From Publishers Weekly
Imagine entering a triclinium (or banquet hall) in Roman Africa and finding that beneath your feet is one of the world's most stunning mosaic masterpieces. Flourishing in Mediterranean Africa between the second and sixth centuries A.D., this art created from shards of marble or limestone stands as one of the more durable artistic media. While the text offers conjectural interpretations meticulously bolstered by lively historical evidence that illuminates the everyday life of Roman Africa, the real focus of this book is the magnificent collection of more than 200 color illustrations divided into chapters headed by the subject matter of various mosaics ("Spectacles"; "Eternal Time and Cyclical Time"). Despite the growing power of Christianity (this was, after all, the native land of St. Augustine), the decorative program is decidedly pagan. Not only are the deities pagan, whether Roman or local in provenance, but the other subjects have ancient Greco-Roman roots as well. One example is the asarotos oikos theme, in which elements of a meal are spread out over the floor, most spectacularly in an almost trompe l'oeil scattering of kitchen scraps from the House of Salonin at Oudna. Other mosaics chronicle the lives of the rich nobles who commissioned them (and as such depict many current hot-button issues of race and colonialism, albeit highly allegorically), and are room-size works in which the microcosmic patrician estates are shown to reflect complex ethnic and social hierarchies. Clearly a celebration of life (and wealth), the mosaics continue to provide a feast of wonder.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Original Language: French