What ancient Roman(s) wished houses were made of transparent walls?

St. Joseph Cafasso's The Priest: The Man of God: His Dignity and Duties p. 50:

a Roman of ancient times wished his house to be made—with transparent walls, so that everyone outside can see what is being done inside.

  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace Well, I only have one source, the one I cited. I can't find any others.
    – Geremia
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


It seems to be related to a tale told of Domitian, who was reacting to a prophecy concerning his death. From The History of the Roman Emperors: From Augustus to Constantine, Volume 6 (original French) by Jean Baptiste Louis Crevier (emphasis mine)

He took a farther precaution to guard against any unexpected attack. A stone was found in Nero's time in some quarries in Cappadocia of a very extraordinary nature hard as marble and at the same time transparent or rather luminous for according to Pliny the naturalist. Nero built a temple of this stone into which one could see distinctly when all the doors were shut. Domitian to turn this discovery to the best advantage he could and prevent any one from coming behind him without being perceived had all the walls of the portico's where he used to walk cased with this stone so suitable to his views.

You can see what Pliny had to say concerning this transparent stone in Natural Histories, BOOK XXXVI. THE NATURAL HISTORY OF STONES.

CHAP. 46.—PHENGITES. During the reign of Nero, there was a stone found in Cappadocia, as hard as marble, white, and transparent even in those parts where red veins were to be seen upon it; a property which has obtained for it the name of "phengites." It was with this stone that Nero rebuilt the Temple of Fortune, surnamed Seia, originally consecrated by King Servius, enclosing it within the precincts of his Golden Palace. Hence it was that, even when the doors were closed, there was light in the interior during the day; not transmitted from without, as would be the case through a medium of specular-stone, but having all the appearance of being enclosed within the building. In Arabia, too, according to Juba, there is a stone, transparent like glass, which is used for the same purposes as specular-stone.

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