A Roman oil bottle (aryballos) with a bronze chain dated to the 1st-2nd century AD as well as strigil set on a ring dated to the 1st century AD.

One should not bring the bath oils to the public baths in a glass container as these can break and cause injury. (Derekh Erezt Rabbah ~ 160 – 220 CE)

The above advice by the Jewish scholar was, probably, not so much followed. The glass container undoubtedly referred to the glass aryballoi. Exactly that type of container was frequently used in the Roman thermal baths like the one in Bath (UK), see photo. The word thermal stems from thermos, meaning warm. Thermal baths were complexes with warm and cold baths more or less like our modern saunas or baths. Massages were also available perhaps using the (fragrant) oils brought from home. The baths were quite important to the Romans. These were not only facilities to get writ of the dirt and grime but, also meeting points for discussions, making deals, or debating politics. The baths played an important social and business role. Large complexes have been unearthed like the one in Heerlen in the Netherlands. The largest one in the Low Lands.

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

The aryballos was during Roman times an inseparable accoutrement for the visitors to the baths. She or he carried the aryballos from home with a small attached handle or with i.e. a bronze chain and stopper. Entering the baths one would at first go to the apodyteria, the respective changerooms for female and male visitors. The smaller baths usually had only one apodyterium and used different opening hours for females and males. The clothes were nicely stored away and the visitor went to the caldarium. A space with a temperature of approx. 40º C. and a humidity of around 80%. Just like our nowadays sauna’s.

The plunge pool was called the alveus. From there one went to the sudatorium, the sweat room. Just like in modern times. From there one could go to the tepidarium, a room with a moderate temperature. One could also see the masseur handing him the aryballos with the fragrant oils brought from home which could be applied.

The masseur would disperse some sand over the oily body followed by cleansing using a strigil, a scraper made of bronze, steel to finish the cleansing process. The body got a nice smell from the applied oils. To finish off one visited the frigidarium, the cold room. There was enough time in the whole

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESDCF 1.0

process to socialize. One would get dressed again and go her or his way. This cleansing ritual was followed for quite some centuries and ended somewhere in the 4th century CE, probably due to the influence of Christianity.

The thermal baths, like the one in Heerlen, were often related to the Roman fortifications. Those combined facilities often lead to larger settlements and thriving communities. The presence of troops, the fortifications and the security accommodated trade and the development of agriculture and the likes thereof. During the for centuries existing baths in Coriovallum, Heerlen, many a thousand aryballoi have been used by the visitors to the baths. Without a doubt many aryballoi went to pieces, as not all the visitors followed the wise words of Rabbah. However, fortunately many were saved as the happy collectors can attest. As the aryballoi had also a kind of “show-off” function all kinds of forms and shapes developed.

The story behind the aryballos.

No known glass form from antiquity equals this flask or it should be the oinochoe, a pitcher, sometimes with a so-called cloverleaf spout. The earliest examples of aryballoi go back to the Egypt of the 18th dynasty (1550 – 1292 BCE). The term aryballos was originally used for a ceramic spherical oil jar as of the 7th century BCE. The originally Greek term kept on being used when in the Greek and Hellenistic period the jars were formed thru the glass forming technique called core forming. The description aryballos becomes a generic term for spherical formed (bath) oil containers in Roman times. However, a Roman aryballos can also get different forms and shapes, like semi-circular, squat, bi-conical, or even hexagonal. In all cases these containers are called ampulla olearia, or aryballos.

The early free blown examples come into existence in the 1st century CE from glass production centers in the Eastern Mediterranean region in the coastal areas of Syria and Palestine. These can be recognized by their relatively long necks and handles made of a glass thread in a contrasting color. As far as known there are almost no intact objects or fragments unearthed in the Syrian-Palestine region. The assumption is therefore that the mono-, bicolored and polychrome aryballoi were made for export to the other areas in the Roman empire which were dotted with thermal baths. In that early period, one should mainly think of the settlements and cities around the Dalmatian coast. That’s also the area where finds have been reported of early type aryballoi especially the polychrome ones. The same can be said for Northern Italy and the bordering areas, for Switzerland, Vindonissa and Locarno, Pompei, the Aegean area, the Crimea and other areas in Asia-Minor. From this one could conclude that in Northern Italy and neighboring regions manufacturing centers were active producing at least the polychrome variation of the early aryballoi.

One could postulate that those manufacturing centers could very well have been created by Syrian immigrants during the first half of the 1st century CE. Immigration is of all times. These colorful variants were created let’s say from the years 20 to 30 of the 1st century with the summit around 50 CE. This production would rather quickly seize around 70 CE after which period hardly any polychrome glass was produced. That could very well have been caused by the invention of the metal blow pipe and the very much simplified methods in glass working and a form of standardization thereof. It’s also quite possible that the polychrome glass got out of fashion. Yes, all times have times so also in that period one could steal the show with something new like a “bling” aryballos.

The thermal baths played also an important role in the day to day doings of the people in the times of the Roman Empire. Sand was a cleansing medium in the baths but is also the main ingredient for making glass. The baths also functioned as a kind of neighborhood center were people could gossip, exchange the most recent news, or play board games. Not to say that plots could be developed around politics or politicians. Who says that the baths didn’t play a role in many plots around the impeachment of a reigning emperor or the succession thereof? One sees what a role small objects like aryballoi can have in history.

ARYBALLOS WITH CHAIN AND STOPPER

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

Date: Second half of 1st – early 2nd century, Eastern Mediterranean, probably Asia Minor

Size: ↑7.3 cm| (body) ø 7.0 cm | Weight 188 g Technique: Free blown, handles and bronze acc. applied

Classification: Sorokina 1987: fig. 1-8 (rim), type C6 (handles) Morin-Jean 1977: handles θ| Isings 1957: form 61

Condition: Perfect condition, small part of rim restored

Description: Transparent bluish-green glass aryballos, globular body, round base and short neck; triangle-shaped mouth, rim folded outward, downward, upward and inward. Two glass handles applied to the shoulder, drawn up and down forming a circular hole; handles attached to the shoulder again by using a hand-held tool; bronze looped carrying handle in form of inverted U; the handle attached to two bronze rings which pass through the two glass handles. The bronze rings made by bending length of         wire into circle held in place by twisting the overlapping ends. A bronze chain attached to one of the rings and connected to a bronze stopper. No pontil mark. Exceedingly rare.

Remark: Greek and Roman athletes carried aryballoi filled with oil to clean their bodies after the exercises by applying the oil together with fine sand on their skin to absorb the dirt and then scraping it with a strigil.

Provenance: Acquired from the Collection C. A. Hessing – Laren (NL) on the 25 May 1998, coll. no. 74 Private collection Axel Weber Cologne, acquired in the 1970s Private collection Rhineland

Published: Glass Circle News, Issue 133, Vol. 36 no. 3, 2013 Vormen uit Vuur no. 220 – 2013, p. 17, Romeins Glas uit particulier bezit, J. van der Groen & H. van Rossum 2011, p. 96, De Oude Flesch, 2011 no. 124 p. 14

Published: Newspaper De Telegraaf, 27 May 2011, p. T13, Magazine Origine (NL) no. 6, January – February 1997

Exhibited: Thermenmuseum Heerlen (NL), Romeins Glas, geleend uit particulier bezit, exp. 29 April – 28 August 2011

Museum: Simon van Gijn Dordrecht (NL), February 2004, Allard Pierson Museum A’dam (NL), de Kunst van het Vuur, 2001, ill. no. 61, cat. no. 44, 17 May – 16 September 2001

References: Les Verres Antiques du Musée du Louvre II, V. Arveiller – Dulong & M.D. Nenna 2005 no. Gallo-Romeins Museum at Tongeren (B) for an identical example, not described, A Collection of Ancient Glass 500 BC – 500 AD, P.L.W. Arts 2000 n Christie’s London 3 July 1996 lot 37, Verres Antiques et de l’Islam, Ancienne Collection de Monsieur D(emeulenaere) Juin 1985 lot 223

HEXAGONAL AMPULLA OLEARIA OR ARYBALLOS

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

Date: Second half of 1st – early 2nd century A.D.| Found in Cologne Size: ↑11.8 cm | ø 4.7 cm|Weight 132 g

Technique: Mold-blown, by using a dip-mold; body optically blown; neck and mouth free blown; handles applied

Classification: Sorokina 1987: type A D8 | Morin-Jean 1977: Form 33D, fig. 57, handles type ζ Kisa 1908: Band II nr. 2, p. 317 for the type of the handles

Condition: Intact with rest of original substance, perfect condition and almost unique

Description: A transparent bluish-green hexagonal bottle. Tapering body, mouth-form with small opening and triangular hollow rim. Flattened base, no pontil mark. Two opposed handles applied to the shoulder, drawn up to top-part of neck and pulled down    forming a hole. Two bronze rings, made by bending length of wire into circle held in place by twisting the overlapping ends, the rings pass through the two glass handles. Bronze looped carrying handle in form of an omega (Ώ) attached to the two bronze rings by folding the end. Marks of a ‘gripper’ to complete the bottle are still visible.

Remarks: An aryballos with a hexagonal body in this shape and including the original bronze attributes is exceedingly rare. At the base in white paint R22.

Provenance: Acquired from the Collection C.A. Hessing – Laren (NL) on the 26 October 1998, coll. no. 75, Private collection Axel Weber Cologne, prior to 1995 Formerly part of the Wünnenberg collection, Germany (found in Cologne)

Published: Romeins Glas uit particulier bezit, J. v.d. Groen & H. van Rossum 20 De Oude Flesch, no. 121, 2010, p. 23 Antiek Glas, de Kunst van het Vuur, (17 May – 16 September 2001) R. van Beek no. 110 Magazine Origine (NL) no. 6, January – February 1997

Exhibited: Thermenmuseum Heerlen (NL), Romeins Glas, geleend uit particulier bezit, exp. no. 173, 29 April – 28 August 2011 Museum,Simon van Gijn Dordrecht (NL), February 2004, Allard Pierson Museum Amsterdam (NL), de Kunst van het Vuur, exp. no. 110, 17 May – 16 September 2001

References: Verrerie d´Epoque Romaine, Collection des Musées Départementaux de Seine Maritime, G. Sennequier 1985 no. 214

La Verrerie de l’Epogue Romaine, au Musée d’Histoire et d’Art-Luxembourg,  E. Wilhelm 1979 no.90, De Romeinse Glasverzameling, M. Vanderhoeven 1962 no. 73, Römisches geformtes Glas in Köln, Band VI, F. Fremersdorf 1961 Tafel 121. nos. N 391 & 921, Verres Romains des Musées Curtius et du Verre a Liège, M. Vanderhoeven 1961, 125-126

SET OF TWO BRONZE STRIGILS WITH CARRYING RING

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESDCF 1.0ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESDCF 1.0

1st century A.D. | Roman Empire Size↑of the whole set when hanging on the ring circa 26.5 cm; height of the strigils circa 19.5 cm | ø of the ring circa 8.5 cm | Weight of the whole set 100 g Technique: Embossed bronze Classification: Giovannini & Maggi type D for the mark or stamp and no. 1 for the position of the mark.

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

Description: A set of two strigils, connected by an original bronze carrying ring. Each strigil with a long and hollow rounded knife-blade, sharp on the edges to scrape the skin and approximately in the middle of the knife-blade bent at right angles. The open-worked handle of more massive bronze attached to the knife-blade. The strigils in this set are decorated by a series of lines along the scrapers, and have markings on the inside of the handles.

Condition: Intact with a very attractive patina, showing shades of green, red-brown and blue (traces of azurite); some incrustation and surface wear; some roughness at the ring and the tip of one of the scrapers. An exceedingly special set, rarely seen on the market.

Remarks: A strigil was a body scraper, used in antiquity to clean the body. Athletes’ would apply a mixture of low-grade olive oil and pumice to their bodies before competing or exercising, which they did completely naked. Coating the bodies in oil was done to  avoid dirt from getting into the pores of the skin, but possibly also to avoid sunburn.  Afterwards they used strigils to scrape off the oil as well as the sand and dirt which had stuck to it during the contest. But not only athletes used strigils, everybody who          wanted to clean his body could use one.

Strigils: were made in different sizes and shapes to suit different parts of the body; sets were sometimes attached to a chain or ring, which went round the wrist for convenience in carrying, and could be combined with an aryballos for the oil like the two published ones. Such sets can also be found in major museums like the British Museum London (inv. no. GR 1868, 0105.46) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession number 40.59a-e). To use a strigil, the ring could be opened to take out one scraper.

Provenance: With Alexander Ancient Art, Voorschoten (NL) 7 March 2014, inv. no. C0725 Dutch Private collection C.B.Christie’s London, auction 8 April 1998 lot 326

Published: Alexander Ancient Art, catalogue 2013 Literature & Marchi di fabbrica su strigili ad Aquileia’, in Epigrafia della produzione e della  

References: distribuzione. Actes de la VIIe rencontre Franco-Italienne sur l’épigraphie du monde romain.

Rome: Ecole francaise de Rome, pp. 609-643, E. Giovannini & P. Maggi Games for the Gods. The Greek Athlete and the Olympic Spirit (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Publications, 2004), J. Herrmann & C. Kondoleon, p. 132 The Ancient Olympic Games (London, British Museum Press, 1999), J. Swadding, p. 48 with illustrati Argenti a Pompei, P. G. Guzzo nos. 134 & 135 for an identical set of two (silver) strigils with carrying ring

Different Forms of Aryballoi

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMESARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

Allaire Collection of Aryballoi

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Roman Bathhouse (Thermae) in Bath (UK)

ARYBALLOÏ and the BATH RITUALS during ROMAN TIMES

The room shown above is to store the clothes nicely away and other one of the bath’s in the Thermae, complex