3000 BC but are most often identified with the Roman Empire who inherited it from their cultural forebears, the Greeks. You can find classic examples of mosaic in the Roman town of Wroxeter in Shropshire.


Roman mosaics came in two different techniques; opus vermiculation which used tiny tesserae (tiles) of less than 4mm in size that allowed very detailed images, and opus tessellation that use larger tesserae. The smaller tesserae were employed in workshops and the larger was used on site.

What Did They Depict?


The polytheistic Roman religion was a popular topic for mosaics in the Roman Empire but became even more prevalent when Christianity gradually took over as state religion in later years.


Art containing entertaining events or famous people was frequent in the mosaics of Roman buildings. Examples of this would include famous battles depicting from Roman triumphs of the past or gladiators fighting other gladiators and animals in events at amphitheatres.


This term is used to describe a modest mosaic that shows a small still life or genre scene. It is typified by slender tesserae created separately and mounted in an important place in the primary panel of the piece.

Cooper & Williams

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By | 2019-05-14T08:37:53+00:00 May 14th, 2019|New Flooring|0 Comments