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Aphrodite and the Spectacle of the Amphitheatre in Roman Africa

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Chapter Summary

The image of Aphrodite/Venus has enjoyed great popularity in Western art. Thousands of paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings depict this goddess whose image is still present in contemporary iconography. Despite her varied representation, in a range of replicas and derivations, Venus is mostly represented naked or half-draped, which emphasizes her role as goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and sexuality. This nude Venus is a symbol of ideal feminine beauty, but its association with activities apparently unrelated to the sphere of love and sexuality, such as its occurrence on a third-century ad floor mosaic in Thuburbo Maius, Roman Africa, can cause some uncertainty. The panel of this mosaic, from an unidentified building, depicts a field of laurel-framed medallions including wild beasts and male figures, musicians, a gladiator, a venator, and an athlete; in a central panel, amid these motifs related to the realm of the amphitheatre, is a naked Venus.

Keywords: amphitheatre; Aphrodite; Roman Africa; Thuburbo Maius; Venus



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