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Villa Dar Buc Ammera


Villa Dar Buc Ammera: Roman villa near Lepcis Magna, famous for its mosaics, which are to be seen today in the Archaeological Museum of Tripoli. The monument is also known as Villa Zliten, after the town three kilometers east of it.
   
Gladiator Mosaic Four Seasons Mosaic Round Mosaic
   
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Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.

Gladiator Mosaic

The most famous of the mosaics of the Villa Buc Ammera is the Mosaic of the Gladiators, which consists of a set of sixteen square fields decorated with geometric designs or representations of several kinds of fish. The edge is decorated with pictures of gladiatorial contests. It was the floor of a dinner room (triclinium). It offers important evidence for the way the ancient Romans organized gladiatoral contests in the circus.
   
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins. The right-hand side shows fights between animals, which one could see in the circus before the afternoon. You can also see the execution of criminals thrown ad bestias, the usual item at noon.

The gladiators, who performed in the afternoon, are shown on two lines of pictures at the top and bottom.
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins. Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins. Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
Musicians Two fights A fight and a victor
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins. Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
Musicians (note the organ!) More fighting
The execution of the Garamantes in the Amphitheater of Lepcis Magna. Mosaic from the Villa of Dar Buc Ammera, now in the National Archaeological Museum, Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins. Back to the show at noon: a fight between wild animals and -on the picture to the left- criminals executed by animals. This is a common theme in ancient art, which is also shown on the fresco's from Mérida. In fact, we see how the government takes care of justice. The man who is killed has a dark skin and may be one of the native Garamantes; it has been argued that he is one of the people taken prisoner by general Valerius Festus in 70, at the beginning of the reign of Vespasian, and executed in Lepcis Magna's Amphitheater (more...).
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
A comparable scene can be seen on the right hand side. It represents the execution of another criminal, who has been tied to a pole and is brought into the arena on a small chariot, where a hungry panther is about to take care of him. This man - again with a dark skin - may also have been one of the Garamantes who were defeated in 70. They had sided with the inhabitants of Oea, who had seized the opportunity offered by the civil war of 69 to attack the people of Lepcis Magna.
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
Left hand side: fight against ostriches. The animals that were killed in the morning were preferrably exotic ones, and it is known that in the 70's of the first century, a man from Lepcis travelled all the way across the Sahara to look for unusual animals to be killed in the arena (more...). Perhaps they met their end in the amphitheater of Lepcis, alternatively at the first performance in Rome's Colosseum.
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
The center of the mosaic: sixteen fields, often decorated with plates of marble arranged in geometric designs (opus sectile), or decorated with pictures of aquatic animals. They are very detailed and every single fish can be identified with one of the products for sale on the market in a modern market in Libya.
Gladiator Mosaic, Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Zliten. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
Here, you can see two gladiators in close combat. They can be identified as a murmillo (left: one greave, helmet's crest) and a thraex (right: high greaves). The man to the left appears to have advanced his right leg too far before his left, and has taken a backhanded draw-cut to the back of the thigh as a result. Blood is falling down and he will soon die a painful death, unless he receives a coup de grâce.

Thanks to Uwe Bahr and John Roberts for advice
 
Gladiator Mosaic Four Seasons Mosaic Round Mosaic
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 24 May 2009
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