Ancient Roman Mosaic floors

The Romans liked to look nice, and they wanted to have beautiful homes.  Having a mosaic floor showed other people how rich the homeowner was.

The most common room that people had mosaic floors in was the dining room.

What is a mosaic?

A mosaic is a picture of a pattern or a person that is made from tiny pieces of square stone.  These small stones are fixed to the floor with cement.

Making mosaic floors took a long time and was a skilled job.

The earliest mosaics were not made with square stones, but with pebbles.  These pebbles were not often cut up.

The pebbles were kept whole and used as they were.  Over time, the use of pebbles was replaced with cut stone.  By using squares, the pictures would look better.

Mosaics in History

No-one really knows how or why people first started to create mosaics.  But, some very old mosaics have been found.

The oldest mosaic was found on a floor in Lybia.  It is believed that this mosaic was made in the First or Second Century, which was somewhere between 0 – 200 AD.

The mosaic is now ancient!  The mosaic shows a hunter catching deer.

Another very old mosaic was found in a temple in Iraq.  This mosaic was made with stones and shells.

It was common to use stones and shells to create mosaics.  It is believed that this mosaic was built in 3000 AD.

Mosaic Colors

Most of the mosaic floors from Roman times have white, grey, yellow, orange, black, cream or blue tiles.

These colored tiles easy to get hold of.  Red tiles were made from a special type of stone clay called terracotta.

Green tiles were very rare and were made from glass.   Sometimes gold or marble was also used in the designs.

Mosaic Patterns

When floors with mosaic tiles were first made, the patterns were very simple.  As time went on, the mosaics became more beautiful.

The Roman people liked mosaics to show pictures of the gods.  The more detail that a mosaic floor had, the richer the house was.

How were mosaics made?

There were two ways to make mosaics, and these are still used today.

Shells and stones – This is the earliest way to make a mosaic.  Shells and stones were put on a floor to make a pattern or picture.

They were then glued or stuck in place with mortar.  The ancient mortar was made from clay and mud.

Today, it is sand, water, and cement.  Once the stones and shells had been stuck down, more mortar was added to fill all the gaps.  The pictures would then be left to dry and set or get hard.

Tiny tiles – This way was mostly used by the Romans or the Greeks.  Tiles or pots were cut up into small square pieces.

All the tiles were made into a square shape because it made it easier to make the picture.  Once the picture was made, the tiny tiles had to be stuck in place with the mortar.

Again, the mortar was also used to make sure that there were no gaps at the edges.

Roman Mosaic Facts

  • The Romans were not the first to make mosaics
  • Really rich Roman people had mosaic floors in their hallway and on their walls
  • Mosaics were used to tell a story of how things were
  • When the Romans wanted a new floor, they added a new mosaic on top of the old one
  • Mosaic styles went through different trends – patterns, pictures or both
  • To make them stand out, some Romans had special stones brought in from other countries
  • Some mosaics looked different depending on where or how they were stood on.
  • The most beautiful mosaics were made on church floors, walls, and ceilings

Questions about mosaics

  • What was the most common room for people to have a mosaic?
    Dining room
  • The color green was never used.  True or False?
  • Gold was sometimes used to make a mosaic.  True or False
  • Only poor Romans had mosaic floors?  True or false?
  • Mosaics are only made with tiny tiles.  True or false?