Coming face to face with iconic art

Anybody who has ever studied Latin using the famous Wheelock textbooks will be familiar with the Virgil and Muse mosaic that’s featured on its cover. I have spent many hours using this book to learn my verb conjugations and noun declensions (which I have mostly forgotten).

Wheelock's Latin
Which student of Latin is not familiar with this image?

Imagine my surprise when I suddenly came face to face with the actual original mosaic at Bardo museum! I hadn’t known that the mosaic was found near the city of Sousse (in Tunisia). This mosaic is thought to be one of the oldest depictions of Virgil who was one of Rome’s most iconic poet. Even people who haven’t read the work will at least recognise ‘Aeneid’. I haven’t read it either but I know the first three words that open the work “Arma virumque cano” (Of arms and the man I sing). This also happens to be the title of one of the plays written by Bernard Shaw.

The actual mosaic in all its glory at the Bardo Museum at Tunis


Virgil’s mosaic depicts the poet sitting with a parchment on his lap (which contains an excerpt from Aeneid). He is flanked by two muses- Cleo, muse of history on the left and Melpomene, muse of tragedy on his right. Virgil is wearing the toga in the mosaic.

Details of the parchment and the poet himself

Musa, mihi causas memora, (Muses, remind me..)


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lav says:

    Mosaic is gorgeous. I read GBS play in college and was blown away and I have every intention of reading Aeneid. 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I hope you do. Let me know how it goes ha ha!

  2. Nirmala says:

    Glad you got to see the mosaic and hope you read the book! Best wishes

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      That book is a Latin textbook and so I’ve used it 🙂 It’s at home

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