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Literary references to ancient mosaicists/mosaics

Literary references

1. Pliny the Elder on the Greek mosaicist, Sosus. Sosus, (2nd century BC) is the only mosaicist we have any reference to in literature of the time.“Pavements are an invention of the Greeks, who also practised the art of painting them, till they were superseded by mosaics. In this last branch of art, the highest excellence has been attained by Sosus, who laid, at Pergamus, the mosaic pavement known as the "Asarotos œcos;"from the fact that he there represented, in small squares of different colours, the remnants of a banquet lying upon the pavement, and other things which are usually swept away with the broom, they having all the appearance of being left there by accident. There is a dove also, greatly admired, in the act of drinking, and throwing the shadow of its head upon the water; while other birds are to be seen sunning and pluming themselves, on the margin of a drinking-bowl.” 

Pliny, The Natural History, book 36 , chapter 60, The Natural History. Pliny the Elder. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855


 2. Edict of Diocletian (in Latin Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium) 301AD, (see link below also for complete translation). Prices were set for trades and goods by the Emperor Diocletian in an effort to control inflation. How widely it was taken up we don't know. The prices for those involved in mosaic work were set out as below;

Pictor Imaginarius - 'Painter of images' we can assume they created the first picture.  175 sesterses per day.

Pictor Parietarius - The artist who was able to transfer the painting in large scale onto the floor or wall. 75 sesterces per day.

Musearius - The mosaicist, 50 - 60 sesterces per day. Note the term tessellarius was also used, Farneti states that toward the end of the 4th century CE the Codex Theodosianus has the musearius making wall mosaics and the tessellarius floor ones.

Lapidarius Structor - unskilled stone cutter

Calcis Coctor - most likely a slave who prepared the mortar etc

Farneti, M. (1993). Technical - Historical Glossary of Mosaic Art. Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna. p83 - 84.


3. Edict of Diocletion, a new English translation of the Edict of Diocletion on the academia.edu website. Useful if you want to compare the wages of a mosaicist against other trades.

 https://www.academia.edu/23644199/New_English_translation_of_the_Price_Edict_of_Diocletianus