Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Philip Sapirstein

Second Advisor

Michael Hoff

Third Advisor

LuAnn Wandsnider

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professor Philip Sapirstein. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2018

Copyright 2018 Rebecca A. Salem


It is often assumed that mosaicists working in different parts of the Roman Empire utilized specific repertoires of geometric patterns, specific to that locality, which formed distinct regional styles. Accordingly, scholarship has sought to assign particular layouts and ornamentation to different areas around the Empire: illusionistic patterns mimicking architectural elements such as coffering in the Eastern Roman Empire, black and white scenes of imagery with no geometric designs in central Italy, and large figural scenes bordered with geometric patterns in North Africa. But this existing model of regional difference does not explain the similarities that can also be seen. For example, the gridded geometric layout has been described as distinctive to Gallic mosaics, but further examination shows that it was also used frequently in Roman mosaics found in modern day Tunisia and Syria. Arguably, such commonalities are indicative of a greater level of connectivity and exchange across the empire regarding mosaic design than has previously been recognized.

Focusing on the provinces of Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia Belgica, this thesis analyses geometric layouts and patterns of mosaics in domestic contexts across these territories, primarily during the first to third centuries CE. Despite their different temporal introductions to mosaics and geographic locations, the mosaics of Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia Belgica possess similar design repertoires. Observable similarities in designs can be used to map the movement of ideas, materials, and practitioners, facilitated by roads and waterways. This presents new insight into cultural transference amongst regional provinces. Placing the results within the wider context of mosaic design elsewhere in the Roman Empire, this study also challenges traditional interpretations of widespread mosaic differences between regions, instead arguing for a greater degree of homogeneity in the layout of geometric mosaics. This thesis aims to demonstrate that geometric mosaic designs are influenced by not only local considerations, but by Empire-wide trends.

Advisor: Philip Sapirstein

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