Published: May 15, 2018 By

Catalogue Entry Photograph of a clear glass vessel with a round body and a relatively short neck that tapers into a horizontal, disk-shaped mouth, from the side against a neutral gray background.

From the Catalogue of Ancient Glass in the University of Colorado Museum

Gift of H. Medill Sarkisian and Justine Sarkisian Rodriguez (1979)
Transferred to CU Art Museum (2008)
Height: 8.1 cm
Diameter (max.) 7.1 cm
Roman, 3rd century C.E.

Classification: Harden Fabric 3

Description: Wide, flat rim. Cylindrical neck, constricted at its base with abrupt transition to globular body. Small base foot. Greenish yellow inside, otherwise translucent. Blown

Comment: The CU collection contains another example of a Roman sprinkler. This sprinkler is a less elaborate version of such bottles as Hayes 1975, no. 282, and Stern 2001, no. 140, which have faint diagonal ribs, and Fitzwilliam Museum 1978, no. 105a, which has a honeycomb pattern.

Though there is no record as to when or how the museum acquired this piece, it has been part of the collection since at least 1979, as it was exhibited that year by the chemistry department as part of a lecture by Cyril Stanley Smith, a metallurgist and science historian who worked on the Manhattan Project.


The greenish color of this sprinkler was most likely caused by a small amount of iron in the fabric's ingredients. Green tinted glass was manufactured in ancient Rome by including one- to three-percent of iron in the mix of sand and nitrate. These were all mixed and melted in a hot kiln. We cannot know how much Roman glassmakers could control the levels of tint, but they were aware of which ingredients resulted in which colors (1).

The shape of this sprinkler is perfect for its use. It was intended to hold perfume and scented oils for cosmetic purposes. The wide, flaring lip over the narrow, constricted neck made it possible to control the flow of liquid being dispensed. A Roman man or woman could have easily tipped the glass to only release one or two drops at a time without accidentally dousing themselves in perfume.


  1. Donald B. Harden, Roman Glass from Karanis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1936): 6-9.


  • Glass at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
  • Hayes, J. W. Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: 1975.
  • Stern, E. M. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass: 10 BCE-700 CE: The Ernesto Wolf Collection. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001.