The season of winter in art and literature from Roman North Africa to medieval France

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Steer, Carol Elizabeth
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The role of winter in the daily lives of Romans in North Africa was investigated, using evidence provided by the mosaic of Neptune and the Seasons at La Chebba and the calendar mosaic at El Jem as well as Columella's agricultural manual, ' De re rustica.' Selected works of art and poetry from the Carolingian period and from twelfth-century France were examined in order to determine whether the experience of winter during these later periods differed from that of the Romans. Illustrations of the winter months in the Vienna Calendar of 818/830 and in Wandalbert von Prum's Martyrology of St. Goar were studied along with several Carolingian poems including Wandalbert's 'De duodecim mensium. ' The medieval period was represented in art by a cycle of the labours of the months sculpted onto the west facade of Chartres cathedral. Several Christian Latin poems were examined in order to investigate their relationship to the theme of winter in the illustrated calendars on church facades. The Christian poems were compared with secular poetry from the 'Carmina Burana.' Winter activities commonly represented in the art of all three periods were feasting, eating and drinking, and hunting boars or killing pigs. The effect of the cold winter weather is consistently represented by a warmly-dressed personification of the season. The symbolism of winter is connected with the recurring annual cycle of the months and seasons, indicating the passage of time. In literature, winter is described as a period of relative inactivity and relaxation. This is sometimes regarded positively and sometimes negatively.