Glass has been used as a form of artistic expression for approximately 3,5000 years. First appearing in the form of small beads in Mesopotamia, glass was soon shaped around preformed cores of earth to make hollow vases. During the middle of the first century B.C.E, a process for blowing glass into a variety of shapes was invented, probably along the Levantine coast. This process revolutionized the glass industry and created the basis for the mass production of glass vessels during the Roman era. With the blowing technique established, glass became a desirable and inexpensive commodity, available in diverse colors and decorative enhancements, and glass had the unique quality of allowing the contents of a vessel to be seen through its walls.
Roman glass centers are known to have existed in nearly every quarter of the Mediterranean and beyond, from Syria to France and Germany and from Egypt to Greece, and Italy. A few glassworkers signed their works, and a number must have moved from one center to another, meeting the demand for fragile objects of art that did not travel well.