What Were The Tools That Ancient Romans Used For Writing

Tools Used by Ancient Romans for Writing

Ancient Romans were renowned for their love for literature and writing. Early Roman writing, known as ‘scriptura’ was a very distinctive form, consisting of capital letters and some decorative elements known as ‘insulae’. It was the writing style used to produce all kinds of books, including works of literature, history, and philosophy. The Romans also used a variety of tools to write on papyrus, parchment, and other materials.

Pens and Ink Styluses

The most common form of writing tools used by the Romans was the reed pen. The reed pen was made from a reed or hollow grass stem and was used to apply thinned and pigmented ink to parchment. Reed pens allowed for a more natural and free-flowing style of writing than what could be achieved with a metal stylus. In addition to reed pens, the Romans also used metal styluses for writing, usually made from bronze or iron, and sometimes even from silver. The metal styluses were used for scratching inscriptions and lettering onto a surface. They were also used for marking official documents and letters, and for creating designs on pieces of jewelry and other objects.


Glyptographics was a form of writing used by the Romans and Greeks. Glyptographics was a form of writing that used a series of pictorial symbols orpictograms to represent different words and ideas.These pictograms were used to represent different aspects of the Roman culture, such as gods and goddesses,events, and numbers. Glyptographics were often inscribed onto stone or other surfaces and were a more succinct way of writing than the traditional script.

Scrolls and Wax Tables

Scrolls were another type of writing tools used by the Romans. Scrolls were usually made from papyrus, and were used for writing long pieces of work. Scrolls could be made from thin sheets of papyrus that had been sewn together, or from one continuous sheet of papyrus that had been rolled up. They were usually inscribed with words and symbols that could be read from top to bottom. Wax tables were another popular writing tool used in ancient Rome. These tables were made from a wooden frame with a rectangular tablet covered with soft wax. The wax surface was inscribed with words and symbols. The wax table was the preferred way of writing for important documents and letters, as it could easily be erased and written on over again.

Ink and Pigments

Ink was an important element of writing for the Romans. They usually used a black ink made from a combination of soot and vinegar, ash, and even lampblack. They also used a range of pigments to create colored inks in shades of blue, green, yellow, and red. These colored inks were often used to create illustrations and designs on manuscripts.

Rubbing and Pressing Tablets

Rubbing and pressing tablets were used to create copies of texts or documents. These tablets were made of wood and coated with soft wax. A person would write or draw onto the wax surface, and then the tablet would be placed into a wooden or metal press. This would create an impression of the text or drawing on the wax surface. The tablet would then be lifted off and the impression could be transferred onto papyrus or parchment.

Techniques of Illumination

Illumination was an important technique used by the Romans to decorate manuscripts and other works of literature. Illumination was done through a combination of techniques such as coloration, patterning, and gilding. Different colored inks and pigments were used to create embellishments and illustrations on manuscripts. Gold and silver leaf were also used to decorate and embellish manuscripts.

Symbols, Numbers and Acrostics

The Romans used a variety of symbols, numbers and acrostics when writing. Symbols were often used to represent different aspects of the Roman culture, such as gods and goddesses, events, and numbers. Numbers were also frequently used in Roman writing, both in the form of numerals and in the form of fractions. Acrostics were a form of writing in which the first letter of each word was used to spell out a phrase or message. Acrostics were often used to emphasize an important point or to add an overall unity to a piece of writing.

Cursive Script

Cursive script was the most commonly used style of Roman lettering. This script was used to write everyday items, such as receipts and letters. It consisted of a series of connected symbols and letters that could be written quickly and easily. Cursive script was written with a reed pen, but could also be written with a bronze or iron stylus.

Epigraphic Writing

Epigraphic writing was a form of writing used by the Romans to inscribe messages onto stone, pieces of pottery, and other surfaces. This form of writing usually consisted of a combination of symbols, words, and numbers that conveyed a message about a person, event, or situation. Epigraphic writing was often used to commemorate important events such as battles or to communicate legal or religious directives.

The Monumental Roman Hand

The monumental Roman hand was a form of writing style used to inscribe works on stone and other surfaces. This type of script was large and bold and was used to showcase important messages and events. The monumental Roman hand was used to inscribe works such as descriptions of battles and stories of religious and political events. This form of writing was one of the most enduring styles of Roman lettering and can still be seen today on monuments and buildings all over the world.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

Leave a Comment