Roman Mosaic Workshops, site logo.
Shop Search
Follow us

Children's page


A mosaic is a picture made out of small pieces of coloured stone, ceramics or other materials. In Roman mosaics these pieces were all roughly the same size.

Each piece, called tesserae, were usually 8mm - 12mm along each side. Some were as small as 1mm, there would be 50 - 60 of these in one square centimetre and mosaics made like this were called 'paintings in stone' because from a ditance they looked like they were paintings and not mosaics.

The Greeks started of using pebbles and then gradually they started to use cut stone. The Romans saw the Greek mosaics and decided they wanted to have them for their floors too. The Romans did have some on their walls but mostly you would find them on the floors.

The Romans used types of stone called marble and limestone. They also used terracotta, (cut from roof tiles or even pottery) and sometimes glass.

Using the normal size tesserae (about 10mm) there would be 8,000 - 10,000 in one square metre.

hammer and hardie They would use some tools called a hammer and hardie to cut the stone into tesserae, it was most probably slaves who did this. 
arianna best shot Then they would mark some lines in the floor using something sharp and then put down some cement, called 'Pozzolan' and push the tesserae into the wet cement. When the cement was dry they would put some sand and water on the floor and then rub the floor all over with hard, rough stones to make the surface very smooth. They could also have used wax to make the colours of the stone brighter.

The mosaics showed many different things, some were simple or complex patterns. Others showed fish and other sea life, animals and birds. There were pictures of gladiators and chariot races, scenes from the Greek Myths and images of dancers and musicians. There is a very famous mosaic just inside the a house in Pompeii showing a dog with the words, 'Cave Canum', Beware of the dog!

zeugma euphrates central panel large - Look at this mosaic of a man sitting down with his arm on a water jug. He represents a God  of the river Euphrates. His head's not on very straight is it?



Roman mosaic musicians dancers







Here on the right you can see some musicians and a dancer.


It wasn't just the big villas and palaces that had mosaic floors, public bath houses and black and white mosaics, there were even some very simple ones outside some offices which were used as signs to say who the offices belonged to.

We don't know much about who made the mosaics but a lot of the work of cutting and getting everything ready would have been the job of slaves.

Many mosaics that we have found now have only survived because they became buried when the villas collapsed on top of them, protecting them until archaeologists dig them up again.

Links to other sites you might find interesting; Who were the people of Roman Britain?