Featured Alexandria, Egypt - The Land of Glass ?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Al Kowsky, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Alexandria, Egypt was the 2nd most important city in the Roman Empire for a variety of reasons. Most of us are well aware of the long tradition of Alexandrian coinage going back to Ptolemy I, but how many of us are aware of the long tradition of glass making from that city that goes back nearly 4,000 years o_O? Where was the 1st crystal clear glass made? That mystery was finally put to rest by careful chemical analysis, it was Alexandria, Egypt :jawdrop:, as described in an article by the New York times, see link below.


    In 1987 I hosted a class I was teaching at the Rochester Museum & Science Center to see a special exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass, GLASS of the CAESARS, the most important exhibition of Roman glass ever assembled. The examples of Roman glass were breathtaking to say the least :rolleyes:. The two most important pieces are pictured below.

    This magnificent piece of cameo glass was made in Alexandria, circa AD 50. While on display at the British Museum in 1845, it was smashed by a mad drunk :eek:! It has since been restored twice :D.

    Lycurgus Cup.jpg This treasure, also in the British Museum, is considered the most important piece of glass in all antiquity, circa AD 4th century. Not only is it a marvel of glyptic art, but it's an astonishing piece of chemistry. Minute particles of gold were added to the mix of glass giving it the unusual property of being viewed differently with transmitted light and reflected light, like the gemstone Alexandrite. Historians believe the block of dichroic glass was made in Alxandria, and shipped to Rome where it was later carved. For a long time it was believed that this piece of glass was looted from the tomb of Alexander Severus. Historians today cast doubt on that provenance :smuggrin:.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
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  3. Robert Ransom

    Robert Ransom Well-Known Member

    Absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.
  4. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    Libyan Desert Glass may have had some influence.

  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Is this piece intact or considerably restored?
  6. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Pretty amazing pieces. They are still blowing glass in Alexandria. I saw a number of excellent Islamic-style pieces in the Souqs there.
  7. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    The Lycurgus cup is intact as found, however, the metal mounts were added later.
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  8. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    Wow! What beautiful objects! And we think are technology today is so advanced.
  9. OutsiderSubtype

    OutsiderSubtype Active Member

    Nero is supposed to have loved expensive glassware and cups. He paid a million sesterces for one that was probably made of fluorspar from Persia.

    - From Michael Grant's biography of Nero.

    So maybe coins of Nero would be appropriate in this thread.
    Marsyas Mike and Broucheion like this.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Nero from Alexandria:

    Type: Billon Tetradrachm, 25mm 12.73 grams

    Obverse: NERW KLAY KAIS SEB GER, Radiate crowned head facing right.

    Reverse: AVTO-KRA, Draped bust of Egyptian god Serapis facing right, wearing Kalathos (basket) on head, date LI (year 10)

    Reference: Milne 222, Koln 160, RPC 5274, BMCGr 156: Sear 2001.

  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    That's an interesting tidbit from history :D. Diocletian also included Alexandrian glassware in his Edict of Maximum Prices :).
  12. OutsiderSubtype

    OutsiderSubtype Active Member

    Good call! Here's a SAC MON VRB reminding you to pay no more than the law allows for your cups!

    Diocletian. 303-305 CE. AE Follis. 27mm, 9.9g. Rome mint, first officina. Obverse: IMP C DIOCLETIANVS P F AVG. Laureate head of Diocletian right. Reverse: SAC MON VRB AVGG ET CAESS NN. Moneta standing left, holding scales in her right hand and a cornucopia in her left hand. R crescent P in exergue. RIC VI Rome 111a, Cohen VI 434, SRCV IV 12814.

    From Forum Ancient Coins, ex Errett Bishop Collection.
  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    ancientone, That's a stunning piece of gold-work with cloisonne & precious stones :jawdrop:. The Alexandrian artists invented the cloisonne technique too, not surprisingly :smuggrin:.
  14. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    R.P. The Egyptians were light-years ahead of all the other ancient cultures :cool:.
  15. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi All,

    Here is an Alexandrian glass charm/pendant that I never finished cataloging. It's ex Colosseum Coin Exchange, Inc (NJ, USA). Bought sometime in the 1990s.


    - Broucheion

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  16. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Broucheion, That's an excellent memento from ancient Alexandria that a traveling tourist would have come home with :D. The sites of ancient Egypt must have impressed Roman tourists, & what better souvenir to come home with than a piece of Alexandrian glass :happy:. The very wealthy tourist could splurge & buy a piece of jewelry made from murrine glass, the most difficult, time consuming, & expensive technique used for glass jewelry. The example pictured below of a satyr head was made circa 1st cen. BC - AD 1st cen., & measures only 1.0 inch long. It was auctioned by Christie's in NYC for $41,000.00 :jawdrop:!

    Murrine fragment of satyr, Christie's.jpg

    The murrine glass technique was lost for centuries & revived only in the mid 19th century by Venetian glass artists. The scent bottle pictured below was made in Venice circa 1860 & measures 3 in. long.

    Venetian Scent Bottle, 19th Cen., Ruby Lane.png

    Some modern glass artists are using this technique & their work is expensive. I bought the paperweight pictured below at auction made by Mike Hunter, & he has some murrine glass canes in this piece. The center cane depicts Elizabeth Taylor, & a Marilyn Monroe cane can be seen near the top.

  17. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    What a great post. Thank you.

    The glass making of the ancients is underappreciated. Your example above of the Lycurgus cup (which may not have been a cup at all) is just one example. Thank you, again.

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
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  18. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Bart9349, Many thanks for the wonderful podcast :D! The 1st video with the narrative of the Lycurgus Myth gives this thread a depth I never expected :shame:. It's great to see ancient coin collectors with an interest in ancient history that expands well beyond numismatics.
    DonnaML likes this.
  19. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Beautiful and informative. I had never seen those marvels before, Thxs

  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Somewhere I read that it’s thought that putting wine in the cup would lead to even more color changes. However no archaeologists apparently wanted to risk it
  21. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    If a dark red or purple wine were poured in the cup that prevented light from passing thru the glass would most likely stay a solid green color. If a clear or lightly colored wine was poured in the cup the glass could still turn red if light passed thru it. The Lycurgus Cup like all other glass would be impervious to the acids in the wine.
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