PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF DR. DAVID Y. SOLOMON
Early Byzantine table tops with relief decoration were produced by various workshops along the Eastern Mediterranean during a relatively short period time of about 40 years or so, during a period sometimes known as the Theodosian Renaissance. J. Dresken-Weiland records about 110 known examples in her comprehensive 1991 monograph. The great majority of them are in a fragmentary state. The subjects of their relief decoration vary from Christian symbols or imagery derived from Biblical episodes, to purely Pagan mythological iconography, such as the deity and fantastic sea-creatures used on the present example. Professor Ernst Kitzinger is recorded as having told the owner of the present table that "It is unusual and important that it shows Aphrodite with maritime themes. The table depicts magic, fertility, love and success.”
Sigma-tables were designed to be used with a stibadium, a semi-circular dining couch wrapping around the rounded end of the table and accommodating several diners. A table with plain border from a Byzantine house at Sardis was found smashed on the floor of a slightly raised platform at the end of the house's main hall. The platform was covered in square terracotta tiles with central holes probably designed for the wooden legs that would have supported both the table and the couch. Small animal bones and shells filled the interstices between the tiles, testifying to the feasts that took place there, perhaps accompanied by musical and theatrical performances. On the subject in general see Joanita Vroom, "The Archaeology Of Late Antique Dining Habits In The Eastern Mediterranean: A Preliminary Study Of The Evidence," in Objects in Context, Objects in Use. Material Spatiality in Late Antiquity, 2008, pp. 311-362.
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