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Mosaic Floor with a Boxing Scene
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Unknown
Gallo-Roman, present-day Villelaure, France, about A.D. 175
Stone and glass
H: 81 7/8 x W: 81 7/8 in.
71.AH.106

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In the Aeneid, the epic poem of Rome's founding, Aeneas honored the anniversary of his father's death by holding elaborate funeral games, including a boxing match. This match pitted the Trojan Dares against the local Sicilian champion Entellus. Although the fight was uneven because Dares was much younger and fitter than his opponent, eventually Entellus became enraged and pummeled the younger man. The fight was called and Entellus was awarded the prize bull, which he then sacrificed by shattering its skull with a single blow from his fist.

This Gallo-Roman mosaic illustrates the conclusion of the match. Entellus watches triumphantly as the defeated Dares, bleeding from his head, leaves the ring. The prize bull, shown between the opponents, has fallen to its knees from the blow. The illustration of this passage from the Aeneid is rare in Roman art. In fact, the only other mosaics depicting this subject are also from the southern part of the Roman province of Gaul and date to the mid to late 100s A.D. This leads scholars to believe that the scene was a specialty of a local workshop.

A central panel removed from a much larger floor, this mosaic was one of several that decorated a villa at Villelaure, today in southern France. The mosaic is formed from small tesserae cut from different colored stone, except for the horns of the bull, which are made from pale blue glass.