Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The economy of Imperial Rome relied heavily on agricultural production. Much of the grain, oil, and wine needed was supplied by the Roman provinces located in what are now Spain and North Africa. The prosperity of the provinces was reflected in the agricultural themes in the artwork of both public and private buildings in these areas. These works included many mosaics, dating from the second to the fifth centuries A.D., which portrayed vintaging motifs. Various aspects of wine production were illustrated on these mosaics: the harvest, the crushing of the grapes, and the tending of the wines. While vintaging mosaics have been included in catalogues and individual pavements have been studied, no detailed analysis of the iconography of the entire group has been undertaken.
In this thesis the composition and context of these vintaging mosaics from Roman Spain and North Africa will be examined. Many of the vintaging mosaics were found in badly preserved structures. However, wherever possible, the function of both the building and room in which the mosaic was found will be examined. The majority seem to come from triclinia, and oeci within the living quarters and from frigidaria in both private and public baths.
The vintaging mosaics, whether illustrating a realistic portrait of a vineyard or an abstract display of vintaging Erotes working among vine rinceaux, include realistic elements of agricultural practice. The tools and farming implements used, the method of viticulture employed, and the various stages of wine production need to be carefully observed. These visual images will be compared to literary and archaeological evidence to determine to what extent the iconography of the vintage is realistic or how standardised the images had become by this period.
Many of the pavements, in addition to the agricultural elements, contain scenes or figures connected to Roman mythology. Several of the mosaics contain Bacchic figures or scenes. The connection of the wine god to the vintaging motif is obvious, yet the choice of scenes needs to be examined. Questions arise as to whether or not these scenes reflect religious worship of Dionysus or whether the scenes have become standard images in the repertoire of the mosaicists of Spain and North Africa.
Eckersley, Tracey Elizabeth, "Iconography of the Vintage in the Mosaics of Roman Spain and North Africa" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6445.
McMaster University Library