marble by the Romans, later during the Byzantine and Renaissance periods and finally during the 19th and 20th centuries to establish how very widespread it was and how popular it has been with builders and decorators throughout the ages.
Use by the Romans is widely established as it was used to build their cities all over the empire. Pullen writes in his Handbook of Ancient Roman Marbles that antique columns and surface marbles (of all kinds) were taken from Rome all over Italy, and he vividly describes their arrival in Rome. ‘The columns were shipped in vessels of peculiar form, manned sometimes by 200 or 300 rowers and conveyed to Porto, at the mouth of the Tiber. Here they were transferred to flat bottomed boats resembling rafts, and piloted up the river to a quay specially constructed for receiving them, just under the crest of the Aventine. The quay was called Marmorata, by which name the adjacent river bank is still known.

The Romans were not put off by what must have been the immense difficulties of excavation and transport at that time. Evidence of the losses in transit can be found, for example, in the shipwrecked remains lying along the coasts of Sicily and Calabria at Giardini Naxos, Cape Taormina and Cape Cimiti, ‘such as the six Calabrese wrecks where there are two columns (of cipollino) of 6 m. and four of 8.5 m. in length by .90 m in diameter.’ 2 Roman rulers, from the time of Julius Caesar to the emperors such as Augustus, (whose well known boast was that he found Rome a city of brick and left it one of marble), Trajan, Hadrian, Severus and others, encouraged and supported the trade in marble and particularly in the Karystian cipollino.

Less seems to be known of the supply system in the Byzantine and Renaissance periods but it is generally thought to have consisted largely of the re-use of Roman quarried marble.3 This applies to the use of the cipollino in many of the mediaeval churches in Rome and other cities.

‘In Rome alone the greater part of the 511 columns counted by F. Corsi have been reused on the spot (e.g. those of the temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, now belonging to the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, or in various monuments, overwhelmingly in churches and palaces). Among these last were of course the six columns of San Nicola in Carcere, the five of San Clemente, the two - of the bigio variety – of San Giovanni at the Latin Gate, the great copy of the Immacolata in the Piazza Mignanelli, and the two of the entrance portico of the Palazzo Doria Pamphili. Certainly it was from Rome that were brought to Sicily the great columns of cipollino to be found in the Cathedrals of Cefalu, Palermo and Monreale’(Lazzarini 2000) 4 This applies also to the use in mosques such as Kairouan in Tunisia. Here marble was taken from Carthage and El Jem to build the mosque; and there were many other examples of complete columns taken from former Roman cities. Justinian took marble from Ephesus for the building of the church of St Sophia in Istanbul. However Lazzarini writes that ‘The six columns in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, on the right of the main doorway, on the west façade are of cipollino, and are probably of Byzantine primary use given the presence of numerous incised crosses, originally filled with lead, or of bronze crosses. This fact confirms the symbolic significance that cipollino had for the Byzantines: it was a reminder of the wood of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified (Gnoli 1988) Such symbolism, through the notable resemblance of our stone to a trunk of wood, must have been in some way noticed also in the west, and continuing successively from the Roman era we find columns of cipollino surmounted by crosses in the vicinity of important basilicas. This is so in the case of Sant’Ambroglio in Milan, of San Zanobi at Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and of the church of San Bartolome in Venice.’5

Research into the use of the Karystian marble in later times, that is to say in the late 19th and 20th centuries, produced so much evidence that it was necessary to devote a special section of the report to that era. It was continually surprising to see the amount to be found in the UK and to the reports of it being used world wide. This was due, to a large degree, to the reopening at this time of some of the Roman quarries in Euboea. In this second part of the report is included what is known to be the more modern extraction of the marble. In the case of the marble to be found, for example, in the Vatican and Capitoline museums in Rome, where it was not possible to be sure of the date when it was quarried, and used, the information has been left in the chapter which mostly deals with Roman quarried cipollino found in Italy. This applies to a lesser degree in some other chapters. In Chapter 3, for example, I have included mention of the use of modern quarried cipollino in Karystos, Greece, in the chapter containing the information mostly on the Roman use of the marble (thus giving a more complete picture of the area). In Chapter 9 I have included the use of cipollino taken from former Roman sites but reused in later periods.

It would perhaps be interesting to end with one last quote from the expert on marble in the Roman Empire, Ward Perkins. ‘The loss of the temples to the classical monumental complexes of Italy was very serious. In all towns the ‘fora’ and other public areas contained at least one temple – as, for instance, in the case of the imperial ‘fora’ in Rome and the ‘fora’ of Florence, Verona, Luna and Ostia.

‘Furthermore it was not just the temples which disappeared. Other buildings such as the porticoes in Rome of the Deorum Consentium, were also doomed by the official conversion to Christianity. The only pagan buildings saved were those converted to other purposes, in particular into the churches of the new religion, for instance in Rome the Pantheon of San Lorenzo in Miranda’.6

1 Pullen, H.W., Handbook of Ancient Roman Marbles, Aberdeen University Press, London, John Murray, 1894, p. 9.
2 Pensabene 2002, 36-40, quoted in, Lazzarini, L., Poikiloi Lithoi, versiculores maculae: I marmi colorati della Grecia antica. Storia, uso, diffusione, cave, geologia, caratterizzazione scientifica, archeometria, deterioramento, Roma, 2007, p.188.
3 Lazzarini writes, ‘The quarrying and use of cipollino continued at least up to the first Byzantine era (Lambraki 1980, 35) roughly with the same architectural use as in Roman times. Some particular examples of this epoch are such as the columns at Constantinople with their bodies sculpted into trunks of palm trees.’ (I have never found these JES) (Meurer, 1909, 35) Quoted in Lazzarini, L., 2007, p.185.
Lambraki writes ‘Le cipolin vert de la Karystie, connu sous les noms de λίθος καρύστία, μαρμαρον καρύστιον ou ευβοιχον, était très apprécié des Romains et, à un moindre degré, des Byzantins.’

4 Quoted in Lazzarini, L., 2007, p.186 (see also Chapter 2 – Italy)
5 Quoted in Lazzarini, L., 2007, p. 187.

6 Ward Perkins, J B, From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1984, p. 90.