Romanizing Baal: the art of Saturn worship in North Africa



by Wilson, Andrew. I.
published on 14 February 2012

This paper is concerned with stelai from North Africa dedicated to Baal / Saturn in fulfilment of a religious vow, and examines the development of their iconography as the region was incorporated into the Roman empire. The monuments in question range in date from the second century B. C. until the fourth century A.D., and are found throughout modern Tunisia and eastern Algeria – ancient Africa Proconsularis and Numidia, but not Tripolitania. Many of the Roman- period stelai have been collected and catalogued by Marcel Leglay in his book Saturn africain, and this paper owes much to that work.

However, the Berber/ Punic stelai have been studied separately, obscuring some of the developments between them and those of the Roman period. Considerations of space prevent full illustration here of all the examples discussed, and the reader is referred to Leglay’s study for pictures of many of the stelai. A difficulty with the study of the stelai is the poor chronological data available; they are usually from old or poorly-controlled excavations. Dating the monuments is therefore difficult, and relies usually on a combination of onomastics, features of dress and hairstyle, and artistic ‘style’ – the latter an unreliable indicator in what is largely a naïve and schematic mode of representation. Nevertheless, some are dated by consular references, and others with more or less precision by their archaeological context.

Proceedings of the 8th International Colloquium on Problems of Roman Provincial Art, Zagreb 2003 (Opuscula archaeologica: Dissertationes et Monographiae). Zagreb 2005.

Written by , linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 14 February 2012. Source URL:

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