Floor Mosaic with a Lion Attacking an Onager
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Roman, about A.D. 150
Stone and glass
33 3/4 x 57 13/16 in.

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Blood flows on the ground as a lion tears into the back of a fallen onager, or wild ass, on this fragment of a Roman floor mosaic. Although set in a natural landscape, the appeal of this scene for the Roman viewer lay in the immense popularity of wild beast fights staged as public entertainment in the amphitheater. In these shows, wild animals would fight one another or humans - either unarmed criminals or armed professionals.

In the 100s A.D., the Roman province of Africa, including modern Tunisia, was flourishing. The region was important both economically and politically and this wealth and power translated into artistic production. More mosaics survive from Tunisia than any other part of the Roman empire.

The mosaic is formed from tesserae, small cubes of colored marble, stone, and glass, set into a bed of mortar. A border survives on two sides of the mosaic, but the original extent of the mosaic on the other sides is unknown. The small size of the fragment suggests that it might be only part of a much larger floor depicting several scenes. Some parts of the mosaic appear to have been restored in antiquity.