Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Carthage - Amphitheatre and Circus Maximus

5th century (Vandal) Carthage
Map Anna Leone

Locations of Circus Maximus, Amphitheatre and Basilica Maiorum later built over the burial site of the Martyrs.


Carthage amphitheatre 1950
"Built in the lst century AD, outside the city, the Carthage amphitheatre was considered one of the largest of the Roman Empire. In their descriptions, medieval chroniclers refer to imposing structures with high arches.

Today it lies a short distance from the roadside and all that remains is an oval shaped arena, 65m long by 37 wide, with at each end, the openings to let in the wild animals. The most famous martyrs to have died there, Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity, were martyred for their faith in 203."
Patrimonie en Tunis
Here is a French article on the amphitheatre in wikipedia with bibliography.

Here is a Virtual globetrotting Google map showing the location of the amphitheatre

Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus at Carthage.
Mosaic in Bardo Museum, Tunis
Image: University of Chicago

This is a rare historical image, a "mosaic photo" exactly from the time when St Perpetua and St Felicity and their Christian friends were put to death in the amphitheatre. The Book of Revelation Chapter 7 tells about those who have received the palm of victory and are now with the Lamb.
Here, in this early third century AD mosaic of the circus at Carthage, the chariots represent the four circus factions. There also is a hortator on horseback and a sparsor holding an amphora and a whip.

But in other ways, the iconography is unique. For example,

  • it is the only mosaic to show both the interior of the arena and the exterior fa├žade, which has two arcades separated by a cornice.
  • There also is an awning over the seats, which continue over thecarceres, conveying more the appearance of an amphitheater than a circus.
  • The two temple-like structures above the seating are novel, as well, and may be situated at the break and finish lines.

In place of an obelisk, there is an image of Cybele seated on a lion. Associated with Caelestis, the tutelary goddess of Carthage and a Punic mother goddess, Cybele was said by Tertullian to preside over the euripus of the Circus Maximus. Her sacred tree was the palm, four of which, relates Dio (XLVIII.43.6), sprang up around her temple. From it, comes the symbolic palm of victory with which she was associated.
Roman horse - University of Chicago

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