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Zoltan Pallag

Archaeology, University of Leicester

Thesis title:

The Roman Picnic in Late Antiquity

My thesis is essentially about six images of outdoor dining: four on mosaic floors and two on silver plates. Their types of display are found over a wide geographical area from North Africa to Pannonia: one mosaic from Algeria (Hippo Regius), one from Turkey (Antioch), two from Sicily (Piazza Armerina and Tellaro), a silver dish from Italy (Cesena) and another from Hungary (probably from Kőszárhegy). They were all made in the 4th century AD and used in domestic contexts. The images depict diners reclining outdoor around a bolster and, in four cases, under an awning hung between trees with servants often present. In all cases, this picnic party is part of a hunting activity where hunters are trying to capture exotic animals. All might belong to the newly emerged thematic spectrum of domestic décor where eating, the depiction of food, and presenting wealth and luxury played an important role, depicted at the expense of mythological imagery.

My thesis investigates what these images can tell us about late Roman society in which they were seen and used and particularly about the concept of the “good life” as late Roman elite groups understood it, and asks how late Roman culture used picnic imagery in constructing power and social identity.

Research Area

  • Archaeology

Other Research Interests

My other research interest is at the intersection of classical archaeology, historiography, and museum studies. I'm interested in the various ways of crafting narratives of Roman and late antique art through objects as mirrored in museum displays and exhibition catalogues from the nineteenth to the twentyfirst century.

Educational Background

BA in Classical and Roman Provincial Archaeology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Erasmus+ Scholarship at UCL, London

MA in Late Antique and Medieval Studies at Central European University, Budapest


'An Archaeology of the Good Life: Re-Contextualizing the Seuso hunting Plate'   –  Annual Gradute Student Conference, Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, UK (15/11/19).

'Luxury or Nothing: Outdoor Banquet Imagery and Élite Self-Representation in the 4th Century AD'  –  4th Annual Student Archaeology Conference 2016. University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge UK, (16-18/09/16).

'Rómaiak a vasfüggöny mögött: antik, kelta és római régészeti kiállítások az István Király Múzeumban, Székesfehérvár, 1949–1989'  –  XII. Magyar Ókortudományi Konferencia (12th Hungarian Conference of Classical Studies), University of Debrecen, Debrecen, (26-28/5/16).

'Romans behind the Iron Curtain: Exhibitions on Classical, Celtic and Roman Archaeology in a Hungarian County Museum, 1949-1989 (King Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár)'  –   3. Studentisches Archäologiesymposium in Bamberg / 3rd SABA International Archaeology Student Conference. Otto Friedrich-Universität, Bamberg, Germany, (31/3 – 3/4/16).

'Classical Archaeology in the Time of Communism: Exhibitions on Classical, Celtic and Roman Archaeology in a Hungarian County Museum (Székesfehérvár, 1949-1989)'   –   TRAC 2016. The 26th Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference – Poster Session, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, (16-19/3/16).

'Herakles from the Sea: Some Archaeological Notes on a Votive Relief from Ostia' ANNONA 2015. International Student Conference on Underwater Archaeology. University of Zadar, Croatia, (13-15/11/15).