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AbstractCage cups or Diatreta are ancient Roman glass vessels produced by creating a thick blown blank of glass that, once cooled down, is taken to a glass cutter or diatretarii. The latter would cut and carve away most of the glass leaving a transparent vessel inside and an open-work decoration separated through thin posts of glass. The work is very delicate and exclusive, produced within limited space in time with no record of similar vessels until the late 1800 (Donald B. Harden & Toynbee 1959, p.181). Many of these glass objects have good-will inscriptions or decorations that express the importance of drinking. As for their provenance, most –when found in context- have been found in pagan burials. Nevertheless some fragments have been found in Christian environments or with Christian motifs like the Szekszárd cup. The location of these finds is mostly in the Rhine area –northern Empire, when Milan was one of its capitals (Aquaro 2004)- but the actual extent of finds expand throughout the 4th century extent of the Roman Empire. Considering their typological analysis there are basically two types, beaker and bowl. Beakers are considered drinking vessels as they either display a legend or a mythological reference to drink or wine. Whereas a general consensus agrees that open bowl-form cups were hanging lamps (Whitehouse 1988, p.28) since the 1986 find of a diatreta bowl with copper alloy hanging attachments. It is clear these were luxury objects to be used in special occasions and spaces. The aim of this paper is to understand the space were socialisation and drinking took place and the importance of luxurious objects to adorn, display and use. The paper will also put forward the idea that the beaker shaped diatreta vessels, usually considered for drinking, could have been lamps that encouraged drinking and good will to the guests. This paper is structured to first consider an introduction to late luxury Roman glass and then analysing the typological shape of all, or most of the diatreta currently known; secondly, through assessment by the means of comparison, analyse the writings or decorations the vessels were endowed with. Thirdly, by describing and understanding the people and the space were these vessels would have been used, emphasise the beauty of illuminating such spaces with these vessels. According to Herodotus in his historical investigation –5th century-, dress habits and food regime are elements of extreme importance to understand a people (Caporusso et al. 2011, p.12). This idea is not only valid for Herodotus’ time but it is something anthropology uses time and again to explain different aspects in people’s way of life. Through food and its environment, the dining space, this paper will aim to put the cage cups into a social context in order to give emphasis to the hypothesis of light versus wine.
Citationarnevale, V. (2015) Diatreta Cups, Light in Roman Dining Spaces. In: ArchTheo '15 Theory and History of Architecture'conference proceedings.DAKAM Publishing, Isambul. pp 478-487
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