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Architecture that doesn’t focus on the imperial power of the emperor. Discovered in the center of Sicily. There is a remarkable amount of mosaic pavement that is preserved – more than anywhere in the entire world. Located in the city of Piazza Armerina. Was though to have belonged to a tetrarch because it was unique. It is a country estate that is highly developed with a number of component features. Close to the entrance is a bath complex. The owner had his own private baths. The antechamber leads to a courtyard with columns and walkways. The antechamber is not directly lined up with the axis of the courtyard – intentional? Diverts public traffic to the right side – which is a shorter pathway. Forces the public away from the left side, which contains more private rooms. There are stairways past the courtyard to produce an effect that one is traveling to a place of greater importance. On the right side, there is an oddly shaped courtyard which leads to a dining area with three apses.
The mosaic decoration – by the courtyard of the house descending to the baths. Shows women in brightly decorated costumes arranged in a particular way. The wealthiest woman is in the center – identified by the extravagance of their garments. The outer peoples are her attendants, carrying objects. She is taller than the rest – hierarchy of scale, and she is older. The mistress of the house – the domina, and the daughters (who are shown not carrying anything), and their slaves.
In the next room into the baths there is a mosaic showing a scene related to entertainment, leisure, and spectacle. Chariot racing around a circus (the type of building used for the races) the spina is the barrier that divides in the center of the tracks. They are wearing different colors to identify teams.
Shows an obelisk – is a monument that has been installed on the spina. We know that there is one circus that had this Egyptian object installed on it – the Circus Maximus. Identifies the scenes as not just an ordinary chariot race – but the one in Rome
This is in the larger most private room. Shows a hunt, a masculine pursuit – depicts a number of episodes, but they are not narrative.
A room that is marked by columns – put there to send a message that this was a special place. The emphasis on the masculine themes implies that this was a room reserved for the master of the house.
Fox hunting – the dogs running after. The dress of the young man – the medallions seem to be indicative of rank.
In the center is a banquet/picnic during one of the days of hunting. The semicircular couch that the men sit on is called the stibadium. This became much more popular as the empire developed. Shows horses – proves wealth because they are expensive to maintain. Shows a luxurious scene – they have slaves serving the meal.
The successful hunt of the boar – matched by piety – a statue of Diana, shows the offering to her in thanks for a good hunt.
Shows a moment of high tension and drama – shows a fallen hunter being protected by the dog, and shows bystanders. But, at the same time, shows his fellow hunter successfully spearing the boar. Suggests that hunters sit around and talk about past times, nostalgia. This is art functioning as an icebreaker. This style was extremely popular.
Towards the back, there is an extremely long corridor – 60 meters long, completely covered in mosaic painting.
Shows another hunt – but of a different kind. Not a hunt for sport. Shows men gathering up exotic animals from different parts of the world and putting them in cages. They are procuring animals for the games in the arenas and amphitheaters.
No doubt that these are not animals from Sicily.
Shows a man pushing the ostrich up into a boat.
Common motif – fallen hunter. What’s going to happen?
There are apses at either end of the corridors. This image shows a Hindu woman – shown in blue. Identifies the animals as coming from very far away. There is another apse containing a woman from Morocco to represent the other end of the known world, and that Roman knowledge spreads vastly to far away lands.
This man is the most important figure in the mosaic. He is not active in the hunt, but is wearing clothing with enormous medallions on it. He is flanked by attendants. He has a similar hat to the tetrarchs.
This was most certainly not a depiction of a tetrarch. There are more villas around this area that have the same features as this one. However, this man is elite, and probably of senatorial rank. His probable highest achievement was being the magistrate who would delegate the collection of exotic animals – and his presence in the mosaic as overseeing it all.
A person’s power and rank is an aspect of their identity. There is self identity and group identity.