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Xenia items in compartments, Sousse Museum

The xenia motif in Roman mosaic is a still life motif consisting of a grouping of various items, mostly edible, representing a generous offering (a xenia) from a wealthy host to his guests. The items are often spread across different compartments in floor mosaic schemes. No doubt there were once paintings, but these have been lost.

Typical elements of a xenia motif include game hanging from hooks, fish, baskets of fruit (often overturned), and the like. Vitruvius lists specifically "poultry, eggs, vegetables, and other country produce".[1]

Xenia motifs are typically found in reception rooms.

The word xenia is Greek, and means 'hospitality'; in Latin, it came to mean presents for guests, and later presents in general. It also came to include a class of epigrammatic inscription attached to the presents, xenia epigrams.



  • Katherine M.D. Dunbabin, Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World, Cambridge: 1999.
  • Stella Grobel Miller, "A Mosaic floor from a Roman villa at Anaploga", Hesperia 41:3:332 (July 1972).