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A Mosaic of Daniel in the Lions’ Den from Borj el Youdi (Furnos Minus) Tunisia: The Iconography of Martyrdom and the Arena in Roman North Africa

Angela Kalinowski
p. 115-128

Résumés

Le Musée Bardo à Tunis détient actuellement une des rares reproductions en mosaïque du prophète Daniel dans la fosse aux lions. Découverte à Borj el Youdi (Furnos Minus) en 1898 et datant probablement du ve siècle, cette mosaïque est unique en son genre. Elle est très différente d’autres représentations de Daniel qui étaient très populaires en Afrique du Nord, utilisant d’autres moyens d’expression, particulièrement la céramique. Nous soutenons que, quoique cette mosaïque s’inspire de l’iconographie classique de Daniel, elle fait aussi explicitement référence aux spectacles d’amphithéâtre, surtout à la damnatio ad bestias, auxquels les premiers chrétiens étaient soumis. Cette mosaïque, de façon encore plus graphique que d’autres représentations de cette histoire, dépeint Daniel comme un martyr chrétien. Elle fait ainsi allusion au contexte nord-africain des ive et ve siècles alors que l’Église était divisée par des conflits sectaires entre les catholiques et les donatistes, ces derniers se considérant de l’Église des martyrs.

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Notes de l’auteur

This paper was presented to American chapter of AIEMA, Getty Villa, Malibu California October, 2014.
I am grateful to the anonymous referees and David Parrish for comments and suggestions, and to Nejib Ben Lazreg and Joann Freed for assistance with sources.

Texte intégral

Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of God (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans)

  • 1 Yacoub 1969, cat. no. A 253.
  • 2 CIL VIII, Suppl. IV, 25817. Incorrectly published by Gauckler 1910, p. 172, no. 514 and Gauckler e (...)
  • 3 Héron de Villefosse 1898, p. 206, and p. 207, note 1.
  • 4 Dunbabin 1978, p. 191-192.
  • 5 Only four other examples of floor mosaics in Tunisia – see below p. 120 and two in 6th c. synagogu (...)

1A striking mosaic hangs in the Christian hall of the Bardo Museum in Tunis1 (fig. 1). On an octagonal white ground a nude ‘orant’ stands on a raised platform while four lions scale ramps towards him. In the pentagonal field below the platform is an inscription: MEMORIA / BLOSSI HONO/RATVS INGENVS ACTOR / PERFECIT (‘Tomb or memory of Blossus/Blossius. Honoratus (his) agent of free status brought (it) to completion’)2. Since its discovery in 1898 in a Christian mausoleum at Borj el Youdi (ancient Furnos Minus, Tunisia), the scene has been identified as representing the biblical story of Daniel in the lions’ den. A report to the Société nationale des antiquaires de France in 1898 describes the mosaic as a “curieux pavage”, and “un pavage des plus intéressants”3. Several things make it so. First, images of biblical stories, which are very common in other media, are very rare in Christian floor mosaics4. The Borj el Youdi Daniel mosaic is one of only four extant floor mosaics in Roman North Africa that represent the story of Daniel in the lions’ den5. Second, the portrayal of Daniel on this mosaic is unique and distinct from other representations of the same subject. I will argue here that the image draws on two different iconographic traditions and combines them to make a single, arresting portrayal of the prophet. On the one hand, the mosaic has features that are standard in the iconography of Daniel in the lions’ den in 4th-7th century North African terracotta lamps and tiles. On the other hand, it also draws on images of ad bestias executions represented in the same popular media, making explicit reference to the victims, accoutrements and props of the arena. Thus, in the Borj el Youdi mosaic the biblical prophet Daniel resembles closely a man set upon by lions in the arena, a Christian martyr.

Fig. 1: Mosaic of Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis

Fig. 1: Mosaic of Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis

Photo A. Kalinowski.

  • 6 Lassus 1966, p. 201-205.

2Many Christians sought and experienced martyrdom in the arena. Some were destroyed in the jaws of beasts, some were consumed by fire or met other horrific deaths designed by their executioners. Early Christian writers frequently associated Daniel’s story with the suffering, but ultimate salvation, of Christian martyrs in the arena. Moreover, modern scholars have long thought that the representation of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den in artistic media was meant to evoke martyrdom in the mind of the ancient Christian viewer6. However, no other representation of Daniel so visually and explicitly ties the prophet to the arena. I will begin by examining the dual iconographic traditions on which the Borj el Youdi Daniel mosaic draws. I will then suggest why this Daniel is so like a Christian martyr. Daniel, a man condemned to the beasts, evoked the peculiarly North African experience of religious persecution that plagued the region intermittently from the late 2nd though the 5th c. CE. Martyrdoms not only occurred during the period of pagan religious domination up to 312, but also during the Christian Empire, in the 4th and 5th centuries when sectarian religious violence was rampant.

1. The Discovery and Archaeological Context of the Borj el Youdi Daniel in the Lions’ Den Mosaic

  • 7 For a detailed survey of the Christian remains at Furnos Minus Duval, Cintas 1978.
  • 8 Antoine Héron de Villefosse read the Marquis’ report on 27 April 1898, BSAF, 1898, p. 206-207.
  • 9 Gauckler 1898, p. 335-336, with resumé CXXXVII-CXXXVIII; Gauckler 1899, p. 9; Gauckler 1901, p. 18 (...)
  • 10 Gauckler 1898, p. 336-337. Inscription: RVTVNDA IN PACE FIDELIS / DISCESSIT XIII KAL(ENDAS) NOBEMB (...)
  • 11 The earliest reports do not mention a tomb under the Daniel mosaic; N. Duval and M. Cintas (1978, (...)
  • 12 Balmelle 2002, vol. 2, p.186, pl. 373 a, b.
  • 13 Bejaoui 1994, p. 235-237; Yacoub 2003, p. 97, fig. 379. Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 915, assessed the m (...)
  • 14 At Antioch see Levi 1947, vol. 2, pl. CXI a, from Room 21 of the Yakto complex dated to ca. 450 CE (...)

3The Daniel in the lions’ den mosaic was excavated in a Christian mausoleum at ancient Furnos Minus, near the modern village of Furni, located about 40 kilometers southwest of Carthage (fig. 2). The Christian remains at Furnos Minus lie on a hill north of the modern village, near Borj el Youdi and Henchir Msaâdine. Excavations pursued in 1898, 1938, and 1953 revealed two Christian basilicas, the mausoleum with the Daniel mosaic and, near to it, several mosaic covered tombs, which may belong to a third basilica7. In 1898, the Marquis d’Anselme de Puisaye was charged with the excavation of the mausoleum and in the same year sent a brief report to the Société nationale des antiquaires de France accompanied by a watercolour of the mosaic8. Paul Gauckler, who also worked at the site, mentions the mosaic in several reports in 1898 and 1900, as well as in the Inventaire des mosaïques and the Catalogue du Musée Alaoui9. The mausoleum was a vaulted hypogeum, its floor about 2.5 m below the modern surface at the time of excavation (fig. 3). Visitors descended a staircase located on the southeast side into the square plan mausoleum. Each of the masonry walls of the mausoleum contained two arcosolia with 0.60 m high caisson tombs for a total six adult and two child burials. The seven mosaic covered tombs had been robbed, and were in very poor condition. However, one tomb was sufficiently well preserved to offer up a formulaic funerary text inscribed on a limestone plaque commemorating a deceased woman named Rutunda10. The Daniel mosaic, measuring 4.0 m x 4.05 m, covered the entire floor of the mausoleum. On an octagonal white ground the naked ‘orant’ stands on a platform approached by four lions mounting ramps, which form the field for the short inscription. The presence of eight tombs, and possibly a ninth under the Daniel mosaic, leads one to surmise that the mausoleum was a family monument, which Honoratus constructed for Blossius/Blossus, his patron, and the former’s relatives11. A geometric border frames the octagon: eight pitched squares alternate with lozenges and triangles, with half lozenges filling vacant spaces12. Enclosing this border is a white band surrounded by two black fillets, which in turn are framed by a band of squares enclosing ‘fleurettes’. On stylistic grounds, several scholars have dated the mosaic to the 5th century13. Very close parallels for the pattern of a centralized octagon framed by squares and lozenges appear in Antioch and Gerash, and date to the second half of the fifth century, with one example dating to the early sixth century14 . Thus, a date in the second half of the 5th century or slightly later seems appropriate for the Borj el Youdi Daniel mosaic.

Fig. 2: The Region of Carthage, including sites with amphitheatres within 50km of Furnos Minus

Fig. 2: The Region of Carthage, including sites with amphitheatres within 50km of Furnos Minus

Source: Geoff Cunfer, Historical GIS Lab, University of Saskatchewan.

Fig. 3: Plan of the Borj el Youdi Mausoleum

Fig. 3: Plan of the Borj el Youdi Mausoleum

Reproduced from Héron de Villefosse 1898, p.207.

2. The Story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den

  • 15 Dan 6.1-28; 14.28-32.

4Early Christian communities were very familiar with the Old Testament book of Daniel, and their art reflected several episodes recounted therein: the rescue of the three youths from the fiery furnace, the story of Susanna, Daniel’s slaying of the dragon, and especially his salvation from the lions’ den, twice. In Daniel 6, it is at the court of King Darius I that his enemies accuse the righteous Daniel of worshipping the Jewish God, while in Daniel 14 he is an administrator of King Cyrus15. In both cases, the prophet’s refusal to worship idols results in his condemnation to certain death in the lions’ den. In Book 14, seven lions occupy the den. And, in the same book, an angel of the Lord transports Habacuc from Judaea to Babylon to bring Daniel food for his sustenance. This scene appears in some of the images of Daniel’s ‘travail’. However, most essential to both accounts is the taming of the lions and the salvation of the prophet.

  • 16 Valente 2013, p. 297, notes 3, 4.
  • 17 Dulaey 1998, p. 45-46.
  • 18 Hipp., Dan. III 31: “Et toi regarde aujourd’hui Babylone, c’est le monde, les satrapes sont les po (...)
  • 19 Valente 2013, p. 298-299; Sörries 2005 provides a catalogue of images of Daniel in the lions’ den.

5Early Christians easily related this tale to their own faith in a number of ways. For patristic writers, Daniel’s story, especially the visit of Habacuc to the prophet, reflected the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist16. Moreover, Daniel’s salvation was a metaphor for death and resurrection and, in this he prefigured Christ17. For the faithful, Daniel’s salvation was a promise of their own life after death- his entrance into the lions’ den was death, but he emerged from its jaws unscathed18. Because images of Daniel evoked God’s salvation of the faithful and the resurrection of the dead, they appear frequently in funerary contexts. The earliest examples are from Rome where Daniel appears in wall paintings in the catacombs from the mid 3rd century, and somewhat later, on Christian sarcophagi19. Thus, the mausoleum at Borj el Youdi fits into the pattern of portraying Daniel’s plight in a funerary context.

  • 20 Lanata 1973.
  • 21 Cypr., laps. 19.
  • 22 Bejaoui 1997, p. 24.
  • 23 Lassus 1966, p. 205.

6The story also prefigured the historical experience of Christians as a persecuted people. Like the exiled Jew, Daniel in Babylon, the early Christians also identified themselves as hated strangers in the pagan Roman Empire. Moreover, like Daniel, they suffered for their faith. Before 312 CE, sporadic faith-based persecutions terrorized Christians who refused to participate in traditional Roman cults. Their stories, recounted in Christian martyrologies, illustrated how some Christians chose not to renounce their faith but instead to face prosecution, humiliation and, finally, a violent death in the arena20. Although the Christian martyrs – unlike Daniel – did perish, the authors of the acts of the martyrs interpreted their struggles as victories, and their deaths as tickets to salvation. The oft-told story of Daniel in the lions’ den thus prefigured and encouraged the steadfastness of the faithful during the persecutions. He was a moral paradigm for the Christian martyrs, evoked in Christian literature as an exemplum. Cyprian, who would himself die as a martyr in Carthage wrote: “... quid gloriosus Daniele? Quid ad facienda martyria in fidei firmitate robustius, in Dei dignitatione felicius, qui totiens et cum confligeret vicit et cum vinceret supervixit?21. The rich symbolic and historical meaning of Daniel’s plight and salvation made it one most commonly represented Old Testament stories, portrayed in various artistic media in North African Christian art of the 4th through 6th century. It occurs in popular media such as terracotta lamps, ceramics, wall and ceiling tiles, but much more rarely on sarcophagi, and in other arts22. Sixty years ago Jean Lassus provocatively asked, whether, when the early Christians saw an image of Daniel, the ‘orant’ flanked by two lions, they did not also think of martyrdom? « Comment pouvaient-ils ne pas penser à la menace qui pesait sur eux ? Ne risquaient-ils pas d’être eux-mêmes suppliciés, brûlés vifs, livrés aux bêtes ? Daniel d’une part et Hananyah, Mishael et Azaryah d’autre part n’étaient-ils pas des martyrs; et l’épreuve qu’ils subissaient n’attendait pas alors chaque chrétien ? »23. However, he further states that the images of Daniel so loved by the Christians could not and did not show the cruelty of the arena, but rather were symbols deprived of dramatic realism. This is where the Borj el Youdi Daniel stands out – he is both symbol (resurrection, life after death), and a more dramatic and clear representation of Christian martyrdom.

3. Towards a ‘Standard’ Iconography of Daniel in the Lions’ Den in North Africa

  • 24 Minasi 2000, p162.
  • 25 Santagata 1983, p. 888.

7Generations of scholars have labored to describe and define the iconographical development of the image of Daniel in the lions’ den in early Christian art. Certain features became standard very early on, so that the figure of Daniel was highly recognizable to the ancient Christian viewer well versed in biblical lore: Daniel appears as a young, beardless man standing with arms outstretched at his sides flanked by two symmetrically placed lions24. The long life of the motif and its wide diffusion through the Roman and Byzantine Empires account for some of the variants that occur in the representation of the scene, such as the attitude of the lions, whether Daniel is dressed or naked, and the inclusion of secondary figures like Habacuc and the angel. Some features appear to be regional: naked representations of the prophet are largely restricted to Rome, for example25. However, artisans, or their patrons, might also influence the portrayal of Daniel according to their own needs, introducing elements that make some images distinctive, but still recognizable as the prophet. In what follows, I will focus on representative images of Daniel’s salvation mostly from North Africa, and especially from Africa proconsularis, in various media that are broadly contemporaneous to the Borj el Youdi mosaic (4th-6th centuries). These will allow us to identify some standard iconographic features of representations of the Daniel story in this region and time, and will set the stage for highlighting the originality of the Borj el Youdi Daniel. In North Africa, the standard features are a young beardless Daniel, clothed in an ‘eastern fashion’, who stands frontally with his arms outstretched, and is flanked by two submissive lions, moving downwards towards his feet.

  • 26 Hayes 1972, p. 310-314.
  • 27 For mandye see Salomonson 1979, p. 8 and note 5 with references.
  • 28 For examples of the type see Ennabli 1976, cat. 32-42; Bailey 1988, cat. Q1793; Lyon-Caen, Hoff 19 (...)

8The first example of standard iconography that I have selected appears on African red slip terracotta lamps produced in the region of Carthage in the 4th-6th centuries. As common consumer items they were diffused throughout the Roman Empire. Images on the discus reflected a wide range of popular interests, from the erotic to the religious. Christian subject matter was frequent: non-figural motifs like cross monograms appear, as do biblical images, especially in the later series, such as Abraham’s sacrifice, Jonah and the whale, the three youths in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lions’ den. Hayes Type IIA / Atlante XA1 African red slip lamps, dated to late 5th - early 6th c. portrays Daniel in a standard way26 (fig. 4). Here, the beardless Daniel is clothed in an ‘oriental’ fashion, recalling the Babylonian context of his near martyrdom. He wears a mandye, a pleated, belted tunic reaching mid-calf with a short cape clasped at the neck27. His pose is frontal, with his very low-set arms stretched out at his sides. Symmetrically placed to either side of the prophet are two lions moving downwards towards his feet28. Their attitude is what I shall characterize as ‘defeated’, the lions are tame and fawning at the prophet’s feet. On this series of lamps an additional, non-standard feature appears: a winged angel hovers to Daniel’s left, while at his right is Habacuc, proffering a round loaf, in a clear reference to Daniel 14.

  • 29 Ben Lazreg 1991, p. 523-541.
  • 30 Yacoub 1969, p. 22, cat. L 9, 86, 109; La Blanchère, Gauckler 1897, carreaux, revêtement et tuiles (...)

9Mold-made terracotta ceiling and wall tiles also display images of Daniel in the lions’ den. These occur on many Christian sites in northern and central Tunisia, and date 4th-6th century. Rectangular or square in shape, and ranging in size from 0.25-0.28 m, they portray floral, faunal, geometric and figural scenes29. Stories and figures from the Old and New Testament appear. The tile illustrated here, which is currently on display in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, shares several iconographic features with the Daniel illustrated on the lamp, discussed above, namely a beardless, clothed prophet standing frontally as an ‘orant’, flanked by two defeated lions30 (fig. 5). The pleated belted tunic again recalls eastern attire. However, two non-standard features also appear. Daniel holds in each hand a crown of victory, which signals his triumph over death and also references martyrs’ crowns. Additionally, the artisan has added an inscription, S(AN)C(TV)S above Daniel’s head, and below the three figures ΔANIEΛ. The lions are portrayed with some care; careful tooling emphasizes their thick, wavy coats, and their claws are exaggerated while their tails curve symmetrically around the crowns, as they plunge towards Daniel’s feet.

Fig. 4: ARS Lamp Hayes Type II. Atlante form X A1a

Fig. 4: ARS Lamp Hayes Type II. Atlante form X A1a

Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with Permission.

Fig. 5: Terracotta tile with Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis

Fig. 5: Terracotta tile with Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis

Photo A. Kalinowski.

  • 31 Recently in Tunisia, N. Jeddi discovered another mosaic representing Daniel in the lions’ den, but (...)
  • 32 Merlin 1917, p. CLXI-CLXVI; Yacoub 1966, p. 37, pl. iv, 2.
  • 33 F. Bejaoui (1994, p. 236) notes the similarity of the trees to that represented on a 4th or 5th ce (...)
  • 34 Ghalia 2004-2005; Baratte et alii 2014, p. 98-100.
  • 35 On the Sfax museum Daniel, see Bejaoui 1994, p. 235-237. On the Henchir B’Ghil Daniel see Ghalia 2 (...)

10Very few representations of Daniel in the lions’ den exist in the medium of mosaic in North Africa31. A survey of their iconography will highlight their adherence to the standard iconographic features defined thus far, but also their difference to the Borj el Youdi Daniel. The archaeological Museum of Sfax currently houses an extraordinary mosaic excavated in 1916 in a nearby Christian basilica32. This mosaic was part of an 8.5 m × 2.0 m panel located in the centre of the nave of the church, and is dated stylistically to the 6th century (fig. 6). Here Daniel shares features with the others that we have examined so far: a beardless, clothed prophet standing frontally, flanked by two defeated lions moving downward towards his feet. However, the image is also strikingly original. Daniel is dressed in rich, eastern garb: he wears a Phrygian cap, a cape with a jeweled border and striped lining that falls below his knees, and trousers over which is a brocade ‘skirt’. He stands on a low, elaborately patterned dais. The two symmetrically placed lions are pictured moving downward, mouths open and tongues protruding, seemingly about to lick Daniel’s feet. Umbrella pines with cones dangling from their canopies also flank the prophet33. A bird climbs the trunk of the left-hand tree and another likely appeared in the tree to right where only a lacuna remains. Daniel’s eastern attire references the Babylonian setting of his trials, while the fruitful trees and birds are paradisiacal, symbols of Christian salvation. A fragmentary inscription in Greek names the prophet [Δ]ΑΝΙΗ[Λ]. Another example in mosaic of Daniel in the lions’ den is from the church of the priest Crescens at Henchir B’ghil (El Mahrine)34. The image of Daniel is part of a mosaic that paved the choir of the church, which was in use from the second half of the 6th century through the second half of the 7th century. As on the Sfax mosaic, here too Daniel is dressed in eastern fashion, wearing a cloak and trousers. Both mosaics betray the clear Byzantine influence that appeared in the decorative arts in Tunisia in the 6th century35.

  • 36 Among whom Hippolytus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Paulinus of Nola, Ambrose, Aphraat, Ephrem, Eusebius an (...)
  • 37 R. Sörries (2005, p. 184) remarks on the iconographic range of representations of Daniel in North (...)

11The standard iconography of Daniel in North African lamps and tiles, and the few representations on floor mosaics portray a young, beardless Daniel clothed in eastern garb, standing frontally. The number of lions is standard – they are normally two – and are depicted in a ‘defeated’ posture, moving down towards the feet of the prophet. Christian authors speak of the lions as non-aggressive, as praying with Daniel, licking his feet, or venerating him, and this is clear in the classic iconography of Daniel36. However, as we have seen, artisans also added distinctive features to their portrayals of the prophet37. For example, in the case of the African red slip lamps, Habacuc and the angel appear, while in the ceiling tiles, Daniel holds crowns of victory. While all the images discussed above portray Daniel in eastern attire, the mosaic from the Sfax archaeological Museum in particular emphasizes this feature. The Borj el Youdi Daniel shares with the examples discussed above the frontal pose of the prophet, and the presence of lions. However, this is where the parallels finish. Even considering license granted to artisans, or the use of different models, or the influence of different traditions, the Borj el Youdi Daniel stands as distinctive in its own right, and it is to the atypical aspects of the mosaic’s iconography that we now turn.

Fig. 6: Mosaic of Daniel in the lion’s den, Sfax Archaeological Museum

Fig. 6: Mosaic of Daniel in the lion’s den, Sfax Archaeological Museum

Photo A. Kalinowski.

4. The Iconography of damnatio ad bestias

  • 38 Bomgardner 2000, p. 211, 221.
  • 39 van den Hoek 2013a, p. 401-434.

12The Borj el Youdi Daniel mosaic is most original in that it shares iconographic features with images and literary descriptions of ad bestias executions. First, Daniel is in a state of undress, nude, in fact. Second, instead of two fawning lions on either side of him, there are four lions moving aggressively towards him. Third, the lions mount what appear to be wooden ramps, suggestive of amphitheatre props. These features suggest that the artisan of the mosaic was evoking amphitheatre spectacle, and specifically the execution of criminals ad bestias, a standard punishment until the early 6th century, wherein wild animals were released into the arena as proxy executioners, making the deaths of criminals more entertaining38. Public fascination with damnatio ad bestias is evident in its portrayal in various media, from the mosaic floors of élite houses in the 2nd-3rd century, to common household objects, such as lamps and pottery starting in the 4th century39.

  • 40 Dig., 48. 19, 29 Qui ultimo supplicio damnatur, statim et civitatem et libertatem perdunt. Itaque (...)
  • 41 Coleman 1990, p. 44–73; for ‘fatal charades’ in Flavian poetry, see Mart. epigr. 33, 21, 5, 7, 8.
  • 42 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 84, fig. 88; van den Hoek 2013a, p. 422-425, fig. 27-42; Armstrong (...)
  • 43 M. Armstrong (1991, p. 436, cat. 49) illustrates a woman whose upper body is naked though her lowe (...)
  • 44 Salomonson 1979, p. 79, for the bearded male bound to the stake illustrated on pl. 41 as a Christi (...)
  • 45 Acta Pauli. et Theclae 3. 22, the pyre at Iconium; 3. 33 stripped at Antioch; 3. 38, clothed by or (...)
  • 46 Vict. Vit. 3.22 (Moorhead).

13Persons condemned to death (noxii, damnati) by judicial authorities lost their citizenship, social status, and even their human identity40. This was reflected both in the punishments they received in the arena and in the ways in which they were displayed there. Sometimes victims of ad bestias executions became part of ‘fatal charades’: costumed as figures from mythology, such as Orpheus, they met cruel deaths, torn apart by animals41. Alternatively, they might be led into the arena scantily clad, or more rarely, entirely naked and subject to the beasts. In the Roman world, where clothing was one of many visible indicators of social status, public nakedness or near nakedness underlined the person’s lack of status. African red slip ceramics of the 4th-5th century show victims of ad bestias executions scantily clad. On the rim of an African red slip Hayes form 55 bowl, a male victim clad in a loincloth (subligaculum) stands with hands behind his back, tied to a stake (fig. 7). His long, shaggy beard may indicate his status as a ‘barbarian’. Other more complete examples show lions or bears approaching bound victims42. Women also appear similarly bound, partly nude, awaiting the tender mercies of bears or other beasts43. Scholars have interpreted such images as evoking the martyrdom of Christians in the arena44. This seems very likely especially in the case of the female portrayed, for example, on African red slip Hayes form 53 bowls with the inscription DOMINA VICTORIA. Alternatively, bearded male figures may represent generalized victims of ad bestias executions, rather than Christian martyrs. In either case, the reference is to the spectacle of death in the arena. Early Christian literature confirms that the condemned appeared partly clothed or entirely naked. Thecla, it is recorded, was stripped naked twice and sent into the amphitheatre45. Writing of the Vandal persecution, Victor of Vita records the naked exposure of the Catholic noblewoman, Dionysia. “Trusting in her lord she put up with these things and said: ‘Torture me however you like, but do not uncover those parts which would cause me shame’. They, behaving still more wildly, stripped off all her clothes and made her stand up in a more prominent place, making a spectacle of her in front of everyone”46. Although Dionysia was not subjected to beasts, it is clear that exposure naked was itself part of the punishment.

Fig. 7: ARS bowl rim, Hayes 55

Fig. 7: ARS bowl rim, Hayes 55

Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with permission.

  • 47 Lancel 1956, p. 321 and pl. V, fig. 1, for a nude Daniel on an impost block from the large basilic (...)
  • 48 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 38, no. 26 with references.
  • 49 Salomonson 1979, p. 79-81 with references.
  • 50 For examples see Repertorium I, p. 29, no. 33, pl. 11; p. 33-34, no. 39, pl. 12; p. 15, no. 16.

14The Borj el Youdi Daniel is also stripped naked, a portrayal that I suggest aims to evoke the spectacle of Christian martyrs in the arena. As we have seen, above, on widely diffused lamps and tiles, and even on the rare mosaics, the North African tradition preferred a clothed prophet47. A striking exception is an African red slip Hayes 53 bowl (350-430 CE) which also has been interpreted as portraying Daniel. Here, he is a muscular nude running from two rampant, aggressive lions48 (fig. 8). A palm of victory below the scene seems a clear reference to the ‘contests’ of Christian martyrs in the arena, and their ‘victories’. The nudity of this Daniel and of the Borj el Youdi Daniel may invoke the ‘athletic’ qualities of martyrs recalled in sermons, letters and the acta martyrum49. Similarly, sarcophagi from Rome dated to the 4th century portray a heroically nude Daniel between two lions50 . It is possible that Roman sarcophagi may have provided the inspiration for the nudity of the Borj el Youdi Daniel and the ARS Hayes form 53 bowl, because artisans in North Africa willingly adopted other traditions, as we have seen in the case of the ‘eastern’ attire of the prophet in different media. However, the early date of the Roman sarcophagi, and their lack of diffusion in North Africa make a Roman origin for the nudity of Daniel somewhat unlikely. Instead, we should understand the broad historical context of the production of the images as influential – that North African Christianity was shaped by violent martyrdom.

Fig. 8: ARS Hayes 53 bowl with Daniel in the lions’ den

Fig. 8: ARS Hayes 53 bowl with Daniel in the lions’ den

Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with permission.

  • 51 Minasi 2000, 163-164; R. Sörries (2005, p. 154-155) lists only four examples, ranging widely in re (...)
  • 52 Acts of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, 37-43, 53-57, in Musurillo 1972, p. 72-75, 78-81.
  • 53 Brown 1992, p. 180-211.
  • 54 There are few examples of aggressive lions. In North Africa, the 5th-6th Tilla sarcophagus (Bardo (...)
  • 55 Roman sarcophagi of the 4th c. normally show tame lions seated to either side of Daniel, see Reper (...)

15The Borj el Youdi mosaic, very unusually, shows four lions aggressively approaching Daniel. With very few exceptions, the standard iconography in North Africa and throughout the Roman Empire shows Daniel between two lions51. While it may be possible that the artisan added two extra lions for aesthetic reasons, to fill up the white ground of the mosaic, I suggest instead that the aim of doubling the number of lions in the Borj el Youdi mosaic was to evoke more vividly the spectacle of martyrdom and damnatio ad bestias in the amphitheatre. Literary and visual representations show arena victims set upon by numerous beasts. This was the martyr Thecla’s experience at Antioch, where several lions and bears were released into the arena against her. At Lyon, several beasts mauled Maturus and Sanctus as a prelude to their vivicombustum, while Blandina hung from a post as bait for wild animals, who refused to touch her. On the last day of her life, she suffered numerous beasts in the arena, roasting, and finally, a bull tossed her to death52. Although the accounts in the martyrologies are clearly not factual, emphasizing the unbelievable physical and spiritual endurance of the martyrs, they do preserve a kernel of truth illustrating how those condemned to damnatio ad bestias might experience numerous animals in the arena. The visual arts confirm this. The 3rd century Sollertiana domus mosaic, currently on display in the El Jem Archaeological Museum, shows an arena littered with the detritus of a bloody spectacle, spears, and red-brown splashes of blood (fig. 9). In the center of the white ground stands a trophy-decorated structure, possibly indicating that the spectacle portrayed was associated with a military victory. Numerous animals – at least five bears and six spotted African cats – appear, the majority of which are rampant and aggressive, while in the two surviving corners of the mosaic wild felines very graphically attack the bearded bound male victims53. Exceptionally, the Borj el Youdi lions are aggressive, leaping up towards Daniel. This is a notable contrast to the North African norm, where the lions are ‘defeated’ and move downward towards Daniel’s feet54. Similarly, 4th century Roman sarcophagi, and majority of representations elsewhere show non-aggressive lions55. While most images of Daniel in the lions’ den picture is his salvation – with beasts calmed and even fawning – here the picture is very different, and makes realistic the bloody spectacle of martyrdom.

Fig. 9: Mosaic of damnatio ad bestias, Sollertiana domus, El Jem

Fig. 9: Mosaic of damnatio ad bestias, Sollertiana domus, El Jem

Photo A. Kalinowski.

  • 56 J. Ohm (2008, p. 103) proposes that the lines may represent the floor of the pit in which Daniel e (...)
  • 57 Dunbabin 1978, Dionysus and the beasts of the amphitheatre mosaic from the Maison de Bacchus (El J (...)

16Most striking and without parallel on other images of the story of Daniel anywhere, is that the Borj el Youdi mosaic shows the lions mounting what appear to be ramps towards Daniel, who is pictured standing on a platform. Are these constructed objects, associated with the amphitheatre?56 Or are they simply the shadows or ground lines that appear regularly beneath figures, human and animal, on North African mosaics? A survey of shadows and ground lines on mosaics shows that their treatment varies widely. On the Sollertiana domus mosaic (fig. 9) the artisan has represented shadows under animal and human figures somewhat naturalistically, varying in shape and size. Another example from the Maison de Bacchus (El Jem) similarly shows variety in the shadows under the rampant beasts, some short and triangular, and some extending the full length of the animals. On the fragmentary amphitheatre hunt scene from Khanguet el-Hadjaj the shadows below the bears extend the full length of the animals and are very regularly shaped. Very similar in overall composition to the Borj el Youdi Daniel is the mosaic of the venator Neoterius from the Maison des Autruches (Sousse), where a central human figure is flanked by two animals. On the latter, a ground line – a shallow rectangle drawn in perspective – supports Neoterius, who is flanked by two dying bears57. The artisan of the Borj el Youdi mosaic might have adopted a similar solution to ‘support’ Daniel, if this was his intention, despite the fact that he was working within an octagonal rather than a square or rectangular space. If he had placed the figure of Daniel slightly higher within the octagonal medallion and depicted the prophet and the lions on a single ground line, the artisan might have created a larger space for the inscription, and eliminated the need for the two additional ‘floating’ lions. The artisan’s intention instead, I suggest, was to represent in realistic fashion props used in the amphitheatre, which literature and visual media portray.

  • 58 Pass. Perp., 19: Itaque in commissione spectaculi ipse et Revocatus leopardum experti etiam super (...)
  • 59 Vitr. 5.6,1 proscaenii pulpitum; 5.6.2 pulpiti altitudo sit ne plus pedum quinque; 5.7.2 Graeci ha (...)
  • 60 Bacchielli 1990, p. 770.
  • 61 Levi 1947, p. 276-277, fig. 108, with reference to Velkov 1922 (non vidi).
  • 62 ... et [Saturus] cum ad ursum substrictus esset in ponte ursus de cavea prodire noluit (…and when (...)
  • 63 Junkelmann 2000, p. 112.
  • 64 For images and descriptions of pontiarii see Bacchielli 1990, Junkelmann 2000, p. 112-114, figs. 1 (...)
  • 65 De Rossi 1879, p. 21-23, fig 3.1.
  • 66 T. Heffernan (2012, p. 338) associates pontes with the wooden trap doors located in the arena floo (...)
  • 67 Carthage and Vthina.
  • 68 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 38, no. 26, with references, similarly remark that the circular fie (...)
  • 69 J. W. Salomonson (1979, p. 75) suggests that the ivory plaque from Maxula (pl. 60) subtly referenc (...)

17In the passio of Perpetua and Felicity, their fellow martyrs Saturninus and Revocatus were placed on a pulpitum to be attacked by a bear58. The term pulpitum normally describes a stage on which actors perform59. Used of the amphitheatre, it must mean a raised platform on which to display more visibly parts of the show by confining the action to a smaller field60. Such a structure appears on a relief of an amphitheatre scene from Bulgaria in which four men wearing animal masks appear on a raised stage, two of whom engage in a mock gladiatorial fight61. The passio also describes another prop: the martyr Saturus was tied to a pons or ‘bridge’ to be the victim of a bear62 . The narrative of the passio assumes the ancient audience’s familiarity with both the pulpitum and the pons. Marcus Junkelmann describes the pons as a 2.50 m high platform raised on four posts, stabilized by cross beams, with ramps leading up to the platform on two sides63. Images in various media show such platforms employed in gladiatorial matches, where normally a retiarius defended it from a secutor attempting to mount one of the ramps64. A terracotta lamp found in Italy in the 19th century illustrates the use of the pons in a damnatio ad bestias65. The discus shows a man in a loincloth, bound to a stake on a raised platform approached by two ramps; a lion aggressively mounts one of the ramps towards him (fig. 10). In the passio of Perpetua and Felicity we should imagine Saturus, and possibly Saturninus and Revocatus, similarly bound on raised platforms awaiting the assaults of animals. In the Borj el Youdi mosaic, Daniel appears to stand on a platform similar in construction and function to those described in the literature and visual media. Two of the lions run up walkways set up against the platform. These walkways are quite clearly wooden structures, with a cross plank depicted at the top of each. How, though, can we explain the other two lions on similar ramps that appear to ‘float’ in the air to either side of the prophet? Although I have not found any parallel examples in visual media or literary descriptions, it may be that some platforms had four ramps, so that a terrified victim could be assaulted on all sides by beasts. Such a construction, if it existed, would be difficult to represent on a two-dimensional mosaic, hence the upper two lions and their apparently ‘floating’ ramps. It is also possible that the mosaic is attempting to portray Daniel standing on the arena floor while multiple lions are mounting ramps from the subterranean galleries of the amphitheatre and emerging to attack66. At least two amphitheatres in the region of Furnos Minus had such subterranean galleries, so that the artisan might have been familiar with their use67. However, in the case of the Borj el Youdi Daniel mosaic, the structure described by Junkelmann and pictured on the Italian lamp seems a more likely model. Thus, the artisan creating this mosaic may have relied for inspiration on the actual experience of viewing executions in the amphitheatre, or on hearing recitations in church of the experiences of martyrs like the companions of Perpetua and Felicity. Finally, the octagonal medallion in which the scene is set may be reminiscent of the arena of an amphitheatre68. Most images of Daniel in the lions’ den in North Africa and elsewhere, if they portray any background scenery at all, simply show the prophet standing on a low dais, or flanked by trees indicating the happy outcome of the story, but even this is very rare69.

5. The Borj el Youdi Daniel and Martyrdom in North Africa

  • 70 Three Blossi appear in the Christian epigraphy of Furnos Minus. 1. The Blossus/Blossius of the mau (...)

18Thus far, I have attempted to demonstrate that the iconography of the Borj el Youdi Daniel is highly unique and not only evokes Christian martyrdom (which all images of Daniel may well do) but actually strives to depict it in a manner more realistic than symbolic, with a naked victim, multiple aggressive beasts, and the props of the arena. Why would the artisan, or the commissioner of the mosaic have chosen to portray Daniel in this way, and why at Furnos Minus, an insignificant town in Africa proconsularis in the 5th century? Since we know very little about the Blossus/Blossius in whose memory the mausoleum was built, or about Honoratus, who saw to its construction, we must turn to the broader historical context of religious conflict and martyrdom at Furnos Minus70.

  • 71 Frend 1952, p. 319: “...martyrdom and devotion to the Word of God as contained in the Bible were a (...)

19Martyrdom, an essential aspect of Christian identity in North Africa, was also part of the lived and remembered experience of individual Christians and their communities. The liturgical calendars of the Church commemorated well-known African martyrs: those of Scillium who lost their lives in 180 CE; Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions at Carthage in 203; the bishop Cyprian, also martyred at Carthage in 259; the martyrs of Abitina in 304, and numerous others. From the 4th century onward, the acts of martyrs were read before congregations gathered for liturgical services. Their stories became examples of salvation, and of the perseverance of faith in the face of persecution. Indeed, the Donatist sect, arising in the aftermath of the Diocletianic persecution, claimed to be the church of martyrs, and in the post-Constantinian period continued to prove it71. During the 4th and early 5th centuries, the Catholic imperial state attempted to enforce orthodoxy on the Donatists and on other dissident Christians, closing churches, seizing assets, and killing the faithful. Likewise, during the Vandal regnum Arians persecuted and martyred adherents to the Catholic faith. It was not necessary that these Christians died by beasts in the arena – it is highly unlikely in this period, and no such deaths are recorded among the Donatist martyr stories – nonetheless, they were new martyrs, and could be assimilated visually to those of the pre-Constantinian period who did perish ad bestias. The popularity of images of women and men assaulted by beasts on 4th and 5th century North African ceramics demonstrates that even if such a punishment was not inflicted contemporarily on Christians, in the popular imagination, ad bestias execution was a visual shorthand for Christian martyrdom.

  • 72 In 256, Geminius a Furnis, and at the conference of Carthage in 411, Florentinus Furnitanus, see D (...)
  • 73 « Si l’evêque Donatiste de 411 appartient à Furnos Minus, il y avait certainement un clergé cathol (...)
  • 74 Acta purgationis Felicis episcopi Autumnitani 106, in Maier 1987, p. 178 and note 50.
  • 75 Beschaouch 1976, p. 255-266. Modern Chouhoud el Batin is 4 km southwest of Membressa (mod. Medjez (...)
  • 76 Passio sanctorum Dativi, Saturnini presbyteri et aliorum, in Maier 1987, p. 59-92.
  • 77 Duval 1982, no. 13, p. 28-30, 728-729.
  • 78 Passio Sancti Donati, in Dolbeau 1992, p. 260-261.
  • 79 Shaw 2011, p. 126-139.
  • 80 Shaw 2011, p. 591.

20The question arises, then, whether Furnos Minus experienced inter-confessional religious strife and whether it had its own martyrs. It is highly probable that Catholics and Donatists lived side by side here as they did in neighbouring communities. Under the influence of virulently doctrinaire clergy, the proximity of the divergent confessions was a sure recipe for violent conflict. While Furnos Minus hardly figures in the Christian written sources, one Furnitanus is notable: a certain Florentinus, a Donatist bishop, attended the Conference of Carthage in 411 CE. But it is not clear whether he was bishop of Furnos Minus or of Furnos Maius72. The archaeological evidence at Furnos Minus, with certainly two basilicas, reinforces the likely presence in the community of both Catholics and Donatists73. While the written evidence does not make specific reference to martyrs at Furnos Minus, it does note the destruction of basilicas and the burning of scriptures at Zama and Furni during the Diocletianic persecutions74. Here too the question arises whether the source refers to Furnos Minus or Furnos Maius. Excavations and epigraphic research have discovered no memoria for martyrs at Furnos Minus. However, even if there were no specifically Furnitan martyrs, towns in the immediate vicinity were rife with religious conflict over the centuries. Abitina, 20 kilometers from Furnos Minus, experienced the unmitigated rigors of the Diocletianic persecution75. In February 304 CE, over forty of its citizens suffered martyrdom at Carthage76. The next year, bishop Felix of Thibiuca (ca. 20 km from Furnos Minus) suffered martyrdom in Carthage77. In 317 at Sicillibba, a mere 5 km from Furnos Minus, a Roman soldier, enforcing religious unity, cut the throat of the Donatist bishop and an indiscriminate slaughter of the men, women, and children in the basilica followed. They were interred in the church where they fell to preserve the memory of their martyrdom78. In the late 390s Abitina was once again the site of religious violence, along with nearby Membressa. Augustine records violence that split the Donatist church between rival bishops and their supporters79. Surely, many more names could be added to this short catalogue. However the commemoration of martyrs even in antiquity could be a highly localized affair, part of a community’s oral tradition and not even preserved in any written records80.

21The mosaic of Daniel in the lions’ den from the Borj el Youdi mausoleum is a unique and singular representation of a popular and theologically important biblical story. Drawing on the standard North African iconography of Daniel in the lions’ den, the Borj el Youdi Daniel is immediately recognizable as the biblical prophet and represents, most aptly in this funerary context, God’s promise to the faithful of salvation. However, the biblical Daniel was also a victim of religious persecution, condemned to death for refusing to give up his Jewish faith. In his aspect as a victim of the Babylonian version ad bestias execution, he could easily be assimilated to North African Christian martyrs who suffered and died by beasts in arenas across the Roman world, but also to those who, after Constantine, suffered in sectarian violence. With explicit use of the iconography of ad bestias executions in the amphitheatre, the artisan evokes the atmosphere of the early centuries of North African Christianity when religious violence prevailed. In this family mausoleum, the commissioner chose how he wanted the image of the prophet to appear. Thus, mosaic art reflects the mentality of persons steeped in biblical lore, and in popular stories of the sufferings of Christian martyrs in the arena.

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Notes

1 Yacoub 1969, cat. no. A 253.

2 CIL VIII, Suppl. IV, 25817. Incorrectly published by Gauckler 1910, p. 172, no. 514 and Gauckler et alii 1910, p. 18, no. A 253. The inscription poses some difficulties of interpretation: Blossus or Blossius? Is ingenuus a personal name or a status? See Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 914-915 and Ohm 2008, p. 90-94.

3 Héron de Villefosse 1898, p. 206, and p. 207, note 1.

4 Dunbabin 1978, p. 191-192.

5 Only four other examples of floor mosaics in Tunisia – see below p. 120 and two in 6th c. synagogues at Na’aran and Susiya, Israel. See Talgam 2014, p. 304-308 and figs. 370, 376-378, 382. I thank Aliza Steinberg of Tel Aviv University for references to the images of Daniel in Israel. Very few Daniel mosaics exist in other contexts: see Sörries 2005, p. 62-66; Ohm, 2008 p. 23-25.

6 Lassus 1966, p. 201-205.

7 For a detailed survey of the Christian remains at Furnos Minus Duval, Cintas 1978.

8 Antoine Héron de Villefosse read the Marquis’ report on 27 April 1898, BSAF, 1898, p. 206-207.

9 Gauckler 1898, p. 335-336, with resumé CXXXVII-CXXXVIII; Gauckler 1899, p. 9; Gauckler 1901, p. 18; Gauckler 1907, p. 385-386; Gauckler 1910, p. 172, no. 514; Gauckler et alii 1910, p. 18, no. A 253.

10 Gauckler 1898, p. 336-337. Inscription: RVTVNDA IN PACE FIDELIS / DISCESSIT XIII KAL(ENDAS) NOBEMBRES = CIL VIII, Suppl. IV, 25818.

11 The earliest reports do not mention a tomb under the Daniel mosaic; N. Duval and M. Cintas (1978, p. 914) express doubt that there was one, but do not eliminate the possibility. It is also possible that Blossus/Blossius occupied one of the eight caisson tombs identified in the mausoleum.

12 Balmelle 2002, vol. 2, p.186, pl. 373 a, b.

13 Bejaoui 1994, p. 235-237; Yacoub 2003, p. 97, fig. 379. Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 915, assessed the mosaic as “relativement tardif” based on the weak coloration of the tesserae and the schematic nature of the figures.

14 At Antioch see Levi 1947, vol. 2, pl. CXI a, from Room 21 of the Yakto complex dated to ca. 450 CE, vol. 1, p. 626. A similar centralised octagon pattern occurs in the House of Ge and the Seasons upper level, room 3, Levi 1947, pl. LXXXII a, and vol. 1, p. 346-348 and 626. At Gerash see Kondoleon 2014, fig. 15.2 and pl. 4, for a mosaic from the Church of Bishop Paul (Procopius Church) dated by inscription to ca. 525 CE; she notes but does not illustrate another church mosaic with a similar pattern dating to 464-465.

15 Dan 6.1-28; 14.28-32.

16 Valente 2013, p. 297, notes 3, 4.

17 Dulaey 1998, p. 45-46.

18 Hipp., Dan. III 31: “Et toi regarde aujourd’hui Babylone, c’est le monde, les satrapes sont les pouvoirs publics. Darius est leur roi, la fosse c’est l’Enfer, les lions en sont les anges tortionnaires” in Hippolyte, Commentaire sur Daniel/Hyppolite, (Sources chrétiennes 14, 1947, p. 163).

19 Valente 2013, p. 298-299; Sörries 2005 provides a catalogue of images of Daniel in the lions’ den.

20 Lanata 1973.

21 Cypr., laps. 19.

22 Bejaoui 1997, p. 24.

23 Lassus 1966, p. 205.

24 Minasi 2000, p162.

25 Santagata 1983, p. 888.

26 Hayes 1972, p. 310-314.

27 For mandye see Salomonson 1979, p. 8 and note 5 with references.

28 For examples of the type see Ennabli 1976, cat. 32-42; Bailey 1988, cat. Q1793; Lyon-Caen, Hoff 1986, no. 45 = AGR INV S. 1878; Déonna 1949, p. 119-122 for examples in Geneva and Lausanne.

29 Ben Lazreg 1991, p. 523-541.

30 Yacoub 1969, p. 22, cat. L 9, 86, 109; La Blanchère, Gauckler 1897, carreaux, revêtement et tuiles, no. 9.

31 Recently in Tunisia, N. Jeddi discovered another mosaic representing Daniel in the lions’ den, but it is as yet unpublished, Bejaoui 2015, p. 51.

32 Merlin 1917, p. CLXI-CLXVI; Yacoub 1966, p. 37, pl. iv, 2.

33 F. Bejaoui (1994, p. 236) notes the similarity of the trees to that represented on a 4th or 5th century mosaic from Carthage, now in the Bardo Museum; Yacoub 1971, p. 117, fig. 126, p. 196, inv. 3574.

34 Ghalia 2004-2005; Baratte et alii 2014, p. 98-100.

35 On the Sfax museum Daniel, see Bejaoui 1994, p. 235-237. On the Henchir B’Ghil Daniel see Ghalia 2004-2005, p. 368. A small ivory plaque found at Maxula near Radès and currently on display in the Musée de Carthage also depicts an orientalised Daniel, wearing trousers and Phrygian cap. 

36 Among whom Hippolytus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Paulinus of Nola, Ambrose, Aphraat, Ephrem, Eusebius and Jerome; for references see Dulaey 1998, p. 46-47.

37 R. Sörries (2005, p. 184) remarks on the iconographic range of representations of Daniel in North Africa.

38 Bomgardner 2000, p. 211, 221.

39 van den Hoek 2013a, p. 401-434.

40 Dig., 48. 19, 29 Qui ultimo supplicio damnatur, statim et civitatem et libertatem perdunt. Itaque praeoccupat hic casus mortem... quod accidit in personis eorum, qui ad bestias damnantur.

41 Coleman 1990, p. 44–73; for ‘fatal charades’ in Flavian poetry, see Mart. epigr. 33, 21, 5, 7, 8.

42 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 84, fig. 88; van den Hoek 2013a, p. 422-425, fig. 27-42; Armstrong 1991, p. 435-436, fig. 48-50; Weidemann 1990, no. 14 for a bound male victim between two bears; likewise salomonson 1979, pl. 41. For the motif in general Atlante I, motif 108, pl. 86.1.

43 M. Armstrong (1991, p. 436, cat. 49) illustrates a woman whose upper body is naked though her lower body is draped; similarly Salomonson 1979 p. 48-49 and pl. 39, 40. See also Atlante I, motive 109, pl. 144.3 where the woman bound to the pole wears a clinging, diaphanous ‘dress’ over bikini-like underclothes and gazes left toward a rampant bear. Here the body of the victim is incongruously eroticized.

44 Salomonson 1979, p. 79, for the bearded male bound to the stake illustrated on pl. 41 as a Christian martyr. A. van den Hoek (2013b, p. 81) argues that the half-nude female on ARS form 53 bowls with the epigraph DOMINA VICTORIA is Saint Thecla.

45 Acta Pauli. et Theclae 3. 22, the pyre at Iconium; 3. 33 stripped at Antioch; 3. 38, clothed by order of the governor.

46 Vict. Vit. 3.22 (Moorhead).

47 Lancel 1956, p. 321 and pl. V, fig. 1, for a nude Daniel on an impost block from the large basilica at Tigzirt; a second impost block portrays a clothed Daniel, p. 321, fig. 6. Minasi 2000, p. 163, outside of Rome a clothed prophet is preferred, likewise Sörries 2005, p. 36, 174.

48 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 38, no. 26 with references.

49 Salomonson 1979, p. 79-81 with references.

50 For examples see Repertorium I, p. 29, no. 33, pl. 11; p. 33-34, no. 39, pl. 12; p. 15, no. 16.

51 Minasi 2000, 163-164; R. Sörries (2005, p. 154-155) lists only four examples, ranging widely in region and date, of Daniel depicted with more than two lions. See also Strzygowski 1903, p. 69-70 for a pilaster capital with six various animals, including a boar attacking Daniel.

52 Acts of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, 37-43, 53-57, in Musurillo 1972, p. 72-75, 78-81.

53 Brown 1992, p. 180-211.

54 There are few examples of aggressive lions. In North Africa, the 5th-6th Tilla sarcophagus (Bardo Museum) shows two aggressive lions flanking Daniel, Yacoub 1969, p. 21, cat. C 1474 = Repertorium III, no. 650, pl. 154-155. A console from a basilica at Beni Fonda similarly shows Daniel flanked by two aggressive lions, Salomonson 1979, p. 61, fig. 9 and p. 62, pl. 49. Rome and elsewhere: Minasi 2000, p. 164, noting the particularly aggressive and realistic portrayal of the lions from the 3rd century catacomb in the Via Anapo; also Sörries 2005, p. 156 listing a few other examples.

55 Roman sarcophagi of the 4th c. normally show tame lions seated to either side of Daniel, see Repertorium I, p. 20-21, no. 23, pl. 7 (San Callisto); p. 29, no. 33, pl. 11 (Museo Pio Cristiano); p. 33-34, no. 39, pl. 12 (Museo Pio Cristiano).

56 J. Ohm (2008, p. 103) proposes that the lines may represent the floor of the pit in which Daniel encountered the beasts.

57 Dunbabin 1978, Dionysus and the beasts of the amphitheatre mosaic from the Maison de Bacchus (El Jem), pl. XXVII, fig. 68; hunt scene from Khanguet el-Hadjaj, pl. XXVI, fig. 65; Neoterius mosaic, Maison des Autruches (Sousse), pl. XXVI, fig. 64.

58 Pass. Perp., 19: Itaque in commissione spectaculi ipse et Revocatus leopardum experti etiam super pulpitum ab urso vexati sunt (And thus, at the beginning of the spectacle he [Saturninus] and Revocatus having been attacked by a leopard were also menaced by a bear while on the pulpitum).

59 Vitr. 5.6,1 proscaenii pulpitum; 5.6.2 pulpiti altitudo sit ne plus pedum quinque; 5.7.2 Graeci habent... scaenam recessiorem minoreque latitudine pulpitum, quod λογεῖον appellant. Lex Iulia munic. = CIL I2, 593, 77: scaenam, pulpitum ceteraque, quae ad eos ludos opus erunt... ponere licet.

60 Bacchielli 1990, p. 770.

61 Levi 1947, p. 276-277, fig. 108, with reference to Velkov 1922 (non vidi).

62 ... et [Saturus] cum ad ursum substrictus esset in ponte ursus de cavea prodire noluit (…and when he was tied on the bridge awaiting the bear, the bear refused to leave its cage), Heffernan 2012, p. 19, and 133-134 for his translation. A. van den Hoek (2013a, p. 420-425) illustrates men bound to stakes awaiting beasts.

63 Junkelmann 2000, p. 112.

64 For images and descriptions of pontiarii see Bacchielli 1990, Junkelmann 2000, p. 112-114, figs. 162-164, 154-155, 262-265. For pontiarii in an edictum muneris from Pompeii see Sabbatini Tumolesi 1980, p. 18, no. 1 = CIL X, 1074d = ILS 5053,4.

65 De Rossi 1879, p. 21-23, fig 3.1.

66 T. Heffernan (2012, p. 338) associates pontes with the wooden trap doors located in the arena floors through which when opened beasts entered the arena from the substructures, and suggests that Saturus, was tied to one of these open trap doors to await the bear. I thank Dr. Sheila Campbell for also making this suggestion.

67 Carthage and Vthina.

68 Hermann, van den Hoek 2002, p. 38, no. 26, with references, similarly remark that the circular field of the ARS Hayes 53 bowl, my fig. 8 above, recalls the arena.

69 J. W. Salomonson (1979, p. 75) suggests that the ivory plaque from Maxula (pl. 60) subtly references the arena. The ‘encadrement cintré’ on the upper edge of the plaque recalls ivory consular diptychs which represent arena spectacle.

70 Three Blossi appear in the Christian epigraphy of Furnos Minus. 1. The Blossus/Blossius of the mausoleum mosaic. 2. A child named Blossus, whose funerary mosaic the Marquis d’Anselme de Puisaye uncovered in the basilica excavated 1898, see Héron de Villefosse 1898, p. 208; Gauckler 1907, p. 391-392, pl. xiv; Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 888-889, no. 5; CIL VIII, 25812. 3. Blossius Trebonius Eucarpius, vir clarissimus whose mosaic covered tomb M. Cintas discovered in 1953, Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 926-928, fig. 34. There is no reason to disagree with the assessment of N. Duval and MCintas (1978, p. 943) that they were all members of the same noble family of Furnos Minus and that they may also have been related to the Carthaginian poet, Blossius Aemilius Dracontius, active under the Vandal king Gunthamund.

71 Frend 1952, p. 319: “...martyrdom and devotion to the Word of God as contained in the Bible were at the heart of Donatism”. He further (p. 320) suggests that in addition to the readings from the Bible, the acts of the Donatist martyrs were recited at Donatist services.

72 In 256, Geminius a Furnis, and at the conference of Carthage in 411, Florentinus Furnitanus, see Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 875.

73 « Si l’evêque Donatiste de 411 appartient à Furnos Minus, il y avait certainement un clergé catholique en face de lui, donc il faut chercher au moins deux églises sur le site », Duval, Cintas 1978, p. 875.

74 Acta purgationis Felicis episcopi Autumnitani 106, in Maier 1987, p. 178 and note 50.

75 Beschaouch 1976, p. 255-266. Modern Chouhoud el Batin is 4 km southwest of Membressa (mod. Medjez el Bab).

76 Passio sanctorum Dativi, Saturnini presbyteri et aliorum, in Maier 1987, p. 59-92.

77 Duval 1982, no. 13, p. 28-30, 728-729.

78 Passio Sancti Donati, in Dolbeau 1992, p. 260-261.

79 Shaw 2011, p. 126-139.

80 Shaw 2011, p. 591.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Mosaic of Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis
Crédits Photo A. Kalinowski.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M
Titre Fig. 2: The Region of Carthage, including sites with amphitheatres within 50km of Furnos Minus
Crédits Source: Geoff Cunfer, Historical GIS Lab, University of Saskatchewan.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Titre Fig. 3: Plan of the Borj el Youdi Mausoleum
Crédits Reproduced from Héron de Villefosse 1898, p.207.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 721k
Titre Fig. 4: ARS Lamp Hayes Type II. Atlante form X A1a
Crédits Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with Permission.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 146k
Titre Fig. 5: Terracotta tile with Daniel in the lions’ den. Bardo Museum, Tunis
Crédits Photo A. Kalinowski.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 301k
Titre Fig. 6: Mosaic of Daniel in the lion’s den, Sfax Archaeological Museum
Crédits Photo A. Kalinowski.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 520k
Titre Fig. 7: ARS bowl rim, Hayes 55
Crédits Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with permission.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Titre Fig. 8: ARS Hayes 53 bowl with Daniel in the lions’ den
Crédits Private collection. Photo A. van den Hoek. Reproduced with permission.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 130k
Titre Fig. 9: Mosaic of damnatio ad bestias, Sollertiana domus, El Jem
Crédits Photo A. Kalinowski.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/docannexe/image/659/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
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Angela Kalinowski, « A Mosaic of Daniel in the Lions’ Den from Borj el Youdi (Furnos Minus) Tunisia: The Iconography of Martyrdom and the Arena in Roman North Africa »Antiquités africaines, 53 | 2017, 115-128.

Référence électronique

Angela Kalinowski, « A Mosaic of Daniel in the Lions’ Den from Borj el Youdi (Furnos Minus) Tunisia: The Iconography of Martyrdom and the Arena in Roman North Africa »Antiquités africaines [En ligne], 53 | 2017, mis en ligne le 24 avril 2020, consulté le 13 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/antafr/659 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/antafr.659

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Angela Kalinowski

Department of History, and Classical, Medieval & Renaissance Studies Program, University of Saskatchewan, 9 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A5. angela.kalinowski[at]usask.ca.

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