The mosaics

A strong and rich Greco-Roman community had lived in Hadrumetum since 146 BC; it undoubtedly helped to spread their lifestyle and taste for scenic plays inspired by Greek and Latin poets.

Two other mosaics evoke plays. The first, a comedy scene involving three actors. On the right, a slave undergoing punishment and begging his master (?) who, with outstretched right arm, was preparing to hit him; on the left, a messenger wearing a mask intervenes to stop the punishment.

A comedy scene

A comedy scene

A beautiful mosaic represents, inside a medallion, a poet sitting, leaning on a safe inside of which a tragic mask is put. He holds in his left hand a roller (Volumen) and a reed in his right hand. At his feet, there is a case containing twelve rollers. The poet is looking at an actor holding a mask.

The poet

The poet

The Muses are frequently associated with the art of music, especially in representations related to Apollo the Citharede. From the same house where the head of Ocean was discovered (above) comes this representation of Apollo and the nine Muses [1].

Apollo and the nine Muses

Apollo and the nine Muses

We may also add to the theme of music a mosaic showing Orpheus charming the animals. Only the central square the corners of which are filled by a horse, a bull and a is left.

Orpheus charming the animals

Orpheus charming the animals

 

[1] The legend tells that Calliope, “on the beautiful way”, had two sons of Apollo, one of whom is the famous Orpheus.

Among the images that may be relevant to this topic, many come either from graves or they are placed at the entrance of a house or a room. These are mainly preventive images erected against the envious (invidus in Latin).

A beautiful mosaic from the suburbs of Sousse, in the center of which we find the goddess Victory (Nike in Greek) winged and sitting at a table On the right, the goddess Minerva (Athena) helmeted, legs crossed and leaning on a spear; a shield at her feet. On the left, stood a man with a marked musculature and half naked.

The goddess Minerva

The goddess Minerva

A beautiful mosaic found in the warm room (tepidarium) in the thermal baths of a Roman villa in Sousse could be considered as having a protective and preventive value. This is the famous Medusa whose spiky hair of snakes, its eyes revealed its fascinating look that goes in to be able to petrify the evil spirits … ring as a warning against the evil eye, especially against the envious.

The famous Medusa

The famous Medusa

Another mosaic which represents an eye was surrounded by a Latin inscription (passed away today) says: invidiosibus quod videtis (what you see is the work of the envious person).

Mosaic which represents an eye

Mosaic which represents an eye

The goal of these representations is the neutralization of the evil to which are opposed not only texts, but also images of abundance and symbols of fertility: Dionysian paradise, roses, baskets filled with fruits, fish, different fruits with seeds such as grenades and zucchini, corn or millet stalks represented by groups of 4, alluding to the seasons, often adorn the pavements. Fish and other animals, like the beautiful peacock , various birds and fowl, were also prophylactic symbols having a beneficial value. Fertility is generally represented by male organs.

Beautiful peacock

Beautiful peacock

A pisciform phallus: the fertility is generally represented by organs male as this mosaic of Moknine shows it. A pisciform phallus (or a fish phalliforme ejaculating), represented with feminine organs drawing two triangles, spacer the expression O CHARI meaning o delight !

Phallus with female organs

Phallus with female organs

The few testimonies we have on the economy of Hadrumetum emphasize the importance of fisheries and livestock farming. Maritime trade, the main source of wealth of ship owners of Hadrumetum, is evoked by some sailboats .

Sailboats

Sailboats

 

The mosaics having a nilotic theme suggest a relation with the port of Alexandria. On one of them, where a confusing mix of local scenes and imaginary scenes reigns, we see pygmies fighting a hippopotamus; incomplete today, the mosaic also showed a battle between pygmies and cranes on the one hand and against a crocodile on the other.

Pygmies fighting a hippopotamus

Pygmies fighting a hippopotamus

The mosaics massively but in a concrete way evoke fishing scenes: in addition to net fishing, they also fished with the harpoon, the keepnet, the hawk or the line.

Fishing scenes

Fishing scenes

A real “board of Natural History”[1] that was found in the catacomb of Hermes, where she paved the floor of a burial chamber, highlights all the species of fish and shellfish of the Mediterranean interrupted by the four scenes of local fisheries mentioned above.

Fish and shellfish of the Mediterranean

Fish and shellfish of the Mediterranean

On other mosaics, often placed at the entrance of the houses, we find one or several fish, sometimes some fish getting out of a basket .In fact, they attributed to

Fish a prophylactic value.

Fish a prophylactic value.

 

Fish getting out of a basket

Fish getting out of a basket

The main attraction here is provided by a mosaic from Thysdrus representing Seasons and months of the year. The shipowners hadrumétins, enriched by the maritime trade, tried to get themselves another source of income based on the more regular income of the earth. We know him the rural life is given rhythm by four seasons which establish a frequent theme of the mosaiced production. A beautiful picture of Thysdrus, today el-Jem, says the main part on these seasons. The year begins with the spring and finishes by the winter. Every season is indicated by a male portrait placed to the left and followed by the names of the corresponding months. Every month is characterized by a small scene representing a religious feast or agricultural works.

Each season

Each season

Two products dominate the local economy: cereals and olive trees; yet the vine, though frequent on the mosaics, was not prominent.. The most developed breeding was probably that of small cattle, sheep, goats and farmyard animals (chickens, roosters, geese, ducks) that we often find represented in the reception areas with fruits in the form of xenia presents offered to guests

Xenia

Xenia

A mosaic decorating one of the rooms of his house[2] in Hadrumetum. The landscape represents a rugged steppe with a tower in the middle, various animals and horses: four circles include each two race horses facing on both sides a palm tree; the two remaining medallions represent horses called Amor and Dominator, Adorandus and Crinitus.

Race horses facing on both

Race horses facing on both

Another mosaic shows a scene of four horses the front legs of which are protected by bandages and the heads crowned of a palm of victory. The grooms who are holding them wear costumes in the colors of their clubs: green (Amator), red (Aura), blue (Pupillus) and white (Cupido).

Shows a scene of four horses

Shows a scene of four horses

[1] The expression is quoted from L. Foucher, Inventaire des mosaïques (feuille n° 57 de l’Atlas Archéologique, Sousse), Tunis 1960, p. 91, n° 57.204, pl. XLVI.

[2] This rich farmer owned a large house in the city center where we found more than fifteen mosaics, including, in particular, the triumph of Neptune and it is today found in the Bardo Museum, which decorated the oecus, and whose surface area is about 140 m2, making it one of the largest mosaics of the world.

A number of these animals is on a beautiful mosaic representing Ganymede abducted by the Jovian eagle and surrounded by eight animals: from the top to the left, a tigress, a horse, a deer in flight, a bear, an antelope, a panther, a lion and an antelope

Mosaic representing Ganymede abducted by the Jovian eagle

Mosaic representing Ganymede abducted by the Jovian eagle

A mosaic of Smirat, near Sousse, tells with precision this type of fighting Discovered in private baths, it represents four hunters (Spittara, Bullarius, Hillarinus and Mamertinus) fighting four leopards (Victor, Crispinus, Romanus and Luxurius). The protagonists are flanked by two gods, Dionysus, tamer of wild beasts, and Diana, the huntress.

A mosaic of Smirat

A mosaic of Smirat

mosaic of the house of Ostriches , on this mosaic, T-shaped, we can see four armed fighters, including one holding a cloth (mappa), which serves to give the signal, and twenty animals in motion

Mosaic of the house of Ostriches

Mosaic of the house of Ostriches

It also happens that the show is limited to a fight between animals: a bear against a bull, a wild boar against a horse (wild?) (Photo 40). The explanation of this phenomenon resides probably in the high price of wild beasts set by law.[1]

A bear against a bull

A bear against a bull

[1] According to the edict of Diocletian in 30: 125 000 to 150 000 deniers for a lion, 100 000 to 120 000 for a lioness , 70 000 to 100 000 for a leopard, 2 000 to 6 000 for  a bear. See Chr. Hugoniot, The shows of Roman Africa, ANRT, 1, p. 430. For comparison, the construction of the theater Calama (in Algeria) cost 100,000 deniers.

Mythological scenes, usually inspired by Hellenistic paintings, are numerous. The most common are seascapes that represent either Oceanus, god of the sea, or Neptunus, master of sea water and fresh water and spirit of the place (genius loci).

These representations are undoubtedly the result of a choice of Andrumetine ship owners wishing to honor the gods who protected their trade. The figures of Ocean are generally invariable: often represented by an isolated head decorating the pool of a Roman house from the mid-2nd century. The background is decorated with the head of Ocean

The pool of a Roman house

The pool of a Roman house

Ocean is represented on a beautiful mosaic that decorated the floor of a bedroom of a Roman house of the 2nd century[1]. As expected in such a context, the owner ordered a seduction scene, alternating resistance and consent

Honored of Dionysus/Bacchus

Honored of Dionysus/Bacchus

Satyr and Bacchante naturally accompany Dionysus/Bacchus, also very honored in Hadrumetum[2]. Bacchus appears on a panel that decorates the left side of the living room of a Roman house of the 3rd century. In a frame with corners trimmed with craters letting out vine shoots that trap the baccoi pickers, ducks, thrushes and partridges. One can say that this is one of the most beautiful mosaics in the world celebrating his Indian triumph[3]. Young and beardless, sitting on a two-wheeled chariot.

Triomphe de Dionysos/Bacchus

Triomphe de Dionysos/Bacchus

One of the most beautiful mosaics of the museum, found in a Roman house from the early 3rd century[4], represents the triumph of Neptune/Poseidon.[5]

the triumphe of Neptune/Poseidon.

The triumphe of Neptune/Poseidon

Among the sea gods in vogue in Hadrumetum, we naturally find Venus Marine/ Aphrodite Anadyomene, that is to say, “came out of the waves”.

Venus Marine/ Aphrodite

Venus Marine/ Aphrodite

[1] L. Foucher, Inventaire des mosaïques (feuille n° 57 de l’Atlas Archéologique, Sousse), Tunis 1960, p. 99-101, n° 57.220, pl. Lb.

[2] L. Foucher, Inventaire des mosaïques (feuille n° 57 de l’Atlas Archéologique, Sousse), Tunis 1960, p. 47-48, n° 57.099, pl. XXIII.

[3] As the only god born of a mortal, Semele, mistress of Zeus, he must convince the gods of Olympus, starting with the conquest of India.

[4] L. Foucher, Inventaire des mosaïques (feuille n° 57 de l’Atlas Archéologique, Sousse), Tunis 1960, p. 5, n° 57.012, pl. IIc. The largest mosaic that was ever discovered representing the triumph of Neptune was discovered in the house of Sorothus in Sousse and extends over a surface of 137 m2.

[5] Originally master of vivid fresh water; the sea is also his undisputed area where he reigns as a true Zeus. When he comes out, he recalls the descent of Zeus from the summit of the Olympus and the sea monsters celebrate this by leaving their hideouts.

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