Roman Mosaics: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Roman mosaics.

  • Roman mosaics were popular in public buildings and homes, and many examples can still be seen today. Mosaics were made from hundreds of small pieces (or tesserae) of coloured stones and gems put together to make a picture.

  • Mosaics were used for different reasons. As well as being used for decoration, they provided a strong surface for walking on, and were also sometimes used as advertisements or signs.

Roman mosaic

  • Mosaics were also waterproof and easy to clean, making them popular in public buildings. They also reflected the light, making rooms seem bright. Mosaics were very popular in Roman bathhouses.
  • People who designed and created Roman mosaics were thought of as craftsmen, rather than artists. They did not usually sign their work or take any credit for it.
  • Mosaics featured geometric designs, as well as other images. Common themes were animals, fighting gladiators, romantic images and scenes from mythology and astronomy.
  • Roman mosaics can be seen in many places in the UK. The British Museum in London has some of the best mosaics. The Roman Museum in Cirencester – which was once an important Roman town – also has an excellent collection of mosaics.
  • The Roman Empire covered a huge area at its height. Well preserved Roman mosaics can still be seen today in many parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • One of the best places to see Roman mosaics is in the city of Pompeii, which was buried under lava in 79 AD. The mosaics are well preserved because the layers of volcanic ash protected them.
  • Romans liked to keep dogs as companions and for protection. Many mosaics in the Roman city of Pompeii had the Latin words for ‘Beware of the Dog’ written into the design.
  • Mosaics were also used on walls and ceilings, although they were not as common as floor mosaics. Wall mosaics were commonly used behind fountains and often had a maritime theme.

What next? Find out more about the Romans by visiting our Romans resources page.

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