A Mosaic Menagerie

Creatures of Land, Sea and Sky in Romano-British Mosaics

Patricia Witts


Over 700 creatures of land, sea and sky have been recorded from at least 140 Romano-British mosaics. This comprehensively illustrated book is the first detailed study of them. It identifies and discusses the animals, assesses their role in floor decoration, and explains how they were much more than appealing decoration.


Witts has, over the years, made an enormous contribution to iconographic studies in Romano-British mosaics through a series of articles on individual problems. So far her only work of synthesis has been her popular account Mosaics in Roman Britain: Stories in Stone (2005). With the volume under review, however, she breaks new ground. A Mosaic Menagerie is a much more substantial achievement: it displays mastery of a range of tools and techniques (not least, species classification); it is admirably consistent in its interpretations; it is commendably cautious in its responses to some of the more esoteric readings that have been suggested by others; and it is scrupulously fair in its presentation of rival views… it maintains impressive standards of editing. There is a noteworthy dearth of misprints and typing errors, and the multiple citations of the 443 illustrations are invariably accurate. The index, too, is meticulous, remarkably error-free, and a highly useful resource. We must congratulate the author on a tour de force..
Roger Ling MOSAIC, the journal of ASPROM, the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics, Volume 43, 2016

With plenty of illustrations, tables listing the frequency of appearances of each creature, a catalogue, and ample bibliography, this book presents an extensive guide to the tessellated beings of Roman Britain.
LM, Current Archaeology, Issue 320, November 2016

…a superb piece of scholarship written in an easily readable style…The typeface in Pat’s book is easy to read and is divided into two columns so you don’t miss your place in a line…The five months I spent making a replica of the Newton St Loe Orpheus mosaic have receded in the memory and I can only appreciate the wonderful depictions of the animals all over again; likewise the variety of dolphin images…Many of [the] Romano-British images are strong and lively and jump off the page. This book is a considerable work of scholarship…
Bob Field, GROUT, British Association for Modern Mosaic, Issue 51, Autumn 2016

This is a very impressive contribution to the burgeoning bibliography of books and papers on Romano-British mosaics by Patricia Witts, who has been one of the most active writers on the topic for well over a decade…it is her book which will in future be the key resource in discussion of animals…There is so much more here that confirms my earlier views - so many really memorable images…a book we can all enjoy for instruction and simply as an art-book.
Martin Henig, ARA News, The Association for Roman Archaeology, Issue 36, September 2016