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University of Alberta (1995)

The courtyard water basins of Roman-African houses (Tunisia)

Brulhart, Diana K.

Titre : The courtyard water basins of Roman-African houses (Tunisia)

Auteur : Brulhart, Diana K. (Diana Kim),

Université de soutenance : University of Alberta

Grade : Master of Arts (MA) 1995

A distinctive type of mosaic-lined basin is found in the peristyle of almost every Roman-African house. In 1980 Darmon published a basin from the House of the Nymphs at Nabeul, Tunisia, which carries the mosaic inscription nymfarum domus. This discovery led him to argue that these basins are a form of nymphaeum, and to make a few preliminary observations on the subject. My intention in undertaking this thesis was to study the basins of this type in Tunisia as completely as possible, in order to determine whether or not they can really be called nymphaea, and if so, to what degree they differ from the Italian type. It is my belief that these small basins were an African response to the nymphaea designs of other parts of the Roman world, their uniqueness being due to a relative scarcity of water, different building practices, and regional mosaic styles and iconography. As nymphaea, these basins fulfilled an aesthetic and sacred function ; that is to say, they were looked at, not used. Yet there is also a secular character to these African nymphaea. In Italy the sacred nymphaeum and the decorative fountain basin are both placed in a peristyle context, but are separated by location, design, and decoration. The African nymphaeum, however, combines these designs in one structure, thus merging the sacred and secular functions of water. It also employs common regional mosaic motifs, different from those found on Italian nymphaea, but which have been skillfully adapted to the sacred function of the nymphaeum. As the nymphaea in Tunisia date from the second to the fourth centuries, later than the examples known from Pompeii, their merging of functions may be seen as a move towards divesting the nymphaeum of its purely sacred connotations.

Présentation (BAC)

Page publiée le 4 février 2018, mise à jour le 14 septembre 2019