Roman Labyrinth Mosaics and the Experience of Motion

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Publication: The Art Bulletin
Author: Molholt, Rebecca
Date published: September 1, 2011

Only he who walks die road on foot learns die power that it commands... - Walter Benjamin, "Chinese Curios," One-Way Street, 1925-26

In a letter written in 1917, Walter Benjamin speculated on the essential difference between painting and the other arts: "From the human point of view, the level of drawing is horizontal, diat of painting, vertical. ... A picture wants to be held vertically before the viewer."1 Benjamin had recenti)' been reading the art historian Alois Riegl, specifically his Late Roman Arts Industry, from which he adopted die notion that works of art expressed their own sense of volition. As Benjamin later developed the idea, the viewing needs of die painting implied vertical placement, in emulation of a window, while other cultural forms - the architecture of the Paris arcades, graphics and drawings, written texts - are better seen as horizontal in nature, since they demand to be understood as a "cut" through die "world substance," a transverse section in which some kind of line is envisioned to move Üirough and over the ground presupposed by the work. For Benjamin, such horizontal experience entails a radically different set of perceptions, for, instead of being taken in all at once, as a whole, the horizontal form is perceived in parts whose import must be reconstructed imaginatively by die viewer or reader. Fragments and discontinuity characterize die horizontal, whereas integration and transparency distinguish die vertical. Benjamin recognized die way such vertical orientation marked the modern epoch, from its art to the way it conceived the study of history, but he wished to propose other modes as alternatives to a modernism that had, by die 1920s, exhausted itself.

The study of Roman floor mosaics has traditionally been encumbered by the kind of myopia Benjamin describes in his distinction between vertical and horizontal forms of viewing: modern scholars have tended to regard mosaics as if they were paintings or were created in emulation of painting.2 The rise of easel painting in modern culture has installed an unconscious privileging of this visual medium above all odiers, with die result diat the conditions of viewing attending a painting hung on a wall have become normative for the arts as a whole. The vertical bias has had several effects on our understanding of floor mosaics. First, it has been assumed that die aim of ancient mosaic designers was generally to imitate painting, that mosaics are (or attempt to be) essentially paintings in stone laid out on a floor. From this follows the almost universal practice of installing mosaics on museum walls, in conformity with the presentation of paintings. Conventions of Western perspective since the time of Leon Battista Alberti understood diat a painting was made by an artist standing at a fixed point before it, and that a single, immobile point near the center of die work is die implicit location a viewer is supposed to reclaim in order to experience its spatial effects. This monocular perspective is replicated in the kind of still photography diat most often presents such works in textbooks and otiier published studies. Scholars have complained that "[m]osaics are difficult to photograph even under good conditions: because of dieir size and situation, often only an oblique view is possible."3

Measured by the standards of wall painting, the Roman floor mosaic remains a fragment. Seen en face, from a fixed position, orjudged by the standards of realism established for another medium, die mosaic is misread, and the proper experience of its viewing unduly constrained. As Benjamin might have put it, die floor mosaic wants to be regarded horizontally, not vertically.

The meaning of the Roman floor mosaic was inseparable from its experience as a tangible surface, one typically appreciated by an ambulatory viewer situated in and aware of a specific architectural setting. We need to rethink such mosaics as forms and materials underfoot and to examine them kinestiietically, as experiences that are by no means purely visual. Footsteps can define a place - even an imaginary place.4 The way that tile labyrinth mosaics interact with die architecture and activities of the batiis of North Africa from the late second to die early fourth century CE and with die viewer's ambulatory occupation of diese spaces accounts for die popularity of the theme in such settings. The traversal of labyrindi mosaics in a badi context takes on a broader, metaphoric meaning, since the pavements were deliberately designed to blur the boundaries between life and myth.5 Myth offers a common realm available and accessible to all, and the labyrinth's iconography and mydiography are particularly apposite in a badi context. As a floor decoration, die labyrinth can reinterpret the space it defines, and walking across diese spaces helps to construct die bather as a heroic athlete.

Roman Nortii Africa was one of the wealthiest regions of the empire in die second and tiiird centuries CE, not least thanks to its major exports of grain and olive oil; as a result, these provinces are among the richest in surviving monuments. The first emperor from Nortii Africa, Septimius Severus of Leptis Magna (in modern Libya), came to die dirone in 193, and his dynasty held power until 235. In die provinces Of Nortii Africa, the great agonistic, Greek-style athletic contests were extremely popular, especially during die second, third, and fourtii centuries,6 when die mosaics and bath buildings discussed here were made. Games and sporting events were staged on both the imperial and the local levels, celebrating such municipal events as die dedication of badi buildings that still dot die landscape today.

Fifty-six known Roman floor mosaics represent the convolutions of the labyrindi.7 While the majority come from houses, fourteen labyrinth mosaics come from baths, and seven Of diese from batiis in North Africa.8 Stories involving the labyrindi appear in sources ranging from Herodotus to Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, and Apollodorus.9 Many narratives intersect at this motif: the pride of Minos, the lust of Pasiphae, die love of Ariadne, the cleverness of Daedalus, die tragedy of Icarus, the horror of the Minotaur, and the heroism of Theseus. But the bath mosaics highlight die adiletic prowess of the hero Theseus.

The popularity of labyrindi mosaics has been ascribed variously to their gamelike aspect,1" their apotropaic nature,11 their near-abstract design diat allows for infinite extension across a room of any size,12 their ability to reflect an elite Roman cultural status on viewers having die education to recognize the image and its multiple ramifications,13 their ability to represent to the Roman viewer the triumph of civilization over barbarism, and their image as a representation of die city itself.14 Yet, tiiough it has been noted several times,15 no one has explained why the labyrinth mosaics were such a common theme in the baths of North Africa. Of die sixteen labyrinth mosaics in Nordi Africa, seven adorned baths, but these images and their contexts have never been studied together.16

Walking on the Labyrinth: Surface and Traversal

Floor mosaics require the beholder to think on his or her feet. Any pavement will probably be touched (even felt by unshod feet) at the same time that it is seen. This matters because the Greeks and Romans believed that vision itself was both haptic and optic. By a process of extromission, die eyes released rays diat traveled out to touch the object in question and then came back to the eyes.17 Visuali ty was thus not anchored in the retina alone. Floor mosaics that imitate painting are not necessarily playing to the strengtiis of the mosaic medium; any illusion of deep perspective will always be mitigated by die pavement's tangible flatness and texture underfoot. Images presented on a surface with which die viewer has physical contact prompt die spectator at all times to acknowledge personal involvement with the creation of meaning. Especially effective in this light are mosaic compositions that endeavor to take into account the simultaneity-of horizon tali ty and of verticality - built into any experience of a floor mosaic, where the image and any accompanying narrative are deployed at right angles to the standing viewer.

The schema and scale of the labyrinth story presented in Roman baths are specific to die medium of floor mosaics. Wall paintings of Theseus and the Minotaur, such as those surviving from the Vesuvian region, focus on the hero's victorious exit from the labyrinth: we see him outside.18 But the mosaics depict a wholly different moment in the narrative and spread out die patterns and convolutions of the labyrinth itself (Fig. 1). Such pavements, stretching across large rooms, rarely feature any of die ancillary characters (such as Ariadne and the crowds of onlookers and grateful Athenian children) who are often present in wall paintings. Instead, the floor mosaics showcase die architecture of the labyrinth and present a journey underfoot.

Because their narrative of journey unfolds across the surface of a floor, labyrinth mosaics are representations of spatial experience that unify art and architecture. The otherwise unremarkable action of walking cannot be taken for granted across these surfaces, since the mosaics call for immersion and immediacy on die part of die observer.19 The experience of mosaics tiius involves a sort of phenomenological vision, prompting a larger cognitive, perceptual, retinal, and epistemologica! effort toward understanding. Maurice MerleauPonty's emphasis on the "lived perspective of the visible world in relation to our living body" provides an important model here, since he describes perception as "our kinaesthetic, prescientific lived-bodily presence to the world."20 As she actually treads on die images, the beholder is moved to become actively engaged in die narrative unfolding underfoot.

Roman baths are environments designed to serve and celebrate the human body; diese are spaces created for rituals of great physical! ty. Observera experienced the labyrinth mosaics while also partaking of the social rituals of bathing. Badiers moved through different temperature zones, in and out of water of various temperatures, walked barefoot across cold floors as well as room-temperature floors and other chambers with floors too hot to traverse without shoes. A heightened bodily awareness was stimulated by the highlighted physicality of the bathing experience itself. Some rooms would have been full of steam and dim light, others full of sunlight and the splash of water. A poem from the Latin Anthology even links the bodily pleasures of bathing and the mental pleasure provided by the decor of the bath itself.21

Simply as a dynamic pattern of tight rhythmic lines, labyrinths are a pleasing visual decoration. The contrast between a violent and dangerous struggle (Theseus versus the Minotaur) and die pleasures of bathing was probably not lost on a Roman audience.22 Because the sea god Neptune clearly oversaw the watery realm of the bathhouse, a viewer con* fronted with a labyrinth mosaic might well remember the Connection of Neptune to die Minotaur.23 Katherine Dunbabin has suggested that "the remarkable popularity of labyrinth designs for the decoration of rooms in or attached to baths, though perhaps in part intended for the entertainment of bathers who can puzzle out the maze while they relax, may also have been influenced by the notion that the wanderings of the maze baffle or distract die evil spirits or the malevolent gaze."24 Certainly, apotropaie resonance can be accepted as a reason for the popularity of this myth in this context.23

More nuanced interpretations can be made, however, from analyses of labyrinths, taking into account their different settings in the bath* their relation to the surrounding architecture, and the imager)' of the rest of the bathing ensemble, such as sculptural programs. Furthermore, the labyrinüi mosaics make fresh sense when we situate them within their architectural settings. These pavements, themselves illustrating a journey, rely also on the physical movement of the beholder; while the realm of the mosaic begins at the entrance to die room, only an oblique view of the entire composition is available from that vantage point. The narrative will not culminate until one steps into and then through the room.26

Labyrinth mosaics often present both a picture and a picture of a plan, as the mosaic from the Baths of Belalis Maior demonstrates (Figs. 1-3) .2' The mosaic is still in situ, paving an unhealed room in a small thermal establishment from the early fourth century. The labyrinth itself measures approximately 5% square yards (4.8 square meters) .28 The outer part of the mosaic represents heavy masonry walls splaying out on all four sides, as if to hold the rest of the structure within the high circuit of the depicted walls reaching to the very walls of the room itself. A crenellated gate, one on each side of the room, punctuates each mosaic wall, represented as huge stone blocks laid in double courses. Only one gate, at bottom right, opens to reveal a single arched doorway in the heavy exterior wall offering access to the labyrinth's interior. This gate, though facing inward toward the labyrinth, corresponded with the actual opening into the room. The labyrinth would first be seen from the doorway of the room, by a beholder poised, perhaps between columns, looking into the room's southern half. The central image, however distant and oblique, would be oriented toward the oncoming viewer.

Within the fortress walls are walls again, but now they make no pretense to three-dimensionality and are rendered only as lines, black and red on white. It is a floor plan of the convolutions of a labyrinth, rendered on the floor of the Roman frigidarium, a cold room that is the traditional finishing point in the sequence of Roman bathing. Black and red lines representing walls on the Belalis mosaic create and traverse a winding pattern. Theseus finds the Minotaur in the labyrinth's innermost chamber, shown at the center of the mosaic and also the center of the frigidarium (note the ball of thread between Theseus's knees, Fig. 2). Even though beholders probably did not bother to follow the tortuous lines of the hero's path, they would have been aware of Theseus's monumental journey underfoot.

It is rare that entire large-scale mosaic floors bespeak a single narrative, though the labyrinth floors often do. More often, patterns and sets of figurai scenes are collaged together. Multiple borders often frame mosaic pictures (emblemata) , and these borders regularly tell their own ancillary stories.29 Even the massive floors of North African baths that are transformed by mosaics into spectacular and continuous expanses öf the ocean show episodes from many different aquatic narratives taking place across the realm of the room.30 But the image within a labyrinth is not isolated by its immediate mosaic enframement; the floor renders a single myth, and the comextualized emblema at its center shows the combat between hero and monster in the labyrinth's innermost chamber.31

While the surrounding labyrinth is designed as if observed from overhead and in plan view, the combatants in the center are seen from the side and modeled to evoke three dimensions (Fig. 2). At the center of the floor mosaic, where Theseus and tire Minotaur fill the available space, the tesserae are smaller and more colors are used. Because die fortress walls reach to the very walls of the room itself, the flat, horizontal floor mosaic reiterates the space of the room itself. In a dialogue of art and architecture, depicted walls meet actual walls; the very center of the labyrinth is also the center of the frigidarium. The viewer's movement across the space of the labyrinth provides the narrative links and thus the sense of common ground.

The play between two and three dimensions emerges as one aspect of this game, but it is not the one mentioned by the ancient sources. Pliny die Elder focused on a different kind of spatial complexity: the compression of extended space into a small area. The labyrinth, he wrote, contains passages "that wind, advance and retreat in a bewilderingly intricate manner."32 While Pliny's description highlights die role played by multiple doors to hinder physical navigation, it is a different confusion that accompanies the experience of a labyrinth mosaic. The floor itself is a wide, flat expanse, easy for any walker to traverse. But space is so visually compressed within the mosaic lines of the labyrinth floor that it is inevitably difficult (or even impossible) to follow any one pathway - with the eyes. And so, the spectator is optically lost, even diough he is standing on an open floor. At Belalis Maior, the visual instability is heightened by the alternations of the red and black lines that compose the labyrinth, which shimmer and shift back and forth at every turn, blurring the distinction between figure and ground.

Scholars have wondered about the disjunction between the floor mosaics displaying unieursal labyrinths - those that offer only a single route forward, where in fact it would be completely impossible to lose your way - and die literary implications of a labyrinth as a maze in which one actually could get lost.83 These theories imagine the labyrinth as if scaled down and on paper; with a pen in hand, one surely could trace a unieursal path from beginning to end. By contrast, Roman labyrinth mosaics are not mazes to be followed physically. Indeed, only one (at Mactar, see below) is large enough for a person to follow its course, albeit in tight fooLsteps. These are instead visual mazes, and visually, across the floor of a Roman bathhouse, it is virtually impossible for the eye to stay the dizzying course. In every case, however, the beholder has only to take a few easy strides over the flat mosaic surface to reach the center of the labyrinth, which is usually also the center of the room. A terrible journey through high-walled corridors with no end in sight is compressed to a pattern of flat lines, and the center is gained easily. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur is, of course, a well-trodden path with positive outcomes. The frame of these mosaics, designed to imitate an enclosure of towering city walls, helps to simulate the deep view underfoot, but the epic journey is accomplished in abbreviated form, and die mythic protagonist easily handles the danger at the center. Nonetheless, the labyrinth design invites all who enter this space to give first-person attention to their movement, not just to walk unthinkingly across the monumental passages condensed underfoot.

Badis of the Labyrinth, Thuburbo Maius: Theseus as Wrestler

For too long, die study of labyrinth mosaics has focused exclusively on comparisons made within the mosaic corpus, and in near] ? even' case the study has remained divorced from any consideration of a broader architectural and social context.34 The size and dimensions of die labyrinth's pictorial organization, so uncanny in book illustrations, nonetheless make perfect sense for the actual turning and moving viewers on the mosaic, enmeshed in the story told on its multiply oriented surface. The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur gains new resonance when it is placed on die floor, in the path and as the path of its beholder in die Roman baths, a space designed as much for athletic activities as for cleansing and relaxing. Theseus, after all, did defeat die Minotaur in a wresding match, and the hero is credited with laying down the rules of this sport.35 Though Hercules and Hermes are more commonly considered the patron gods of sporting events, the heroic combat of Theseus and the Minotaur was itself an athletic spectacle, and the pleasures of Roman batiis certainly included sporting activities. In his otherwise magisterial 1977 study of labyrinth mosaics, Wiktor Daszewski erred when he ignored the "caractère sportif" of the Roman baths.36

The majority of large-scale African baths contained facilities for exercise and combat sport: palaestrae surrounded by colonnaded courtyards." But smaller bathing establishments borrowed die agonistic imager)', even if they might not have offered exercise space within their walls. The high concentration of agonistic iconography in Roman baths signifies the sporting ambiance that dominated these buildings.38

Many bathers exercised before bathing.39 We know from Roman authors - including Martial, Juvenal, and Seneca - that exercises such as weight lifting, ball play, and wresding took place in the baths as a prelude to cleansing.'10 Greekstyle combat competitions (boxing, wresding, athletic games) gained in popularity in proconsular Africa after die commencement of the Palati Games in Carthage in die Severan era, as is attested by a rich epigraphic and iconographie record.41 Later sources, too, are perfecdy clear on this point: a statue base from 378 CE from Sabratha (Libya), for example, lauds Flavius Vivius Benedictus for restoring the local baths and thereby restoring exercise to the people.42

At the small Baths of the Labyrindi at Thuburbo Maius, late third to early fourth century, a mosaic of boxers decorated the center of the tepidarium floor (Fig. 4).43 Both boxers have their hands protected by tightly wrapped cestes, a Roman form of boxing gloves. While die younger man remains standing at right, die older man crouches in a defensive posture, bleeding after a heavy blow to the head. Inscriptions at other thermal establishments in the region tell us that boxing combats were offered, sometimes when die bath was dedicated.44 The Batiis of die Labyrindi, barely more than 480 square yards (400 square meters) in size, lacked a palaestra, though archaeologists speculate that a basilical hall at the northwest may have fulfilled a sporting function.46

Whether or not people actually exercised within diese walls, the overall decor of the Baths of the Labyrinth aimed for an athletic ambiance, and I believe diat die labyrindi mosaic adorning the adjacent frigidarium was anotiier important part of this milieu (Fig. 5). The frigidarium itself is approximately 36 square yards (30 square meters) with two steps leading down to a single cold-water pool in one corner. The pool was paved with large tesserae in different colors laid in a random pattern, and this mosaic would have presented a scintillating, shimmering surface when seen underwater. In the normal course of events, die labyrinth and the frigidarium would be entered both before and after the beholder had spent some time contemplating and traversing the mosaic of boxers in the tepidarium.46

Although the labyrinth mosaic paving the floor of the frigidarium has been damaged, an interesting array of architectural structures still serves as its border: heavy masonry facades and black doorways seem to open onto cold, dark recesses beyond. Blank walls and multiple entrances must originally have gone completely around the edges of the Thuburbo labyrinth mosaic, presenting a host of gates and openings to the viewer enclosed within.

All these open doors recall Pliny the Elder's description of an Egyptian labyrinth:

[It was] quite the most abnormal achievement on which man has spent his resources. [. . . This Egyptian labyrinth was the model for the one Daedalus built on Crete] containing passages that wind, advance and retreat in a bewildermgly intricate manner. It is not just a narrow strip of ground comprising many miles of "walks" or "rides" such as we see exemplified in our tessellated floors or in the ceremonial game played by our boys in the Campus Martius, but doors are let into the walls at frequent intervals to suggest deceptively the way ahead, and to force the visitor to go back upon the very same tracks that he has already followed in his wanderings. [. . . All aie] alike in being roofed with vaults of carefully worked stone. There is a feature of the Egyptian labyrinth which I for my part find surprising, namely an entrance and columns made of Parian marble. The rest of die structure is of Aswan granite, the great blocks of which have been laid tn such a way that even the lapse of the centuries cannot destroy them.47

With the multiple angles of viewing set up through the depicted architecture, the surface of the mosaic ceases to be a fixed and static picture and turns instead into a structure within which the viewer must circle around to see it from all sides and must look out at the multiple axes of the walls from within. Even a simple pattern (like that of the labyrinth's black lines across the white ground) appears notably more dramatic and dynamic when seen from an oblique angle (Fig. 6).48

As at Belalis Maior, the heavy architectural exterior of the Thuburbo labyrinth mosaic gives way to an orderly delineation of the labyrinth's interior walls. Again, the endlessly twisting hallway winds through all four quadrants of the labyrinth before opening onto the square field at the center (Fig. 7), where Theseus and the Minotaur appear amid the strewn human remains of the monster's former victims: a head, a severed arm, a single foot, and what appears to be a leg bone bracket the combatants. On a sand-colored surface, Theseus lunges inward to kick or knee the Minotaur's flank. The Minotaur, as Apollodorus said, had "the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human."49 On one knee, the monster appears entirely at die hero's mercy. Theseus has wrenched back his head by one horn, and though the Minotaur grabs Theseus's elbow in futile protest, it is obvious that a blow from the hero's Curved stick (pedum) is about to dispatch the monster.

So far, there has been nothing to suggest this mosaic presents anything but a mythic, epic combat. But several details actually blur the line between sporting events held in the mythic and worldly realms. In the Roman context, the heavy athletic disciplines were wrestling, boxing, and the pankration, a brutal blend of wresding and boxing. There were no weight classes in antiquity, and so these sports were not for small men. The advantage went to die heavier man in the struggle to throw his opponent off balance and to the ground.50 The boxers in the next room at Thuburbo Maius are both heavy, bulky men, and within the labyrinth, Theseus and the Minotaur are no lightweights, either. Both man and monster have similar physiques - thick arms and legs and matching pot bellies. Dio Chrysostom disparaged wresders as "pot-bellied bullies," and in the second century Galen criticized them for their long meals and their practice of forcefeeding themselves, all in order to get their weight up. ' On the Thuburbo mosaic, the decidedly human, nonheroic body type of Theseus blurs the boundary between mythic and everyday combatants.52

The fighting strategy employed by Theseus in the central scene is also copied from observations of contemporary sporting events like die pankration. "Turn your body sideways to your opponent and grip him by the head with your right hand," directs a notation from a papyrus found in the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, giving instructions for wrestling practice.''3 Though Theseus reserves his right hand for his pedum., he clearly has a firm grip on one horn of the immobilized Minotaur.

Plutarch describes the joy of King Minos when Theseus overcame the Cretan bull, fadier of the Minotaur, in a wrestling match at funeral games. Like Ariadne, who was watching, "Minos also was delighted with him, especially because he conquered Taurus in wrestling and disgraced him."" Apollodorus tells us that Theseus killed the Minotaur by simting him with his fists, and Plutarch reveals that the hero's journey into the labyrinth was undertaken "carrying no warlike weapon."9''' The pedum was Theseus's only weapon besides his skill at fighting and his not inconsiderable bulk and strength.56

The Minotaur's pose would have caused any Roman referee to yell out "Round over!" for touching one knee to tire ground signaled a loss in the wresding arena.57 Rather than showing us an evenly matched pair of combatants at die outset of the contest, mosaic batties of Theseus and the Minotaur regularly show the man vanquishing die beast in a victory clearly marked by die pose of die Minotaur with his knee to the ground. This can be seen at Belalis Maior as well and on labyrinth mosaics from Roman sites around the Mediterranean.58

Other aspects of the Thuburbo mosaic find further parallels with everyday Roman sporting practice, including Theseus's spiky, closely cropped hairstyle. Wrestlers, especially professionals, generally wore their hair short so as not to offer their opponents any long hair to grip and pull.39 Furthermore, Theseus is shown wearing a bulla or amulet on a red-brown cord around his neck, as are all four of the young boxers or wrestlers on a mosaic from Utica (modern Tunisia), late third to early fourth century (Fig. 8), as does the bath attendant labeled "Tite" in a mosaic from the late Roman riha at Piazza Armerina, Sicily. W} Regular bath goers, who doubdess came in all shapes and sizes, might well be undressed like Theseus and wearing such an amulet according to contemporary praGUee.61

As a matter of course in images of athletic contests, the older opponent tends to be vanquished by the younger. This happens in the boxing scene in the tepidarium at Thuburbo Maius, where the bearded, older man is shown bleeding, die younger man upright and balanced on his toes after scoring a major hit (Fig. 4). While the boxers in the next room at Thuburbo Maius presented a blunt and even brutal portrait of human athletics, the wresding match of Theseus and the Minotaur was of more heroic and mythical proportions. Theseus die athlete goes far toward explaining the popularity of die labyrinth in badi contexts. Hercules was also shown employing the poses and holds commonly used in the palaestra in epic wresding matches against Antaeus, Achelous, Triton, and even the Nemean lion.62 We should add Theseus to this category of mythical-cum-Roman sportsmen.

Baths at Hippo Regius: Minotaur as Athlete

Mosaics of the labyrindi, depicted at a large scale in die realm of the Roman bath, and by extension their viewers acquire the semiodc status of performativi ty. Any image at the center of the labyrinth (and the center of the room) would not be legible at first glance, so a viewer looking hi from any doorway would feel impelled to explore and traverse the labyrinth, like Theseus. The physical action of crossing these floors quickly embeds die observer within a mythic narrative.

The frigidari tun of a small private badi in the center of Hippo Regius (in modern-day Algeria) must have been a spectacular place. Its construction and mosaics date from 150-200,63 and expensive slabs of marble covered die frigidarium walls. The cold plunge was also lined with marble and flanked by marble niches in which bathers could take their leisure. A massive black-and-white labyrindi mosaic paves the frigidarium floor, a space measuring nearly 7 feet 8 inches by 6 feet 7 inches (7 by 6 meters) (Fig. 9).e4 Again, the mosaic displays a scene that must be experienced to be understood; the image on the far side would become visible only after several steps had been taken. The mosaic image would transport the viewer optically, even as his body was also in motion.

Heavy black walls, indicated in the mosaic as four courses high and topped by a rippling line of crenellations, entirely surround this labyrinth (Fig. 10). On the north side of the room, die fictive walls are pierced by a single gate through which a thick black line wends its way through the labyrinth's interior. This line is the patii taken by the thread of Ariadne, who fell in love with Theseus when she saw him in die wresding match.*'5 Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of thread, one end of which he was to fasten to the lintel of the labyrinth door. Holding the ball in his hand, he was to unwind it while penetrating deeper and deeper into the labyrinth. The thread was not shown navigating the Thuburbo Maius mosaic (Fig. 7), and, while the labyrinth at Belalis Maior was designed in alternating lines of red and black, the ball of thread was featured only at the conclusion of die narrative in die central scene (Fig. 2). But here, at Hippo Regius, the thick line of the thread weaves throughout the entire room, between the thinner lines representing die labyrinth walls.66 The single, wide line of the thread and the multiple, thin lines of the walls appear serrated because the tesserae are set diagonally across the floor. This jagged tine breaks up the monotony of die pattern and gives tautness to the separate elements.

The path of die thread culminates in the center with the large black ball of thread punching into the middle zone (Fig. 11). Here, a torso-length portrait of the Minotaur, rendered in gray, black, and white, already occupies tins square area. Long eyelashes, pointed ears, a thickly muscled chest, and curving horns are all shown in some detail, and his head is turned slightiy, almost coyly, away from the intruding ball of thread. The Minotaur's image recalls nothing so much as the bust-length mosaic portraits of heavyset athletes from the frigidarium of the Baths at Thapsus, the Antonine Batiis in Carthage, and the exedrae of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.87

At the small baths of Hippo Regius, this labyrinth mosaic has already been successfully traversed: the thread, borne through many winding, corridors, has arrived at the center. Theseus, however, is nowhere to be seen, and the role of the hero is left to the beholder, who has also crossed the labyrinth. This gives us a clear instance of what Wolfgang Iser would have called a "constitutive blank."68 What is missing from the scene (the h ero/ protagonist) prompts the viewer to accord special attention to his own status. The viewer has already assumed all the intermediary movement and expenditure of time and easily accomplished the laborious journey to the center of the labyrinth. When both Theseus and the Minotaur are represented, as at Belalis Maior and Thuburbo Maius, the mosaic displays not an equal contest but a victory. No labyrinth mosaics ever show Theseus alone at the center, but at Hippo Regius, the Minotaur appears like an opponent, ready for the match and all comers.69

As Alois Riegl has written, "every work of art does presuppose the existence of a perceiving subject,"70 and here the beholder has stepped into the role of die hero since his own movement, both visual and physical, implicates him in the myth underfoot. The idea of mobility is already present in the work, as die arrival of the thread at the center demonstrates that a journey through the labyrinth has been accomplished. The Minotaur, at the center, must be mastered just as the labyrinth has been mastered. The Hippo Regius labyrinth transforms the motif from a visual game to something more like a physical event. Because the observer is situated within the setting of the labyrinth, he gains tire status of a character in the drama underfoot, traveling within and along the course that must be experienced and apprehended.

The path for the feet alters what had been merely a game for the eyes. As the viewer moves from edge to center and the myriad paths underfoot are stepped on and over, great distances for the eye and the imagination are traversed in a few steps. It is the beholder who arrives at the center of the labyrinth, to be confronted by the representation of an adversary of mythic proportions. The heroic protagonist is not imaged, but the hero can still be understood as present, now in die body of the beholder.

A now-lost labyrinth mosaic from Pompeii offers an interesting early parallel to this process of interactive viewing (Fig. 12). Rather than a portrait of the Minotaur, diat labyrinth had a helmet at its center, a point of confusion for every commentator.71 The situation becomes clearer when we diink of Lucian's description of the method of drawing lots for die wresding matchups at Olympia, which E. Norman Gardiner explained in 1905: "Lots marked in pairs with the letters of the alphabet in succession and corresponding to the number of competitors were thrown into a silver helmet sacred to that purpose from which each competitor in turn drew a letter."72 In die same way, die Pompeian mosaic intimates an opponent waiting at the center of die mosaic: the as-yet-unknown adversary's name will be drawn from the helmet.73 Again, the path across the mosaic stage embeds the beholder within the larger narrative and, again, in confrontation with an adversary.

The Great East Batiis, Mactar: Path to the Palaestra

Just as mosaics are not freestanding works of art independent of the surrounding architecture, so their perception must also include the architecture the mosaics simultaneously define as a physical surface and reinvent with their visual imagery. Across the terrain of these labyrinth floors, it is the perceiving subject who finds, in the flat floor underfoot, a stage for a narrative that elevates his own movement and an invitation to synchronize his actions with the work of art. Visual perception is just one layer of this process of bodily perception and projection: depicted space complements and expands actual space via the introduction of history, imagination, and mythology. Motion is, once again, the key to the labyrinth mosaic of die Great East Baths at Mactar, and here again we encounter the unity of the work of art with the architecture and an invitation to interactive viewing.74

Monumental, symmetrically planned, and dated to 199 by a dedicatory inscription, the establishment at Mactar is classed as an "imperial type" of thermae (Fig. 13).7r> Perhaps the best-preserved Roman bathing edifice in North Africa, it retains many walls that rise to a height of several meters and often give an indication of the cross-vaulting that once soared overhead. Two internal palaestrae are surrounded on three sides by huge, U-shaped cross-vaulted ambulatories. The palaestrae are set on either side of the swimming pool, which opened to the countryside through five large windows.76

Adjacent to each palaestra is a semicircular exedra. The floor of the northern hémicycle is entirely filled with a labyrinth mosaic in black, gray, and white (Fig. 14). The space of die exedra is a kind of pivot for circulation in various directions, which recalls the multiple curves of the labyrinth itself as well as Plutarch's description of its "intricacies."77 The exedra can be entered from five doors within its curved walls, and it gives onto die palaestra itself between six arcaded piers.

Only the thread of Ariadne delineates the wide paths of this mosaic labyrinth, which entirely fills the exedra. The thread begins to unwind from the central doorway at the back of the arc. The labyrinth culminates in a half circle abutting the marble lintel of the central door on the opposite side, which opens into the palaestra. Here the rigid line of thread breaks into loose curves, as if to show the last few feet unwound before the hero dropped the ball of thread on the floor to commence his battle with the Minotaur (Fig. 15).

At Maçtar, the Minotaur is not shown, and neither is Theseus. We are left at the threshold with nothing but an image of a ball of thread on the ground and the insinuation of a larger, missing totality. Rather than rendering recessional space, this floor mosaic borrows from the space of the room to generate its illusions of three-dimensionality, projecting a winding image diat claims to obey die same laws of gravity that govern the viewer. Such an "addition" to real space creates an ambient for arriving bathers and wresders to occupy and a space where the stage is set for narrative, but the main characters are unseen, or at least unseen in the art. The viewer's entrance into the performance space outlined by die mosaic is, on one level, manifestly possible. The high socles or believable architectural forms that often occupy the foregrounds of Roman wall paintings are missing, as are the high walls that surround other mosaic labyrinths. The floor itself is bounded by high walls and multiple doorways, and the mosaie has usurped this entire space of considerable dimensions to evoke one story line of athletic heroism. At Mactar, die here and now can never be detached from this mosaic narrative.

One more step from the center of the Mactar labyrinth - in fact, the inevitable next step forward - puts die viewer on the direshold of the palaestra. Then a step down, and the beholder would gain the sand of the wresding ring itself. Following a passage from Lucían, Ranon Katzoff posits that the skamma (wresding ring) should be understood as "a small marked off terrace, perhaps somewhat raised or lowered, in the court, where the sand was piled for sand wresding."78

Rather than providing a self-enclosed mythological narrative already populated by a full cast of characters, the Mactar mosaic is not an autonomous work Of art. Following Riegl, the external unity between image and viewer can be understood as an "indispensible prerequisite and actual raison d'être" for a work of art.79 As both art and architecture, the Mactar labyrinth awaits the viewer's activation and animation because its completion relies on a beholding subject to take die stage it provides. The myth is no longer merely a prototype for human experience; it is now a call to specific action. The floor mosaic literally sets the stage for die viewer to occupy.

If the permanent exchange of different levels of perception is central to die function of many floor mosaics, it is essential here. The labyrinth culminates at the doorstep of die next room - die palaestra - rather than within the center of die room it adorns. There is nowhere else to go from this central direshold. The location of the labyrinth mosaic cannot be accidental: the invitation for die viewer to displace his own motion into the realm of myth is very clear. The labyrinth mosaic lacks even a black border on the edge to distinguish it from neighboring spaces, and this lack of visual resolution prompts the viewer to participate in the illusion fostered by die ongoing spectacle in adjacent spaces. This monumental mosaic is not a static given; we have no image of an event, and thus it is not possible to arrest the time of a recorded narrative. Rather, it is a precarious, moving image, whose complete lack of borders encourages the blurring between the mythical realm of die floor and the activities taking place in reality.80

Gilbert-Charles Picard believes that matches held in the great palaestra of Mactar were organized by notables and fought by professionals.81 Sand in die pit would have provided a smooth, soft surface on which addetes could be thrown in wrestling matches and not be injured when they hit the ground. This wresding pit, surrounded by a U-shaped colonnade, is positioned as if at the center of the semicircular labyrinth of the exedra (Fig. 13). The labyrinth mosaic is itself a symbol of a challenge, and its presence in the baths woidd have lifted wresding matches held there into the realm of mythological reenacönent or, at least, provided appropriate and resonant mythological echoes.

A sculpted bas-relief nearly 6 feet 7 inches (2 meters) long also contributed to the sporting atmosphere of the Mactar baths (Fig. 16). It is not clear exactiy from which part of the baths this relief came, but Picard suspects it would have been completed by another length of stone, and that die whole ihay well have decorated die upper zone of a niche holding a statue of a victorious athlete or donor.82 It displays six figures: a chubby figure at right holding a wreath has been identified as Eros;83 Hercules stands nearby with his ankles casually crossed and his club at his feet. Also visible is the skin of the Nemean lion, a beast strangled by means of a wresding hold. Hercules' heavy labors, including his defeat of Antaeus in wresding, made him as natural a subject for the decor of Roman baths as Theseus. Next to the hero are two pairs of naked wrestlers. The first pair, one man shown flying through the air on the way to a tough fall, illustrates a dramatic throw. The arms and legs of the second pair are locked in combat: each man tries to trip the other and get him in a headlock at the same time. This relief easily conjoins human and divine athletics onto the same plane; the labyrinth mosaic should be classed as another of diese links.

The labyrinth, location of an epic wresding match involving the hero credited with laying down the. rules of the sport, was just as fitting an adornment for a bath as a relief of Hercules, god of the palaestra. At the Mactar badis, architecture and decorative scheme collude to implicate the beholder in their surrounding narrative. It is not a static image of victory but, radier, a prompt toward participation that uses the mythic landscape underfoot and the beholder's movement to activate an open doorway and the space beyond.

Wrestling with Myth

The labyrinth is an especially appropriate subject for a floor mosaic since it represents a journey diat must itself be navigated in order to be seen and experienced. This can be a traversal shared between two realms: the viewer moves both across a room and into a myth. In die batiis of Roman Africa, as batiiers walked across mosaic images and patterns, the pavements' epic images and complex designs became the stage for the viewer's own actions. The pattern of die labyrinth implies movement, and it is essentially the construction of a spatial and temporal program. It scales up the architectural space it adorns by turning the floor surface into a vast plane of heroic enterprise, and the labyrinth mosaics play with the notion that the beholder might be transformed into a second hero merely by making the journey to the labyrinth's center. Labyrindi mosaics invite die beholder's movement to their centers, where die Minotaur awaits, whedier in the form of an image or in the form of a human opponent in an impending wrestling match.

The depictions of Theseus and the Minotaur borrow much from the lived experience of the baths, and specifically their sporting ambiance. The poses and body types of the hero, famous for his wresding prowess, link him with living wresders and pancratiasts, whetiier bulky or ideal, and with portraits of athletes found in many Roman baths. The tangles of wresding, the required twists and turns of die body, were compared by Catullus to die structure of the labyrindi itself, with the winding thread of Ariadne guiding Theseus from the "inextricable entanglement of the building."84 So, too, when die early Christian moralist Tertullian speaks of wrestling, he evokes the "binding twist" of the body and die "suppleness that eludes."85 The "many miles of walks or rides" that Pliny the Elder describes as compressed into tessellated floors of the labyrinth86 may also prompt a nexus between myth and current life, harking back to the leisurely strolls taken by bathers along die porticoes and through the long halls of the larger badi complexes, which often featured statues of Hercules, athletes, and even bulls.87

There can be litde doubt that context makes meaning for the labyrindi mosaics, and vice versa: the labyrindis of die North African baths offered many prompts to blur athletic and heroic activity, sometimes, as at Mactar, even relying on the architecture of the space to provide doorways at once both actual and mythological. Labyrindi mosaics are representations of a spatial experience on whose surfaces the otherwise unremarkable action of walking cannot be taken for granted. In die realm of the Roman bath in North Africa, dieir traversal easily takes on metaphoric meaning, as mosaics energize lived spaces and die beholder's actual path and die horizon of myth are fused.


I would like to thank the Center for Advanced Study in die Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C, and the American Academy in Rome for funding my work on this project, and audiences at diese institutions for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions arguments. I am very grateful to both insriturions for funding years of fellowship in Rome and in Washington, D.C, where these ideas gestated. Christine Kondoleon introduced me to mosaics, and she and Bettina Bergmann have encouraged me (and traveled with me) since the beginning. At Columbia, I was lucky enough to be in Richard Brilliant's first-ever mosaics seminar, and Francesco de Angelis was always generous with his time and ideas. Roger Hanoune and Fikret Yegül advised me on earlier versions of this article, first presented at the Association Internationale pour l'Étude de la Mosaïque Antique in Portugal. Additional thanks to Prof. Dr. Yegül for permission to publish a version of his plan of the Mactar batiis with the labyrinth mosaic inserted. Jean-Pierre Darmon and Katherine Dunbabin kindly provided advice for seeking out illustrations, and Lindsay Elgin generously assisted with the images. Heartfelt thanks to many friends and colleagues who have offered critique and conversation, including Susan Alcock, Sean Anderson, Michelle Berenfeld, John Bodel, Sheila Bonde, John Cherry, James Frakes, Bárbara Kellum, Dian Kriz. Aicha Malek, Elizabeth Marlowe, Douglas Nickel, James Trilling, and Heivé Vanel. Many thanks to The Art Bulletin editor Karen Lang and the two anonymous reviewers at The Art. Bulletin for their many helpful and perceptive comments on the manuscript and to Fronia W. Simpson for her copyediting. This study has benefited most significantly from years of conversations with Natalie Kampen, gift to us all.

1. Walter Benjamin to Gershom Scholem, October 22, 1917, quoted in Michael Jennings. Bridget Doherty, and Thomas Levin, eds., The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008), 197.

2. Scholarly uneasiness with floor mosaics is surprising and long-lived: m 1991 Roger Ling described floor mosaics as "disturbing" and "uncomfortable" for modern viewers; Ling, Roman Painting (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 19-20. Seeking to furnish evidence lor lost monumental paintings, scholars have long privileged figurai mosaics; die most famous Roman floor mosaics are the so-called Bildmasaikeji, "paintings in stone." See, for example. Bernard Andreae, Antike Bildmosaiken (Mainz: Philipp von Zabera, 2003); and Ada Cohen, The Alexander· Mosaic: Stories of llctory and Defeat (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Scholars who consider the narrative possibilities inherent in horizontal display and who consider nonfigurative mosaics have not assumed mosaics were created in imitation of paintings. See esp. John Clarke. Roman Bkick-and-White Figurai Mosaics (New York: New York University Press, for the College Art Association of America, 1979); Christine Kondoleon, Domestic and Divine: Roman Mosaics in the Home of Dionysos (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995); Ellen Swift, Style and Function in Roman Decoration: Living with Objects and Interim's (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2009); and Norman Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard L'niversity Press, 1990). Bettina Bergmann considers the "inhabitant's supposed location in die room" when viewing circus mosaics such as the one from Piazza Armerina, Sicily, and another from a villa at Silin, Libya; Bergmann, "Pictorial Narratives of the Roman Circus," in Le cirque et son image, ed.J.-M. Roddaz and J. Nélis-Clement (Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2009), esp. 371-76. In her monumental survey of Greek and Roman mosaics, Katherine M. D. Dunbabin notes that mosaics, given their durability, "offer an invaluable contribution to our knowledge ... of major painting." She is, however, quick to point oui that mosaics are a significant art form in their own right, and it is hoped her book will render such statements unnecessary for future publications; Dunbabin. Mosaics oj the Greek and Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1.

3. Stephen Cosh and David Neal, "Roman Mosaics," Current Archaeology 157 (May 1998): 18. These authors recommend that mosaics are best imaged by means of paintings, and indeed, painstaking watercolors of floor mosaics accompany their text.

4. Here I am drawing on the work of Eugene Y. Watig, especially his fascinating chapter "Watching the Steps: Peripatetic Viewing in Medieval China," in Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saiv, ed. Robert S. Nelson (Cambridge: Cambridge Universitv Press. 2000), 116-38.

5. The contextual deployment of myth and die resulting interactions between life and myth have been especially well explored by Paul Zanker and Björn Ewald, Mil Mythen i¿ben: Die Bitderuwll der römisclien Sarkophage (Munich: Hiroier, 2004). The authors trace the selection of particular moments chosen from grand narrative schemes and ihe artistic display of these moments in specific contexts to prompt meaningful and powerful links with situations in daily life, up to and including the direct assimilation of beholders with mythological protagonists.

6. Michèle Blanchard-Lemée et al.. Mosaics of Roman Africa: Hoar Mosaics from Tunisia (New York: George Braziller, 1996), 190. See also nn. 40, 41 below.

7. In 1977 Wiktor A. Daszewski collected and published sixty-two Roman mosaics depicting Üiemes of the labyrinth, from across die Roman world; Daszewski. La mosaïque de Thésée: Etudes sur les mosaïques avec représentations dît lal/yrinthe, de Thésée et du Mmotuure (Warsaw: PWN. Editions Scientifiques de Pologne, 1977). To these we can add the labyrinths from the Baths of Julia Memniia at Bulla Regia (Tunisia) and a small threshold labyrinth from a Roman house in second-third century CE Coiiiinbriga (Portugal), not featured in Daszewski" s catalog, for a total of sixty-four labyrinth mosaics. The Baths of Julia Memmia have been most recently published by Roger Hanoune, "Décor du monument: Les pavements mosaïques," in Recherches archéologitfues francotunisiennes à Bulla Regia, vol. 2, pt. I, Les theiines memmiens: Étude architecturale et histoire urbaine, by Henri Broise and Yvon Thébert (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1993), 245-71. The Conimbriga threshold labyrinth is cat. no. 129 Ln Hermann Kern, Througii the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5,(XX) Years (Munich: Prestel, 2000), 91, with earlier bibliography. It should be noted that Daszewski's catalog includes eight mosaics, probably all from houses, diat show the combat between Theseus and the Minotaur without any enframing labyrindi surround. These eight vignettes almost all show die interactions between hero and monster taking place outside the labyrinth, with the heavy walls and doors of the structure serving as a backdrop to the scene. I have omitted diese from my calculations because they lack an associated labyrinth surround, hence my total of fifty-six.

8. Daszewski divided his study by typology; Í divide die corpus by context and location. As Daszewski notes (La mosaïque de Thésée, 99), die pavements are almost exclusively from die western provinces of die empire, and. despite the abundance of mosaics surviving from Roman provtrices in Syria, Egypt, Anatolia, Israel, and Palestine, there seem to be no labyrinth mosaics from any sile farther east than Cyprus. Twentyeight labyrinth mosaics come from houses and villas. About hall' the labyrinth mosaics of North Africa (seven of sixteen) come from baths. Ulis is a striking preponderance of a theme already notably popular in North Africa. None of the seven labyrinth mosaics in Roman Iberia comes from baths, and only two of the seventeen surviving Italian labyrinth mosaics come from baths.

9. Herodotus, 2.48; Pliny, Natural History 36.86.90; Plutarch, Theseus esp. 15, 19. 21; Pausanias. 1.27.10; Apollodorus, Bibliotkeca 3.1.4 and Epitome, 1.7-10; and Strabo 8.6.2, among others.

10. Broise and Thébert, Recherches, 41: "This subject was often represented and seems to have been especially prized in the salles de rêfios of the baths, where it constituted perhaps a sort of visual game" my translation).

11. Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 95-96; and Katherine Dunbabin, "Baiarum Orata Voluptas: Pleasures and Dangers of the Baths." Papers of the British School at Rome 57 (1989); 40. See also n. 25 below, on the apotropaic resonance of mosaics.

12. Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 95.

13. Ibid., 99.

14. Federica Cordano. "Il labirinto come simbolo grafico della città." Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome: Antiquité 92, no. 1 ( 1980): 7-1 5; Gianna Dareggi, "I mosaici con raffigurazione del labirinto: Una variazione sul tema del 'centro,' " Mélanges de l'École Française de Rome: Antiquité 104, no. 1 (1992): 281-92.

15. Most recently in Yvon Thébert, Thermes romaines d'Afrique du nord et leur eontexte méditerranéen: Études d'histoire et d'archéologie, Bibliodièque des Écoles Françaises d'Adiènes et de Rome, Fase. 315 (Rome: École Française de Rome, 2003), 479 n. 110. Also Dunbabin, Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World, 11. See also Simone Wiedler, "Labyrinthdarstellungen," in Aspekte der Mosaikausstattung in Bädern und Thermen des Maghreb (Hamburg: Dr. Kovac, 1999), 55-57.

16. I discuss only the four best-preserved examples of Nordi African badi labyrindis here: Hippo Regius in Algeria, and Belalis Maior, Thuburbo Maius, and Mactar, all in Tunisia. The other three bath Labyrinth mosaics come from Dellys and Rusguniae (Algeria), and die Baths of Julia Memmia (Tunisia); To make a grand total of sixteen, the other nine North African labyrinths come from various settings: six from houses or villas in Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia (and none of these six definitively from bath suites), two from churches at sites in modern-day Algeria, and one from a tomb (Hadrumentum, Tunisia). Numbers are based on Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée; and Hanoune, "Décor du monument." Hédi Slim, "La mosaïque du labyrintiie de Thysdrus." Antiquités Africaines 15 (1980): 207-8. suggests that only six of the sixteen North African labyrinths are from batiis, but he considers the Thuburbo labyrinth (Figs. 4 and 5) to he from a villa. This may be a domestic mosaic, but it is certainly from a badi suite.

17. See David Lindberg, Thermes of Visum from Al'Kindi to Kejtler (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 1-17; David Summers, Vision, Reflection, and Desire in Western Painting (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); A. Mark Smith, Ptolemy's Theory of Visual Perception (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1996); Albert Lejeune, Euclide el Plothnée: Deux stades de l'optique géométrique grecque (Louvain; Bibliothèque de l'Université, 1948); and idem, L'optique lie Claude Ptolémêe, dans la version latin d'après l'arai»; d/ l'émir Eugène de Sicile (New York: E. J. Brill, 1989). Henri Lavagne briefly touched on the problem of mosaics and die optic versus die haptic in La mosaïque: Que sais-je? (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1987), 11-12. Optical and haptic experiential reactions have been analyzed by architectural historians; see esp. Diane Favro's re-created urban walks in The Urban image of Augustan Rome (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

18. Wall paintings at die Basilica of Herculaneum and the Houses of Marcus Gavius Rufus and Marcus Lucredus Franto at Pompeii show only the labyrinth's deep entrance. In each case, the hero is present at die doorway, his journey already accomplished, and his defeat of die Minotaur evidenced by the hero's relaxed stance and/or die vanquished body of the beast.

19. Clarke, in Roman Black-and-White Figurai Mosaics, opened a discussion of the viewer's relationship to die mosaic floor underfoot. He presented die concept of "kinaestheuc address," which he defined as "die use of die figure to influence spectator movement" (21). Figures underfoot, he suggests, might prompt die walking viewer to go to the left, turn to die right, or continue through a nearby door, according to what he calls a "traffic-flow suggestion" (33). These concepts have been further elaborated by Ellen Swift, who studied geometric pavements, especially thresholds, and dieir use as apotropaic symbols and identifying markers for different rooms. See "Interiors; Non'figuradve Floor Mosaics and Other Domesdc Decoration," in Style and Function, 27-104.

20. Maurice Merleau-Ponty. "Cezanne's Doubt," in TL· Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Pkilostrj>hy and Painting, ed. Galen A.Johnson (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1993), 8.

21. Anthologia Latina L208.

22. While discussing die Hunting Baths of Leptis Magna, Fikret Yegiil suggests diat die dramatic scenes of danger at die hunt "might have recalled, in a general and distant way, die literary and heroic idea of bathing as a pleasurable reward for those who have endured physical hardship"; Yegiil, Baths and Bathing in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), 184.

23. Indeed, Neptune is at die beginning and die end of the story. Apollodorus tells how Minos prayed to Poseidon for a bull to be sent up from die deptiis of die sea, but when die god answered his prayers, the king failed to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon, as he had promised The Library 3.1.4). The eventual sacrifice of the Minotaur, fruit of an unnatural union, might have been pleasing to Poseidon, and perhaps the story of the labyrinth and the death of the Minotaur might also have been appropriate for badi decoration because of this link with water and the god of die sea.

24. Dunbabin, "Baiarum Grata Voluptas." 40.

25. Images and patterns in -other types of settings, such as thresholds, can also be understood to have apotropaic resonance. See Swift, "Interiors." The idea of the labyrindi as a puzzle for die eyes, trapping the gaze, lent it considerable apotropaic power in the Roman world. Small labyrinths and knots, impossible to untangle, occasionally appear at thresholds, where, it was hoped, they could bind envy and ill will and prevent diese forces from entering the house. On knots, see Eunice Maguire, Henry Maguire, aud Maggie Duncan-Flowers, Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana; University of Illinois Press, 1989), 3-4. On die "binding" language of spells, see Christopher Faraone, "The Agonistic Context of Early Greek Binding Spells," in Magata Hiera, ed. Faraone and Dirk Obbink (Nevy York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3-32; and Katherine Dunbabin and Matdiew W. Dickie, "invidia rumpantttr pectora: The Iconography of Phthonos/ Invidia in Gracco-Roman Art," Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 26 (1983): 7-37. See also Pliny, Natural History 36.19.85, where he is careful to note that "We must not, comparing this last to what we see delineated on our mosaic pavements, or to the mazes formed in die fields for die amusement of children, suppose it io be a narrow promenade along which we may walk for many miles together; but wé must picture to ourselves a building filled with numerous doors, and galleries which continually mislead die visitor, bringing him back, after all his wanderings, to die spot from which he first set out." Pliny, Natural History, trans. D. E. Eichholz (Cambridge, Mass,: Harvard University Press. 1962). 340. It should be noted that die labyrinth mosaics are iuiicursal. offering only a single route forward, and dius, even if die single padi might be difficult to follow with die eyes, their lack of "puzzle" would be easily apparent. Nonetfieless, in each case, die visual scintillation of the pattern can impede optical clarity. See also p. 31 below, on mosaics of Medusa.

26. One parallel for this study can be found in the work of Timothy O'Sullivan, who examines the Odyssey Landscapes (in the Vatican Museums) with attention to the painted portico that surrounds the frescoes, allowing the beholder to "walk with Odysseus," bodi physically and mentally, along the course of the hero's journeys; O'Sullivan, "Walking with Odysseus: The Portico Frame of the Odyssey Landscapes." American Journal of Philology 128 (2007): 497-532.

27. The Batiis of Theseus and the Minotaur at Belalis Maior (Tunisia) were excavated in 1960-65 and are named after this mosaic. The badis have been published in Thébert, Thermes romaines, 132-33, with a 'schematic plan at pi. 33. 4. See also Animar Mahjoubi, "Le dième du Labyrintiie et du Minoiaure figuré sur une mosaïque de Belalis Major (Henchir ei-Faouar)," Africa (1969-70, published 1972): 335-40; and idem, Recherc fies d'histoire et d'archéologie à HenchirrEl-Faouar (Tunisie) (Tunis: Publications de l'Université de Tunis, 1978), 209-27. According to Daszewski, L« mosaïque, de Thésée, 123, the mosaic is currendy in a local storage house near the site. The labyrinth mosaic also features in Kern, Thmugh the iMhyrintli, 93, cat. no. 140. Marta Novello refers to the mosaic as adorning the "House of Theseus and the Minotaur," at Belalis Maior, where only the baths survive. See Novello, Scelte tematiche e committenza nelle abitazioni dell'Africa proconsolare: I mosaic figurati (Pisa: Fabrizio Serra, 2007), 225.

28. See Mahjoubi, "Le dième du Labyrinthe," 340; and Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 52, pl. 18.

29. A floor mosaic of Theseus and die Minotaur from a Roman house in Gurgi. Libya (ca. 200) does not feature a labyrinth plan but shows a scene of die hero dragging die monster out the door of the labyrinth, under the watchful gaze of Ariadne. An adjacent vignette shows a still life of rabbit, chicken, and fruit. See Daszewski, La mosaïque, de Thésée, 119-20, no. 45, pi. 36; and Kern, Through the Labyrinth, 101.

30. For one example, see the late third-century mosaic from the baths at Thina, Tunisia, where at least twenty 'marine narratives are collaged onto a single watery surface. See Nabiha Jeddi, "Étude descriptive et analytique des mosaïques de Thaenae (Thina en Tunisie)" (PhD diss.. Université de Paris-IV Sorbonne, 1990); J. Thirion, "Un ensemble tfiermal avec mosaïques à Thina (Tunisie)," Mélanges de l'École Française de Rome: Antiquité 69 (1957): 207-46; and Katherine M. D. Dunbabin, Mosaics of Roman North Africa: Studies in Iconography and Patronage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 273.

31. As with the many mosaics of Medusa, also a frequent feature in Roman baths, the nearly abstract pattern of most of the floor is also doing narrative work: manifesting die terrible power of her vision in a kaleidoscopic swirl of pattern around her head. See, for example, a secondcentury mosaic of Medusa from a tepidarium in Dar Zmela, now In the Scusse Museum, Tunisia. See also Louis Foucher, Inventaire iles mosaïques: Sousse (Tunis: Institut Nationale d'Archéologie et Arts. I960), 121-22, no. 57.274, pi. 67; Dunbabin, Mosaics of Raman North Africa, 163 ?. 149 and 271 ?. 30b; and Carolyn McKeon, "The Iconography of the Gorgon Medusa in Roman Mosaic" (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1983), 291-93, no. 64. Suzanne Germain, Les mosaïques de Tìmgad (Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1969), 90, notes that die design of such mosaics evokes Medusa's aegis.

32. Natural History 36.19.85, trans. Eichholz, 67. Pliny is writing about a labyrindi in Egypt, which he declares to be still extant, and which he asserts must have served as the model for Daedalus's labyrinth in Crete. Pliny goes on to mention the many miles that are compressed by labyrinth mosaic floors and by the maze games played by boys running around in the Campus Martius.

33. See John Kraft, "The Cretan Labyrinth and the Walls of Troy: An Analysis of Roman Labyrindi Designs," Opuscula Romana 15, no, 6 (1985): 79-86; Anthony Phillips, "The Topology of Roman Mosaic Mazes," Leonardo 25, nos. 3-4 (1992): 321-29; and Penelope Doob, The Idea of Ike Labyrinth from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990).

34. The sensitive study of Roger Hanoune on the Baths of Julia Memmia is an exception; Hanoune, "Décor du monument."

35. Pausanias 1.39.3, as cited in E. Norman Gardiner, "Wresding,'* Journal of Hellenic Studies 25 (1905): 19. See also idem, "Wrestling (Continued) ,"Journal of Hellenic Studies 25 (1905): 263-93. Further discussion of this tradition can be found in Michael Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 46, 136. One could also compare these works with Roland Barthes's essay on wresding, "The World of Wresding," in Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 15-25.

36. Daszewski. La mosaïque de. Thésée, 94. In her magnificent article on bath decor from 1989, Dunbabin ("Baiarum Grata Voluptas," 24) explored die "world of beauty and luxury which lay at the heart of the badi aesthetic," but she too knowingly left aside die sporting aspect of the baths.

37. Yegül (Baths and Bathing. 185, with sources) points out that diese spaces were suitable not only for games and gymnastic performances but also for banquets. An honorific inscription from Africa praises a man who "gave a banquet to die entire population and a gymnastic contest; at die same spectacle he also showed boxers . . . ," trans. Anne Mahoney, Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook (Newburyport, Mass.: Focus Publishing, 2001), 64, As noted by Mahoney, the date and the name of die honorée are unknown.

38. See also Theben, Thermes romaines, 67-68. For athletic scenes from baths in Italy, and suggestions of their appropriateness to the location, see Zahra Newby, "Greek Athletics as Roman Spectacle: The Mosaics from Ostia and Rome." Papers of the British School at Rome 70 (2002): 177-203, where she suggests that mosaic figures shown beneadi living bathers "could serve as a model to which to aspire" (200).

39. According to Garth Fagan, Roman (men) embarked on the bathing process only "after a good sweat had been worked up"; Fagan, Bathing in Public in the Rinnan World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 1.0. He is referring only to Roman men in this discussion. How Roman women, families, or children made use of baths, both public and private, has not yet been a topic of scholarly study.

40. See Newby, "Greek Auiletics as Roman Spectacle," 180, with citations. Also Inge Nielsen, Thermae et Balnea: The Architecture and Cultural History of Roman Public Baths (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1990), 144.

41. Mustapha Khanoussi, "Pugilist Spectacles and Athletic Games in Proconsular Africa," in Stories in Stone: Conserving Mosaics of Roman Africa, ed. .Aicha Ben Abed (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum Publications, 2006), 79-9.1, including discussion of mosaics of wrestlers and various athletic games from the early fourth-century badis at Gafsa (now in the Gafsa Archaeological Museum, Tunisia) and from the thiixUcentury Badis at Gigtiits, now in the Bardo Museum., Tunis. See also Mustapha Khanoussi, "Les spectacles de jeux adilétiques et de pugilat dans l'Afrique romaine," Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: Römische Abteilung 98 (1991): 315-22; and idem, "Spectaculum pugilium et gymnasium: Compte rendu d'un spectacle de jeux athlétiques et de pugilat, figuré sur une mosaïque de Ja région de Gafsa (Tunisia)," Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Comptes Rendus. 1988: 543-60. For a recent compendium, see Simone Wiedler, "Gymnische Agone oder Ceriamole Graeca," in Wiedler, Aspefeie der Masatkausstattung, 57-72.

42. Joyce M. Reynolds and John B. Ward Perkins, eds.. Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (London: British School at Rome. 1952), no. 103a, cited in Fagan, Bathing in Public, app.. 243, no. 35.

43. The Batiis of die Labyrinth at Thuburbo Maius have been published most recendy in Thébert, Thermes romaines, 172-73. Mosaics are published in Margaret Alexander, Aicha Ben Abed-Ben Khader, S. BesrourBen Mansour, David Soren, Corpus des mosaïques de Tunisie, vol. 2, fase. 1, Thuburbo Maim: Lm mosaïques de la région du Forum (Tunis: Institut National d'Archéologie et d'Arts, 1980), 20-31, as end 3rd- beginning 4ÜY century. Thébert (ibid.) concurs, and Dunbabin, Mosci» of Roman North Africa, 274, says "?4th century." For die architecture, see Louis Drappier, "Les thermes de Thuburbo Maius," Bulletin Archéologique du Comité, des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, 1920: 55-75. Boxers face off as well in a threshold mosaic at the House of die Boxers in Utica, discussed below. See Margaret Alexander, S. Besrour, Mongi Ennaifer et al.. Corpus des Mosaïques de Tunisie, vol. 1, fase. 3, Utique, mosaïques sans localisation précise et El Alia (Tunis; Institut National d'Archéologie et d'Arts, 1976), 276, cat. no. 246, pi. 2. Boxers feature in mosaics of the Thermae of the Pugilists at Thina, as well as in the second-century mosaics of the Batiis of Massongex in die Valais, Switzerland. See JeanPaul Tbuillier, Le sport dans la Rome antique (Paris: Éditions Errance, 1996), 141. The athlete portraits in the mosaics of the Baths of Caracalla at Rome are another obvious parallel (see n. 67 below), as are the mosaic portraits of athletes from the Baths of Porta Marina, Ostia. Regarding a black-and-white mosaic from Ostia, boxing, wrestling, and associated literary sources, see Christopher Jones, "The Pancratiasts Helix and Alexander on an Ostian Mosaic," Journal of Roman Archaeology 11 (1998): 293-98. For general surveys, see Zahra Newby, "The Athletic Ideal in the Second Sophistic." a chapter in her dissertation, "Educated Fantasies: Interpreting die Visual Arts in the Second Sophistic" (PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art. 2000); and idem, "Greek Athletics as Roman Spectacle," 177-203; Poliakoff, Combat Sports; and Jean-Paul Tliuillicr. "Athletic Exercises in Ancient Rome," European Retriew 12 (2004): 415-26. See also a, 35 above, on wrestling.

44. Thébert, Thermes romaines, 455, citing several third-cenWry inscriptions, and see also his n. 55.

45. Ibid., 172. The smaller North African batiis generally did not have palaestrae. See Yegül,- Baths and Bathing, 186-87. This is the labyrinth mosaic Slim classed as from a villa rather than a bath; see n. 16 above.

46. The narrow direshold between die frigidarium and tepidarium was marked by a mosaic of sandals. See plan in Thébert, Thermes romaines, pi. LVH, 3; and Alexander et al.. Thuburbo Maius, 27 and pi. G?. Such a mosaic of footwear at a direshold certainly addresses a walking viewer, indicating that the temperature underfoot was about to change dramatically. At this point, precautionary measures would be taken to protect unshod feet from heated floors, or, conversely, bath sandals no longer needed could be taken off.

47. Natural History 36.19.84-86, trans. Eichholz. 69.

48. Such a perspeciival illusion has been noted by Jean Lassus, discussing a mosaic from the markets at Hippo Regius; Lassus, "La mosaïque romaine: Organisation des surfaces," in La mosaïque Gréco-Romaine II, ed. Henri Stem and Marcel Le Glay (Paris: A. ScJ. Picard. 1975), 337 and pi. CLIX, 1.

49. Apollodonis, The Library 3.1.4, trans. J. Frazer (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939).

50. Poliakoff. Combat Sports, 8. See also Gardiner, "Wresding," 24. For more on die pankration, see n. 58 below.

51. Dio Chrysostom, 8.26; and Galen, Exhortation far Medicine 9-14; discussed in Stephen G. Miller, Arete: Ancient Writers, Papyri and Great Inscripthns on the History and Ideals of Greek Athletics and Games (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). According to Galen, Roman wresders seeking to add strategic heft were said to gorge themselves on flesh and blood (Exhortation far Medicine 9-14). This is also, however, a reasonably apt description of the Minotaur's diet. He is shown in some labyrinth mosaics (as at Thuburbo Maius) surrounded by the detritus of past victims, his own meals of flesh and blood.

52. Wulf Raeck has studied the late-andque trend of actualizing mythological scenes by using contemporary clothing and hairstyles for mythological characters in his book, Modernisierte Mythen: Zum Umgang der Spätaniike mit klassischen Bildthemen (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1992). At Thuburbo Maius, Theseus's bulla (amulet), his short hairstyle, the chunky body types of both figures, and die recognizable wresding holds oner an updated version of the labyrinth story. The body type of Theseus at Belalis Maior (seen in Fig. 2) is decidedly more heroic. The nonheroic body type is unusual for mosaics of Theseus - I know of only one additional example, from the Villa Domizia on die island of Giannutri, Italy. This pavement, entirely black-and-white and dated to 150-200 CE, shows the two protagonists kneeling in a narrow rectangular space at the labyrinth's center. Theseus is nude and quite thick around die middle. Nonedieless, die baule is about to be won. With one hand, Theseus has a good grip on one of the Minotaur's horns, and die hero again wields his pedum in his other hand. See Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, cat. no. 29, pl. 15.

53. See Gardiner, "Wresding (Continued)," 265, for discussion of the Oxyrhynchus papyrus 3.466.

54. Plutarch, Theseus 19.3, trans. B. Perrin (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1948).

55. Apotlodorus, Epitome 1.9; Plutarch, Theseus 17.3, trans. Perrin. See also Roger Ling. "The Casa della Caccia Antica at Pompeii," Journal of Roman Archaeology 18 (2005): 597-98. for a discussion of Theseus's fighting accoutrements in Pompeian wall painting, with bibliography.

56. As referenced by Ovid, Heroides 10.101-2.

57. For in-depth discussion of the rules of wrestling, see Gardiner, "Wrestling." 14-31; Gardiner, "Wrestling (Continued)," 263-93; and Poliakoff, Combat Sports.

58. Of the sixty-two mosaics featured in Daszewski's catalog, La mosaïque de Thésée, twenty-six show a scene of combat between Theseus and the Minotaur. Fully twenty-two of these combat scenes show the Minotaur brought to his knees. The kicking pose, however, is a signal that this match may be more of a pankration-sty\e encounter, in which hitting and kicking were allowed. Fighting continued on die ground in die pankratimi, and the match ended only when one adversary acknowledged defeat. In the myth and on the mosaics, this battle was, of course, the end of the Minotaur, and, unlike wrestling, the pankration could be a life-and-deatii matter. See Gardiner, "Wresding," 19-21, with sources on the pankration. See also Poliakoff, Combat Sports, 54. Galen's satire on professional adiletes gave die prize to a donkey for demonstrating such prowess in kicking (Protrepticus 13). Other mosaic labyrinths intimate combat even if the two protagonists are not presented, showing, for example, two crossed lances and a shield at the labyrinth center (a bath complex at Chuscian. France; see Daszewski, cat. no. 15), or usurping the immediate architectural surround by placing the labyrindi 's center at die direshold of the bath's palaestra (Mactar, Tunisia, see below).

59. On wrestlers' hairstyles, see Gardiner, "Wrestling," 18, citing Philostratus, Imagines 2.32. and Plutarch, Aratus 2.3.6, among others. A version of this hairstyle can be seen in many mosaics of adilete portraits, such as the bust-length mosaic portraits of stocky athletes wearing necklaces featured in floor mosaics at die Badis of Thapsus, from ca. 300 CE. See N. Ben Lazreg, "Byzacene cotière: Alfiletes," in Aicha Ben Abed-Ben Khader, Image de pierre: La Tunisie en mosaïque (Paris: Ars Latina. 2003), 492-93, 534 and figs. 312, 313.

60. On the Utica mosaic, see Alexander et al., Utique, 276, cat. no. 246, pl. 2. The mosaics of Piazza Armerina, including die bath attendants, are most comprehensively published in Gino Gentili, La villa romana di Piazza Armerina Palazzo Emilio, voi. 3, / mosaici figurati: Descrizione e interpretazione (Osimo: Fondazione Don Carlo, 1999). See also Andrea Carandini, Andreina Ricci, and Mariette de Vos. Fibsofiana: The Villa of Piazza Armerina; The Image afa Roman Aristocrat in the Time of Constantine (Palermo: S. F. Flaccovio, 1982).

61. Amulets appearing within mosaic images might echo die apotropaic import of the labyrinth motif itself. On the apotropaic nature of die labyrindi, see Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 95-96; Dunbabin. "Baiarum Grata Voluptas," 40; and see also ?. 25 above. Amulets (along with bells and symbols) probably also served as apotropaic functionaries outside tombs. See Donatello Nuzzo, "Amulet and Grave in Late Antiqui ty: Some Examples from Roman Cemeteries," in Burial, Society and Context in the Roman World, ed. John Pearcc. Martin Milieu, and Manuela Struck (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2000), 249-55. Surviving examples (in bronze) of amulets that parallel those worn by athletes and heroes on North African mosaics can be seen in Stephanie Boucher, Bronzes romains figurés du Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon (Lyons: Éditions de Boccard, Paris, 1973), cat. nos. 31 1-17, ail long pendants and largely phallic in import. Cat. no. 322 in Boucher, a bronze caduceus 4% inches (12.5 cm) long, looks to be the kind of amulet that could easily be realized in rope or Ieadier cord, a more friable form of necklace or amulet that does not survive for us today but might more closely approximate what die mosaic athletes often appear to be wearing. In the Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, there is a pendant amulet of a bull's head, perhaps an interesting option for a wrestler (though this example is dated to 600 BCIE and thus much earlier than any mosaics discussed here). See Mary Comstock and Cornelius Vermeille. Greek. Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1971), cat. no. 275.

62. Gardiner ("Wrestling" and "Wresding !Continued]"} traces these wresding poses and motifs back to early black-figure vases. See also discussions in Poliakoff. Combat Sports, passim.

63. Erwan Maree, "Le thème du labyrinthe et du Minotauro dans la mosaïque romaine," in Hommages à Albert. Grenier, vol. 3 (Brussels: Latomus, Revue d'Études Latines, 1962), 1094-1 12. Also idem, Hippone la Royale: Antique Hippo Regius (Algiers: Imprimerie Officielle, 1954), 100: and Wiedler, Aspekte der Mosaikausstattung, 236, with previous bibliography.

64. Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 101.

65. Plutarch. Theseus 19.

66. Only a few mosaics show the thread traversing the path of die labyrinth. One Roman labyrindi mosaic, today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Menna, shows a red thread winding through a black labyrindi and ending in the central square zone where Theseus has the Minotaur already on his knees (Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, cat. no. 7). Another, from a fourth-century church in Algeria, shows die thread curving along to begin die journey, and then petering out quite soon (ibid., cat. no. 4). At the Roman villa at Nea Paphos, Cyprus, die labyrinth Is traversed by a band of guilloche diat entirely encircles the center scene (this pavement is the focus of ibid, and his cat. no. 8). At the Baths of Julia Memmia (Bulla Regia. Tunisia), the labyrinth's patii is followed by a laurel garland; see Hanoune, "Décor du monument." A sixth-century floor in S. Vitale, Ravenna, offers a path in opus sectile to the labyrinth's blank center (Daszewski. Im mosaïque de Thésée, cat. no. 38): this labyrinth is composed like the one at Mactar discussed below: all thread, no walls, no hero, no Minotaur (ibid., cat. no. 57). In addition to die Mactar labyrinth, only three other labyrinths show die ball of thread at the labyrinth's center - all from North African baths - the ones at Hippo Regius and Belalis Maior, discussed here, and another from Dellys, Algeria (ibid.. cat. no. 3), where the thread is pictured in the central battle scene.

67. For the athlete mosaics from Thapsus, from ca. 300. see Ben Abed-Ben Khader, Image de pierre, 492-93, 534. Other riiosaics of adiletes in North Africa can be found at die Antonine Baths in Carthage and baths at the following sites: Bou Arkoub, Gigthis, Thina, Utica, Tébessa, Cherchée Baten Zaramour. See Khanoussi, "Pugilist Spectacles." "Les spectacles," and "Spectaculum pugilium." For the athlete mosaics in die palaestra exedrae of die Baths of Caracalla in Rome, see Antonio Insalaco, "I mosaici degli atleti dalle Terme di Caracalla: Una nuova indagine," Archeologia Classica 41 (1989): 283-327; and Giuseppina Gh irardinì, "Die im Jahre 1824 bei den Grabungen Egidio Girolamo Di Velos in den Caracallathermen aufgedeckten Addetendarstellungen," in Die Sammlung antiker Mosaiken in den Vatikanischen Museen by Klaus Werner (Vatican City: Monumenti Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, 1998), 217-51.

68. Wolfgang Iser. Prospecting: Front Reader Response io Literary Anthropology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), esp. die chap. "Interaction between Text and Reader," 31-41.

69. A similar bust appears at die center of a labyrinth mosaic from a Roman badis at Stolac (Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, cat. no. 29), and the Minotaur appears alone in die center of two mosaics from houses in Conimbriga. Portugal (ibid., cat. nos. 46. 47). A vanquished and dying Minotaur appears solo in a mosaic from a house in Calvatone, Italy (ibid-, cat. no. 25), and also in a tomb mosaic from Sousse, Tunisia (ibid., cat. no. 54). I have not been able to find a plan of the small baths of Hippo Regius, which would allow a reconsUiiciion of the beholder's access to the labyrindi; did he or she enter die room from the same side thai the ball of thread enters the Minotaur's inner sanctum?

70. Alois Riegl, "Spätrömisch oder Orientalisch?" Beilage, zur Mûnchener Allgemeinen Zeitung 93-94 (April 23. 1902), uanslated as "late Roman or Oriental?" in German Essays on Art History: Winekelmann, Burckhardt, Panofsky, and Others, ed. Gert Schiff, German Library Series, vol. 79 (New York: Continuum, 1988), 181. This essay summarizes Riegl's arguments from his book Late Roman Art Industry, which first appeared in 1901.

71. See Kern, Through the Labyrinth, cat. no. i60. Also Daszewski, La mosaïque de Thésée, 116-17. Boih authors date die mosaic to ca. 50 CE, withoui going into detail. Its original dimensions are unknown. Discovered in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century and subsequently entirely lost, it may have come from a house.

72. Gardiner. "Wrestling," 16, discussion of Lucían, Hermalim m 40.

73. Other labyrindi mosaics also directly hint at athletic victory: in die labyrindi from the Badis at Verdes, France, the central motif is a crown of laurel leaves. See Daszewski, La mosaïque de Ttiésêe, 108, cat. no. 18. Slim ("La mosaïque du labyrinthe," 209 ?. I) suggested diat in this case there is no relation between die center motif and the geometric frame of the labyrindi. But die link between the labyrinth and addette events can once again render the conjunction meaningful; laurel wreaths were awarded as victory crowns, such as die one pictured in Fig. 8.

74. The work of Zanker and Ewald ( Mit Mythen Leben) on the ways Roman sarcophagi encouraged identification of the self (and the deceased) with mythological figures is again a productive parallel here. See also Raeck, Modernisierte Mythen; and Newby, "Greek Athletics."

75. For the classification, see Yegül, Baths and Bathing, 186-217. For the architecture, Thébert, Thermes romaines, 144-45. Also Gilbert-Charles Picard, "Les grands thermes à Mactar," Bulletin Archéologique du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, 1972: 151-99; idem, "Les fouilles de la mission franco-tunisienne à Mactar en 1970-71: Les grands thermes orientaux," Bulletin Archéologique du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, fase. 8-B (1972): 149-53. Gilbert-Charles Picard et al., Recherches archéologiques franco-tunisiennes à Mactar, vol. 1, La Maison. de Vénus (Rome: L'École Française de Rome, 1977). 29 n. 61, labels ail die floor mosaics here as "nonfigural," though, as we will see, this is not entirely die case. The authors also note die presence of numerous tesserae found in die excavations that reveal the vaults were once covered in mosaic, though of what subject we have no idea

76. Fikret Yegül (personal communication) feels that these two palaestrae at Mactar could well have been used for recreational athletics. The two open courtyards at die Great East Baths of Mactar are repeatedly described as palaestrae. See Thébert, Thermes romtUnes, 144; Broise and Thébert, Recherches; and Yegül. Baths and Bathing, 196-97.

77. Plutarch, Theseus 19.2, trans. Petrin.

78. Lucían, Anacharsis, or Athletics 2, sees. 1-2 and 28, have much discussion of mud and saad and men making themselves «idler muddy and slippery or sandy and gritty to evade the holds of their opponents. On locations for wrestling, see Ranon Katzoff, "Where Did the Greeks of the Roman Period Practice Wrestling?" American Journal of Archaeology 90 ( 1986): 437-40. "Why do you roll in the sand?" asks Tertullian in his attack on the vanity of the palaestra (De pallio 4). In a walkover in a wrestling match, where an opponent did not show up or simply withdrew, the victor was said to have won akonilei (without the dust). See Poliakoff, Combat Sports, 12 and 166 n. 14 with many sources on the skamma. See also Gardiner, "Wrestling." 73-74, and "Wresding (Continued)," 16-18. The sandy surface of the wrestling ground also recalls the single strip of setting given beneath die feet of the combatants pictured at the center of the Thuburbo labyrinth; this, too, was the color of sand.

79. Alois Riegl, "Excerpts from "The Dutch Group Portrait,' " trans. Benjamin Binstock. October, no. 74 (Autumn 1995): 3. This subjective "external unity" or "external coherence [äussere Einheit]" was explored by Riegl in a discussion prompted by intermediary figures glancing out from paintings to meet the eyes of die beholder; Riegl, "Das Holländische Grappenportrât," /cArèucA der Kunsthislorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses 23 (1902): 71-278. This has been most recently translated by Evelyn M. Kain and David Britt, The Group Portraiture of Holland, Alois Riegl (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1999). See also Margaret Olin. "Forms of Respect: Alois Riegl's Concept of Attentiveness." Art Bulletin 71 (19R9): 285-99.

80. A parallel to this fusion between decor and experience has been explored in the realm of Pompeian architecture and painting by Verity Plait, who explores images of Narcissus and Diana, among others, whose stories rely on water featuring as part of die beholder's immediate ambient; Piatt, "Viewing. Desiring, Believing: Confronting die Divine in a Pompeian House,* Art History 25, no. 1 (February 2002): 87J 12. See also Newby, "Greek Athletics," on unbordered mosaics of human athletes in Roman baths, especially those deliberately placed in areas close to die palaestra to blur "the line between badiers and die mosaic figures" (191).

81. GilbertrCharles Picard, "Un bas-relief agonistique à Mactar." Bulletin Archéologique du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, fase. IB-B (1988): 99. But see n. 76 above, for Yegül's willingness to interpret Mactar's two palaestrae as being appropriately scaled to recreational, rather than professional, athletics. Semipublic athletic competitions at baths (in ImIy) are discussed by Newby, "Greek Athletics."

82. Picard. "Uu bas-relief agonistique," 98. Sec also Thébert, Thermes romaines, 455, who says the scene on the bas-relief must have been continued on another block of stone.

83. For the connection between Eros and athletics, see Thomas F, Scanlon, Ems and Greek Athletics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

84. Catullus 64.1 12-15, trans. F. W. Cornish (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976).

85. Tertullian, De speetaculL· 18, trans. T. R. Glover (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931).

86. Natural History 36.19.85.

87. As, for example, the Great Baths at Lámbese, Algeria. See J. Bayet. "Les statues d'Hercule des Grands Thermes de Lámbese," in Idéologie et plastique (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1974), 405-10. Miranda Marvin notes that Hercules is "ubiquitous in bath sculpture"; Marvin, "Freestanding Sculptures from the Batiis of Catacalla." American Journal of Archaeology 87 (1983): 379. For the athlete mosaics from die Baths of Caracalla at Rome, see n. 67 above. Yegül (Baths and Bathing, 17.5^-77) discusses the College of Herculean Athletes in the Thermae of Trajan and reproduces an image from the Baths of Nero at Rome, featuring athletic scenes on a capital today in the Belvedere Court of the Vatican. Hubertus Manderscheid offers images and discussions of statues of athletes from Roman baths in Trier (cat. no. 10), two badis in Ostia (cat. nos. 82, 98), two baths in Ephesus (cat. nos. 163. 190). and Miletus (cat. no. 225): Manderscheid, Die Skulpturenausstattung der Kaiserzeitlichen Thermenanlagen (Berlin: Gebrüder Mann Vertag, 1981). For mosaics of athletes in baths of North Africa, see esp. 11. 41 above.

Author affiliation:

Rebecca Molholt received her PhD in art history from Columbia University in 2008. Her dissertation on Roman floor mosaics was completed during a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. She is an assistant professor at Brown University [History of Art and Architecture, Brown University, Providence, RJ, 02912,].

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