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Asarotos Oikos

"[Sosos] laid at Pergamon what is called the asarotos oikos or 'unswept room,' because on the pavement was represented the debris of a meal, and those thngs which are normally swept away, as if they had been left there, made of small tessera of many colours."

Pliny, Natural History (XXXVI.184)

What better representation of Apicius' extravagance than this image in the Museo Gregoriano Profano (Vatican Museums). It is one of several Roman mosaics depicting the remnants of a banquet. Shadowed lobster legs, leaves, and nuts (even a mouse) are all littered against a plain background of very small tesserae (opus vermiculatum) in an beautiful example of trompe l'oeil..


References: Hellenistic Art: From Alexander the Great to Augustus (2004) by Lucilla Burn; The illustration is taken from Antike Bildmosaiken (2003) by Bernard Andreae, as the Vatican gallery is closed to the general public.

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