Mosaic tells how the Roman games worked

Discovered in a small village in Tunisia in 1966, the Magerius mosaic is an intricate combination of word and image describing a gladiatorial game sponsored by a local magistrate by the name of Magerius. Current Archaeology magazine breaks it all down for us: The Magerius Mosaic: How a Roman amphitheatre really worked.

“Roll up! Roll up! Roll Up! There will be a magnificent spectacle at the amphitheatre today, and you mustn’t miss it! Magerius is giving it. Of course, you all know Magerius who has just finished his term of office as mayor. He’s a pompous old ass but he thinks the world of himself and he’s going to lay on a big spectacle and he is paying through the nose for it, and he wants everyone to know how generous he has been.”

The Magerius mosaic“He is bringing in the Telegenii. You’ve heard of the Telegenii – they are the best theatrical producers in North Africa. They have all the best beasts and all the best hunters too. Today they have for your delight four leopards, all home grown and well trained. They are called Crispinus, Luxurius, Victor – who of course is going to be conquered – and then, Ho! Hum! there’s Romanus, ‘The Roman’ who is going to bite the dust at the hands of a hunter. And then he’s got four of his best hunters, Hilarinus, Bullarius, Spittara, who always hunts on stilts, and finally the champion, Mamertinus. It’s going to be a great spectacle, so hurry along to the amphitheatre. Who’s going to win – the beasts or the hunters?

The article continues with a detailed examination of what the mosaic and its location can tell us about the operation of gladiatorial games in the provinces. It’s a quick read and very much worth the time.

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