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A town 35 km E of Leptis Magna, on or near the site of ancient Sugolin. There is a large Roman mausoleum at Souk al-Jumah a few km to the W. On the coast, 4.5 km to the N, is Dar Buk-Ammarah, a Roman villa excavated in 1914 and 1923, which contains fine mosaics and a number of excellent though fragmentary frescos. These are all in Tripoli Museum. The villa was built on a terrace overlooking the sea. On the sea side was a corridor with a portico 50 m long; behind it was a range of rooms and then a cryptoporticus parallel to the N corridor. There were more rooms, and baths, at the E end. The villa had a long life, during which its floors were repaired from time to time; as many as five superimposed layers of plaster have been found on some of its walls.

Among the pavements were found opus tessellatum, opus sectile, and opus vermiculatum. Opus tessellatum, was used to cover large spaces, such as the N corridor, but both it and the opus sectile were also used as backgrounds on the floors with emblemata in opus vermiculatum. The emblemata were prepared in terracotta trays which were afterwards cemented into place in the pavements. The complex mosaic pictures they held were carried out in tesserae so small that they average 9-15 tesserae to the sq. cm and are cut in different shapes the better to fit into the picture. The Zliten emblemata include agricultural scenes, Nilotic scenes, groups of fish, animals, etc. and a set of the Four Seasons. The excellence of the mosaic-work suggests a well-equipped studio, perhaps in Alexandria, whose strong influence is manifest at Zliten and elsewhere in Tripolitania, or perhaps in Leptis Magna, where there were probably highly skilled mosaicists trained in the Alexandrian style.

The well-known amphitheater scenes in opus vermiculatum constitute the four borders of a handsome floor. These borders have 15-18 tesserae to the sq. cm in their figure-work and are only excelled by one other mosaic which paved a small room shaped as a quarter-circle. Its design consists of an acanthus scroll intertwined with flowers and inhabited by animals and other creatures, among them the rat (or mouse), chameleon, lizard, locust, and chaffinch with a nest of fledglings. Below are fish and mythical sea-beasts. This exquisite floor, with tesserne as many as 40 or even 63 to the sq. cm, must have been the work of a very talented artist, doubtless a Greek, perhaps from Alexandria or at any rate trained under Alexandrian influence. Aurigemma argues that the vermiculatum of the two last mosaics, like that of the emblemata, was prepared in a studio, fashioned in sections which were then assembled at the villa, the joins being carefully filled with tesserae brought for the purpose.

He has always claimed that the amphitheater mosaic is Flavian, and moreover believes it to record games held at Leptis to celebrate the victory of Valerius Festus in A.D. 70 over the Garamantes, whose chiefs we see here being cast to the leopards. Others held the mosaic to be Severan or later, while Doro Levi was in favor of about A.D. 100. Picard and Foucher have supported Aurigemma's Flavian dating and Ville has shown that the costumes worn by the bestiarii of Zliten are of 1st c. type. In assessing the date of the villa and its decoration it is also important to take into consideration the frescos, which come mainly from the ceiling of the cryptoporticus. Among them is Apollo on his leopard, and a scene of a seaside village. Aurigemma maintained that the delicate and restrained style of the painting is of the best period of Flavian art.


S. Aurigemma, I Mosaici di Zliten (1926)MPI; Tripolitania. I Monumenti d'Arte Decorative I, pt. 1, I Mosaici (1960)I; pt. 2, Le Pitture d'Età Romana (1962)I; G. W. Elderkin, Art in America 35 (1947) 53; Doro Levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements (1947) 347; A. Rumpf, Malerei und Zeichnung (1953) 191; G. Picard, Karthago 5 (1954) 207; M. Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the R. Empire2 (1957) 313; M. Cagiano de Azevado, coll. Latomus 58 (1962) 374; L. Foucher, Libya Antiqua 1 (1962) 1; G. Ville, in La Mosaïque greco-romaine (1965) 157.


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