Trouble at the Taberna

Two weeks were enough to finish this fun and creativity-inspiring project. I’m a Latin teacher and have studied antiquity for more than half my life, but this is (almost) my first foray into the Roman world as a modeler. It was also my first complex diorama, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m going to bring this scene into class to share with my students, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

So much going on!

Read on for a peek at all the details and my thoughts on creating this piece.

My basic idea was to use the front of a tavern (a taberna, caupona, or popina, which mean roughly the same thing) as the backdrop to a crowded street scene. My goal was to recreate the bustle of ancient Roman daily life in the urbs. I looked for minis that not only allowed me to tell a story, but also showed characteristic Roman clothing, hair, etc across a wide range of social classes.

Bird’s eye view

I wanted a really tight scene, so I limited myself to a 4”x4” footprint. I fit nine miniatures, three animals, and a portion of a building, to I’m going to pat myself on the back.

Out in the street

I also wanted multiple levels to the composition to create a sense of depth. Above you can see that the three individuals in the street represent a distinct layer, behind which stand the figures on the sidewalk and then the interior of the tavern.

At the same time, I wanted the figures to interact with one another. The shouting barkeeper, the wealthy merchant behind him, and the Greek traveler in the foreground are all focused upon something or someone off scene. The woman in the white tunic is turning and pulling off her hood to see what the fuss is about. The senator’s wife is glaring at the shouting pleb. The senator is looking disapprovingly at the slave carrying chickens, who is himself going about his business as usual. The legionary seems to be staring uselessly at the barkeeper, but in fact if you get down low enough you can see that his eyes have wandered to the elegant beauty across the way. Finally, the grubby boy inside the shop has taken this opportunity to pilfer a few unattended plums!

I think that dioramas really shine when they’re packed with details, so here’s a tour of those I tucked into mine.

Evidence of a hasty escape!
She’s dropped her pomegranate
Elevated walkways keep your sandals free from mule dung
Yes, the Romans did have sliced bread
Not everyone hails Caesar
What’s that cat looking at?
Basking on the warm tiles in peace

Thanks to everyone who has followed my progress on this enjoyable project. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this one, or what you think I should try next!

Valete, amici!

4 thoughts on “Trouble at the Taberna”

  1. I dint know mate. I personally feel this ,overall, is a milestone in your skill mentioned that the paintingeas just enough to have the models displaying a uniform “good enough “ quality but as for all other facets ,like object composition, theme,naturalistic look , color use (color comp) etc I think these are a 10 across the board everywhere else . So if we figured out the mean it’s be 8,10,10,10,10 -;)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If BAM approves, who am I to disagree? 🙂 I hadn’t thought about this before, but is the emperor meant to spoof Claudius or Tiberius? It is a pretty good caricature of either one I would say.

    I’ve complimented several aspects of this diorama before but I still have to say the level of detail and thought put into it is impressive. I’d love to be able to create one diorama as packed as this one and you make the art of diorama making seem easy. As for your next one, anything that has as much life, creativity, and thought put into it would be awesome to see.

    I hope your students really enjoy this one as to me, I’d love to go to a museum that had a display like this. Roman History may not be for everyone but for those of us who enjoy it, there is nothing like seeing things that bring that interesting era of history to life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kuribo, I really appreciate your kind words. The support and enthusiasm of others adds a special further dimension to the satisfaction I get when building these things. And I know you’ll be there when I start my next diorama, whatever it is!

      As for the emperor, let’s call him Tiberius, I think. Keep it very early in the Empire. In truth, I just grabbed the caricature from an actual graffito in Pompeii!

      Again, I really appreciate your encouragement. I’m honored to have fired your imagination so.

      Liked by 1 person

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