Explore the World’s Largest Collection of Roman Mosaics
Over the course of 3,000 years, Tunisia has been home to many civilizations, and there's no better place to encounter them than at the National Bardo Museum. Housed in a former Beylic palace near the old city of Carthage, the museum is Tunisia's oldest and most important. Within its lavish halls, visitors find artifacts belonging to every era of Tunisian history, from a prehistoric altar to Hellenistic sculptures and Carthaginian jewelry.
While the Bardo Museum as a whole is impressive, one of the its main attractions is the staggering number of ancient mosaics that grace its walls and floors. Collected from Roman and Byzantine sites in Tunisia, the exceptionally well preserved mosaics occupy more than half of the museum’s display space and encompass the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics.
Set in motion by the dissolution of Carthage, the era of Roman Africa was one of remarkable prosperity. After a century of Punic Wars, the Romans laid siege to Carthage beginning in 149 B.C., destroying the city and sowing its fields with salt. However, in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar reestablished Carthage as a Roman city. Soon, the fertile regions of northern Tunisia were responsible for much of empire’s grain production, and the region began to supply luxury items such as olive oil, gold, and even wild animals for colosseum shows to the empire. Having established its value as a territory, Roman Africa prospered through the turn of the fifth century. Cities were Romanized, monuments built and mosaics commissioned by wealthy families seeking status.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, which works to preserve mosaics abroad, notes that many North African Roman mosaics exhibit more vibrant colors than their Italian counterparts, a detail that has been attributed to the abundant supply of colored limestone and marble in the region. A shift in favor towards large-scale figural compositions, such as amphitheaters and hunt scenes, beginning in the third century A.D. has also been observed.
According to curator Aziza Mraihi, the Bardo Museum is "the major place to visit, to learn about the huge and rich history of Tunisia," and the mosaics offer a "unique" glimpse of life in Roman Africa. Depicting everything from mythological events to famous figures and day-to-day scenes, they function both as individual works of art and parts of a greater storyline.
The crown jewel of the mosaic and museum collection is the only known mosaic of the Roman poet Virgil. Dating to the third century, the mosaic was discovered in a villa at Sousse and depicts the poet writing his famous epic, The Aeneid, flanked by the muses of tragedy and history. Also from Sousse is the Triumph of Neptune depicting the god of the sea surrounded by the four seasons. Measuring over 100 square meters, it is one the largest preserved mosaics from the ancient world and hangs in the museum's entrance hall.
Other significant mosaics include a unique character portrayal of Diana the Huntress shooting a gazelle as well as a rare illustration of an Odyssey scene in which Ulysses resists the lure of Sirens. Explore these mosaics and more in the slideshow below, and head to the Bardo Museum's website to take a virtual tour.
Mosaics in the history of art (or not as the case may be)
My father, old now, was and is an art historian through and through. An academic who’s devoted his life to art, he is now confined to a chair but his mind is still keen and his hearing is sharp so he seemed like a good a person as any on which to test my theory about mosaics in the history of art. The theory revolves around the fact that mosaics are essentially written out of the history of art but as I started to expound my theory, my father took exception to my premise. That’s quite wrong, he said. So I corrected myself: Not all mosaics, but pre-Byzantine mosaics do not feature in the history of art, I said. At that, he relaxed and listened.
Port Scene, detail. 1st to 3rd century AD. Photo: @John Paul Getty Museum.
The theory first took root when I was visiting the Archaeological Museum of Sparta in Greece with a friend, S, whose life, like my father’s, has been devoted to art. I have often wondered why these glorious, clever, beautiful and infinitely varied and various things are not referred to in the history of art. Why does The Story of Art, the seminal work by E. H. Gombrich, only mention them in passing before he stops to dwell on the 6th century mosaics of St Apollinare, Ravenna? Why does Stephen Farthing in Art, the Whole Story also gloss over pre-Byzantine mosaics before taking note of the 12th century Monreale Basilica in Sicily? What’s going on here? Why are we all familiar with the Venus of Milo in the Louvre but few of us have any idea about the existence of the Zeus and Ganymede mosaic in the Metropolitan?
Zeus and Ganymede mosaic, 2nd century AD, Metropolitan Museum, NYC. Photo: @www.sedefscorner.com
It’s not that pre-Byzantine mosaics don’t attract academic or public attention, of course they do. They are admired, studied, written about and painstakingly lifted and preserved. Specialists in Roman mosaics write learned tomes about them, as well they should, and there are wonderful books aplenty full of gorgeous coloured illustrations detailing mosaics from across the Roman empire. But that’s not the point. The point is that Farthing’s 550 page volume includes examples of work as diverse as an Indian 12th century bronze, a 19th century indigenous North American blanket and a Korean 13th water sprinkler, but Roman mosaics, unillustrated, are relegated to a single line: ‘The floors of many of the [Roman] homes were covered with elaborate mosaics’.
Ravilious style detail, Animal Room, Vatican Museums, Rome. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
S, who studied history of art and who has spent the past three decades working in the art world, warmed to the subject as she looked closely at the 3rd-5th century mosaics in the unfrequented provincial museum where we had stopped on our way to a Pelopponesian beach.
Detail from the ‘toilet of Venus’, 3rd century AD, Sparta Archeological Museum, Greece. Photo: @helenmilesmosaics
Was it perhaps their functionality that kept them off the art history radar, she suggested? A vase by Edmund de Waal is a work of art. But does the same vase with a bunch of irises in it become simply a vase? Roman mosaics were largely made as floors for people to walk on so they didnt get as much attention as works which were made purely to delight. Perhaps it is because they were designed and made by anonymous artists, S continued? By and large mosaicists of old did not sign their work and they therefore do not comfortably fit into our modern notion of Art being made by a single named Artist.
Pheasant, 3rd century AD, Villa of the Aviary, Carthage, Tunisia. Photo: @David Tipling.
There was much to be said for S’s theories but still, somehow, they didn’t quite cover the wholesale neglect of pre-Byzantine mosaics in the history of art. There must be another explanation and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Could it be something even more fundamental to the nature of Roman mosaics, something we scarcely think about now but which for centuries meant they weren’t included in the canon that we nowadays consider central to the history of Western art?
‘Mona Lisa’ of Galilee, 3rd century, Sepphoris, Israel. Photo: @The Ancient World.
As far as I can see, the key difference between Byzantine era mosaics, which are included in the history of art, and pre-Byzantine ones which are not, is that it was during Byzantine times that mosaics were lifted, figuratively and literally, from floors and used as wall decorations. Moreover, pebbles, stones or ceramic were replaced by smalti – colourful, rich, glittering glass – thereby elevating the ‘art’ of mosaics from being merely utilitarian floor surfaces using everyday materials to a decorative form which was respected, admired and coveted. This ties in nicely with S’s theory but nevertheless it is impossible to claim that Byzantine mosaics are somehow artistically superior. Even Gombrich has to admit that the mosaics of San Apollinare are ‘rather stiff and rigid’ and that ‘there is nothing of the mastery of movement and expression which was the pride of Greek art, and which persisted till Roman times.’
Judgement of Paris mosaic, c 150AD, Louvre, Paris. Photo: @Wikicommons.
Then it came to me – the explanation was simple. The reason why pre-Byzantine mosaics are excluded from the history of art is because they were immovable. Think about it – during the Renaissance when painters sought to codify and refine the principles of representational art by studying and emulating the work of the ancients, they would understandably have concentrated their attentions on sculpture – objects which could be easily transported. If you tried to remove a mosaic it would crumble into a million tesserae which meant that they were all but worthless and never acquired the status of artefacts that could be widely admired outside their original context.
Leopard mosaic, 100BC, Archeological Museum of Delos, Greece. Photo: @mygreecetravelblog.com
Moreover, most of the mosaics we know now hadn’t been excavated by the 1500s so Renaissance artists would have been largely unaware of them. Excavations at Pompeii began in the 1740s, Delos in the 1840s, Sicily’s Villa Romana del Casale in the late 19th century, Pella in the 1950s, Zeugma in the 1990s and so on. So all the time, the crucial centuries, when western art was flourishing, pre-Byzantine mosaics were effectively invisible.
Medusa panel, Palazzo Massimo Museum, Rome. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
This invisibility was later consolidated by the collecting tendencies of the young aristocrats who took their Grand Tours of Europe from the late 18th century on wards. Drifting around the continent, buying, amassing and shipping anything movable back home to adorn their country estates – marbles, books, sarcophagi, manuscripts, vases, jewels, furniture- but not mosaics. Art is about display and mosaics couldn’t be displayed so they didn’t get accepted as Art.
Unswept floor mosaic, 2nd century AD, Vatican Museums.
At this stage in history methods for moving mosaics were still rudimentary. If a mosaic took your fancy, you were likely to hack out the central emblema, usually a neat, transportable tableau, and discard the rest, so the full magnificence of mosaics in situ or properly lifted could not be appreciated. These private collections in turn formed the basis of the first museums which in their turn would have been the focus of the burgeoning curiosity in the history of art which began to become a formal discipline in the 19th century. Thus it was, so my theory goes, that mosaics were left out of the history of art.
Hunting dog, 6th century, Heraclea Lyncestis, Macedonia. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
This means mosaics in the history of art are rather like women or black people in history full stop. Their perceived inferiority and therefore invisibility meant that they were only rarely able to step over the social and cultural divide and when they did so their contributions didn’t fit into the prevailing norm so were largely unrecorded. Looking back, academics are now aware of how certain categories of people were cut out of the history books and can do something to rectify the gaps in our understanding but when it came to rewrite the history of art, pre-Byzantine mosaics were still disregarded.
Detail of Dionysos mosaic, c 120BC, House of Dionysos, Delos, Greece.
This seems even harder to explain but again I am sure I have found the answer. When art history was being rewritten and the neglected areas of world art were finally being discussed and included in the study of how art evolved, Western historians were understandably keen to look outwards to parts of the world which had previously been ignored.
Dog and worker, detail from Neptune mosaic, Bardo Museum, Tunisia.
According to my theory it would have been harder to weave Roman mosaics into the new narrative than it was to turn one’s attention to things of beauty from further afield. Adding Roman mosaics to the story of art would have smacked of more of the same, reinforcing the endlessly Western-centric focus of art history, whereas an Indian bronze or a Korean water sprinkler was something fresh and innovative. Thus, once again, Roman mosaics got left behind.
Mosaic skeleton, 1st century BC, Pompeii.
It’s just a theory but my father, listening intently, agreed with my reasoning. It may be nothing more than a hunch but it goes a long way to explaining why mosaics still hover in the no man’s land between art and craft. Even when the acknowledged greats of 20th century art, Picasso, for example, or Diego Rivera, experimented with the medium, their mosaic works remain little known. Wham-bam-in-your-face work by Niki de Saint Phalle, who’s sculpture garden is a mosaic orgy, is harder to ignore but the fact that she was heavily influenced by Antoni Gaudi’s Parc Guell and that her work is as much about surface, texture, reflection and found objects as it is about fantastical forms and sinuous shapes seems to receive less attention.
To finish here is a detail from the floor of the 6th century Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. We see from this floor, which incorporates Roman mosaic fragments, that the Byzantine builders understood something of the beauty of Roman mosaics – they used them when they could have easily tossed them aside and started again. But they thought of them as something lesser, something not as good or as splendid or as worthy as their own smalti creations, and so the story of Roman mosaics in the history of art began.
Roman mosaic fragments incorporated into the floor of San Vitale, Ravena. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
Easily the most impressive ruins remaining in Carthage are the Roman Antonine Baths, built under Emperor Hadrian and completed during the reign of Antoninus Pius in the 2nd century AD. Parked on prime real estate right on the seaside, this sprawling terme was the largest bath complex outside Rome, highlighting the importance of this city in the wider empire. Today it’s mostly just the foundations of the bathhouse that remain, though the grass-topped arches and stone-hewn tunnels, which once allowed staff to move through basement corridors so that they would not disturb the bathers, certainly beckon visitors to explore. Don’t miss the map of what the complex once looked like near the entrance to help fire up your imagination.
A reconstructed 15m-tall column gives a taste of just how immense the scale of this complex was: this pillar was one of eight that propped up the massive 22m-by-42m frigidarium (cold room). Narrow passages led to the small tepidarium (warm room) and then to the 10-sided caldarium (hot room) following around the Roman bathing ritual. On both sides of the frigidarium were palaestras (gymnasiums), where bathers could indulge in a spot of naked wrestling before heading to the sauna.
True to their name, the Vandals wrecked the baths in 439 AD, and the Arabs reused stones from Carthage to build Tunis. The baths were fed by the Roman-constructed Zaghouan Aqueduct, and a crumbling section can be spotted northwest of Byrsa Hill. An outstandingly complete and impressive stretch of aqueduct still lines the road between Tunis and Zaghouan near Oudna.
Storyboarding/Byzantine Lectures/Book Hunting/Irreverent History/Justinian II/Carthage
I’m sorry that I haven’t written anything recently. I really need to do better about that. I’ve been writing up a storm in other places, however. Like on my story Terra. Things are becoming intense. I’ve also been doing more Byzantine Empire research to beef up said story, and so far it is working. I’m worried that there will be too many battle strategies and not enough romance/fast-paced plot. It would be cool if I could be able to turn it into a 7-part epic series, but I doubt that that will happen. I think that it would also be better if I storyboarded it – and storyboarded it intensely.
Speaking of my Byzantine Empire research, my dad got me an audio recording of a series of lectures on the Byzantine Empire for my birthday, and that’s where I’m doing most of my research.
Other parts of my research come from my Half-Price Books hunting excursions – that I probably should not be doing. Not because my hunts are inappropriate, (except for last time, but it was because of an irreverent book, not because of anything I personally did) but because I go there and get a bunch of history books that I’ll probably read in a year…or never. But they are so awesome-looking and fascinating. At least they will be when I read them.
I did make some headway in the irreverent one just because it was so funny. It’s called Badass and it covers some of the most ruthless/courageous/insane people in history in a way that would make a sailor proud. I don’t think that the book dropped any F-bombs, though. I may have made some heads turn in the store because I was laughing so hard while reading the section on Justinian II.
Basically Justinian II spent his entire reign picking fights, like Otto Von Bismarck but more ruthless. This ruthlessness got him exiled and then executed. He was a weird, weird person.
I’m surprised that the author did not cover Hannibal, the guy who invaded Rome by going over the Alps. I don’t know much about him, but he seems like an interesting fellow. I know that the Romans hated Carthage – the rival empire where Hannibal hailed from – so much that they sowed the fields of Carthage with salt so that nothing could grow. Their battle cry was also “Hannibal’s at the gates” for a great many years.
Anyway, I discovered that I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble, so you probably know what that means. I have license for a Barnes & Noble hunt now! Things should get interesting.
Illegal Dumping Clean Up
Mosaic private forest lands on Vancouver Island are a popular destinations for recreationalists. While the majority of visitors appreciate the access opportunities, the increase in illegal dumping in some areas is a significant–and costly–problem. In 2020, Mosaic recovered a substantial quantity of illegally dumped material, everything from cars to couches, at the cost of more than $85,000 to clean up.
Mosaic is very lucky to field regular requests from hardworking volunteers interested in helping address the problem of illegal dumping on Mosaic private forest lands.
To request a Mosaic Illegal Dumping Clean Up event as part of Mosaic’s pilot program:
Complete an Access Agreement request form online. Be sure to indicate your preferred location and date. (If you are not a member of a formal club or society, enter 00000 as your Business or Society Number.)
For approved events, Mosaic will work with local authorities to waive tipping fees at the nearest landfill wherever possible.
Mosaic will provide approved groups with a Mosaic Clean-up Kit including gloves and garbage bags.
For more information about how to organize an Illegal Dumping Cleanup event on Mosaic private forest lands, please email our Access Coordinator at [email protected]
Kirby: Joseph Smith’s Carthage gun, Nauvoo’s ‘Old Sow’ cannon — now that’s my kind of religion
(Photo courtesy Church History Library) Views of veteran artillerymen of the Nauvoo Legion posed with the "Old Sow," a cannon that was brought across the Plains with Brigham Young's pioneer company.
Irony in life cannot be measured. A month after being ordered off LDS Church property for saying I had a gun when I didn’t, I was invited back onto church property and actually given a gun. Several, in fact.
The sponsor for my latest visit was an actual general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By way of thanking him for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I shall refer to him only as Elder C. Neutruch.
First, because that’s not his real name, and he doesn’t need being publicly associated with the likes of me. Finally, because I have no intention of putting myself in a position of being called on a punitive church archive mission to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill.
For the visit, I also owe thanks to Church History Museum Director Alan D. Johnson and artifact curator Alan Morrell, who not only let me handle the guns but also didn’t call church security on me.
Through the years, large numbers of firearms have been donated to the Church History Museum. Most have deep connections to the earliest days of Mormonism. They are kept locked away and not available for public viewing.
Among them was the “pepperbox” revolver used by church founder Joseph Smith to shoot three of his killers when he was murdered at Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. According to historical accounts, he would have shot more of them but the pistol misfired three times.
My personal favorite, which Elder Neutruch encouraged me to examine at length — but not load — was a beautiful Colt .36-caliber Navy revolver, reportedly once belonging to the infamous Mormon gunman Porter Rockwell.
There is no evidence that this particular pistol was ever used by Rockwell to shoot anyone of any significance. Given the many dents and nicks on the butt, he more likely employed it as a club or a hammer.
Forget Rockwell. For sheer killing power in the Mormon world, nobody beats John Moses Browning, genius designer of firearms.
I managed to get my hands on one of Browning’s earliest prototypes of the Government Model 19 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a direct ancestor of the one I carried during all my years as a cop.
Browning designed a lot of military guns, including the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) favored by Bonnie and Clyde, the .30-caliber machine gun used widely in both world wars, and “Ma Deuce,” the .50-caliber machine gun still used by U.S. troops and a variety of other countries.
The best was saved for the last. We drove out to the Salt Lake Valley’s west side, where I was invited to lay hands on a personal Holy Grail — the Nauvoo Legion-era cannon known as the “Old Sow.”
(Photo courtesy Church History Library) Views of veteran artillerymen of the Nauvoo Legion posed with the "Old Sow," a cannon that was brought across the Plains with Brigham Young's pioneer company. Includes George F. Brooks, Joseph De Lyon, C.J. Thomas and others. Taken in the Tithing Yard in Salt Lake City.
The gun bears the unflattering moniker because of its homely appearance relative to the sleeker designs of guns from the early 19th century. I’ve been a huge fan ever since reading about it years ago.
The Old Sow lay unmounted from its carriage on a wooden pallet in a warehouse resembling the government one featured at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
There’s no telling what magnificent treasures may have been squirreled away in the enormous stacks of crates and shelves nearby — Jaredite stones, the sword of Laban, bones of a Nephite elephant, or even the original gold plates. I didn’t care. I only had eyes for the Sow.
As with most of history, especially religious history, lots of versions surround Old Sow’s origins. Some believe that she isn’t the true Old Sow. But I bear solemn witness … never mind.
It was a spiritual experience for me. Had it been possible to slip more than a ton of iron in my pocket, church security would still be looking for me.
The things Sonny and I could have accomplished with such a weapon boggle even the most unrefined of minds. The bore was sufficiently large enough to accommodate nearly any projectile — up to and including a frozen pig that I bet would go clear through a church steeple.
I casually mentioned the two pounds of black powder and a bucket of marbles in my vehicle, hinting to my hosts that we take the Old Sow outside and see what she could do. Thinking that I was kidding, the two Alans chuckled.
Knowing me better, Elder Neutruch was immediately serious. Drawing himself up to his full general authority stature, he said, “Robert, I say unto thee, nay.”
I suppose everyone was starting to notice the larcenous and covetous look in my eyes, because my hosts wrapped up the tour and we went back to the Church History Museum.
It was a good day, maybe the best I’ve had in “church” since, hell, ever.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.
Visit 4 World War II Sites in Tunisia
The Tunisia Campaign also known as the Battle of Tunisia is a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the Second World War between the 17th of November 1942 and the 13th of May 1943. They opposed the forces of Nazi Germany (80.000 men) and Italy (110.000 men) and the Allied forces consisted of 130.000 British soldiers, 95.000 U.S. troops, and about 75.000 French colonial soldiers. The campaign began with success for the Germans but with the superiority in numbers and weapons the Allies eventually led to the complete defeat of the Germans.
The remnants of the war left behind several World War II sites in Tunisia to learn about its history. The following are 4 important World War II sites to visit while you are in Tunisia:
The North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial (located in Carthage)
The North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial is a 27 acre military cemetery and memorial site located in Carthage and commemorates the United States military casualties during World War II. It is the home to 2,841 graves and a Wall of the Missing inscribed with the names of 3,724 soldiers who went missing. The cemetery is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays except on Tunisian Public holidays, Christmas (December 25) and New Year (January 1). A staff member working in the Visitor Building is available during opening hours to answer any questions. There is also a chapel on-site.
North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunisia
Enfidaville War Cemetery (located in Enfidaville – about 100 km south of Tunis)
The Enfidaville War Cemetery houses the graves of 1,551 soldiers who died in the course of the North Africa Campaign. There are 88 that haven’t been identified. The area in which the Endifaville War Cemetery is located and the surrounding area of Tarkouna witnessed fierce fighting near the end of the North Africa campaign during World War II. Most of the soldiers buried at this cemetery perished during the period of March to May 1943. The town of Enfidaville was itself captured by the Allied Army.
The cemetery is open at all times including weekends for visitation.
The Kasserine Pass
The Battle of the Kasserine Pass was the worst defeat the US had yet experienced in the course of the war. In February 1943, the German-Italian Afrika Korps attacked the US forces that were defending a two-mile wide valley within the Dorsal Mountains in Tunisia. This gap was seen by the German army as a weak point who aimed to push the Allies out of Tunisia. The battle continued from the 19th till the 25th December and resulted in a retreat of the US forces.
Military Museum of Mareth Line (located in Gabes)
The Mareth line was a 45 km long fortification system built by the French between 1936 and 1940. Its purpose was to protect Tunisia (French protectorate) from potential attacks from the Italians coming from Libya. This fortification consists of 8 artillery bunkers and 40 infantry bunkers to resist the enemy attacks.
In June 1940, the Mareth line was demilitarized and disarmed as the result of an armistice signed between France and Germany. On November 9, 1942, French North Africa was invaded by English-American troops by a surprise Operation Torch. As a result of this surprise attach, the German-Italian troops reacted with the Tunisia invasion. During the same month, the German army led by Rommel rearmed the Mareth line as a defense against the Allied fighters.
The Battle of Mareth took place from March 16 to March 28 in 1943. The English troops numbering 160,000 soldiers fought against the 76,000 Axis troopers over a period of 10 days, but were not successful in passing the defensive Mareth line.
At the Military Museum of Mareth Line, you will be given a guided tour by a Tunisian army officer to learn about detailed battle plans, war uniforms and weapons, and watch a featured short film of the Battle of Mareth. Outside the museum, you will be able to see the war bunkers, defensive trenches and artillery guns used during the war.
Military Museum of Mareth Line
Visiting World War II Sites in Tunisia
You don’t have to be a World War II aficionado or history buff to enjoy these World War II Sites in Tunisia. We hope you enjoy learning about the rich history of Tunisia.
The House of Dyonisos
The house of Dyonisos features a great number of small portraits of the God Dyonisos and his musician friends, as well as personifications of the 4 seasons.
Hermes like Medusa with wings on her head and snakes arranged as a caduceus.
Work and Play
The Spanish philosopher Jos é Ortega y Gasset begins his book on hunting with the idea of hunting as “diversion,”and to me that seems a good place to start as well.
What does he mean by this idea? There are basically two ways people can spend their time: they are either working or they are playing. Although work can have playful aspects, work is what we must do to live and to survive. Work in this sense is compulsory.
Play on the other hand is what we elect to do, with what we call our “free” time. While we are typically paid to do those things we call “work,” play is something we do for free. Play in this sense is voluntary.
With this conceptual starting point taken as our first premise (an assumption that does not necessarily require any additional “proof”), hunting can be understood as a form of play. Modern hunting is generally (but not always) an activity that is voluntarily chosen. No one forces anyone to hunt. Unlike aboriginal hunters in a state of nature, very few modern hunters hunt in order to survive. In other words, hunting is not work in a traditional subsistence sense, although certainly modern hunters may very well “subsist” on the fruit of their labors.
So, when Ortega considers hunting to be a form of “diversion,” he must certainly have a similar framework of work and play in mind. Committed hunters will say they live to hunt. Whereas the more pessimistic, utilitarian view insists that humans should live to work, the broader and more widely accepted view is that humans work in order to live. Play then in an important sense is what diverts us from our normal workaday existence. We work so that we can play. We work so that we can hunt.