10 places where we can see unique Roman mosaics
This post is also available in: Polish
Mosaics were very popular in the Roman Empire. From the colorful, marble (or glass cubes) squares various patterns were laid on the floors or walls. Many beautiful ancient compositions have been preserved to our day, which prove the craftsmanship of ancient craftsmen. Below 10 places where we will see some of the most beautiful Roman mosaics.
I. Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Turkey
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum is located in Gaziantep (Turkey) and has the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world, which together cover an area of 2448 m². Interestingly, further parts of the complex are to be put into operation, on which further mosaics will be visible. In total, over 3,000 m² of antique mosaics are to be made available.
The most popular mosaic is the so-called “Gypsy”, which was unveiled (from under the column) between 1998 and 1999. Interestingly, this mosaic was largely demolished and taken out of Turkey as early as the 1960s. In 2018, however, some of the mosaic fragments were lost.
Scientists gave the mosaic the name” Gypsy” because of the characteristic clothing and round earrings. It is believed, however, that the mosaic shows either one of Menadas (companion of Dionysus) or Gaia – the goddess of the earth. There are also voices suggesting that he is really a man, and maybe even Alexander the Great himself.
In addition to mosaics, in the museum tourists can see 140 m² of frescoes, 4 Roman fountains, 20 columns, 4 sculptures, a statue of Mars, grave steles and sarcophagi.
II. The Bardo Museum in Tunisia
The Bardo Museum in Bardau (Tunisia) is a place where we can find a really huge collection of Roman mosaics. The collections are located on three floors of the building.
In the museum we come across works showing the everyday life of ancient North Africa, scenes from myths and famous figures from history. This is where you can see the preserved image of the Roman poet Virgil, which is shown at the time of the creation of Aeneid; the mosaic can be seen even muse of tragedy and stories that accompany the writer in a creative act.
It is worth mentioning that on March 18, 2015 a terrorist attack took place in the museum, which killed 24 people. However, the collections were not damaged. The responsibility for the attack took on the so-called Islamic State.
III. The Getty Villa in the United States
Getty Villa was founded in 1974 in Malibu, Los Angeles (USA) and is an educational center and museum dedicated to ancient culture, especially Greece, Rome and Etruria. The museum’s collection contains about 44,000 antique objects, dated from 6500 BCE to 400 CE.
Among the artifacts, we can admire a really large collection of Roman mosaics, depicting scenes from mythology, everyday life, nature and arena performances. Among the most interesting objects is the ancient monster – Jellyfish – located in the central part of the illusionist composition. The mosaic is located in the museum lobby and is dated to the 1st century CE.
IV. Conímbriga in Portugal
Conimbriga was an important Roman urban center in what is now Portugal. Although the city was not the largest in Portugal, it certainly has the best preserved Roman monuments. Scientists believe that only 10% of the surface of the ancient medium has been discovered so far. Conimbriga is located near the city of Condeixa-a-Nova, in central Portugal.
From the ground, archaeologists have excavated a large number of ruins of residences and residential houses that have been renovated many times and date back to the 1st century BCE. To this day we can see beautiful floor mosaics or murals that adorned Roman houses. Among the most interesting objects is a mosaic from the so-called Swastika House. On the floor mosaic he can see symbols in the shape of a swastika, which in ancient times was to bring happiness and prosperity.
V. The British Museum in England
The list could not miss the famous The British Museum in London (England). Within the huge museum there are several of the most beautiful Roman mosaics discovered in Britain. These include the image of Christ or Bacchus riding a tiger. Especially the second object – the medallion with more than a meter in diameter – is really interesting. Bacchus, riding a tiger, is nothing more than a reference to the mythological conquest of India by the god of wine and fertility.
VI. Pompeii and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples
Pompeii is a treasury of knowledge about ancient Rome, mainly due to beautiful preserved artifacts. Pompeii was a wealthy city with numerous public buildings, sports arenas, theaters and temples. The city with its 64 hectares and 20,000 people was a completely average social center of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE. This fact makes it an important city for historians and archaeologists. To a large extent, ruins, objects and bodies reveal the Romans’ lifestyle of that time.
An extremely valuable source of knowledge for scientists are preserved mosaics. A large part of them was transferred to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples to prevent damage. The most important of them is a work depicting Alexander of Macedon during the Battle of Issos (333 BCE), in which Macedonians, commanded by Alexander with the Persian army, led by Darius III.
The object was found in the so-called House of Fauna in Pompeii. The mosaic is 2, 72 wide by 5, 13 m long. It is believed that the preserved mosaic is a copy of an earlier work from the 3rd century BCE.
VII. Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily
The summer villa, built in the 3rd century CE, is a powerful complex that consisted of a large number of rooms, a bathhouse or a courtyard. He certainly belonged to an important person of that time. The building was beautifully decorated, especially with floor mosaics, which together fill the area of over 3000 m².
The mosaics are extremely colorful and show scenes from everyday life, hunting, myths and games. One of the most expressive is certainly the mosaic showing gymnasts women. The most interesting is women’s dress, which we would now call a bikini.
VIII. Hatay Archaeological Museum in Turkey
An interesting discovery was made in Antioch in 1932-1939 – over 300 mosaics were excavated from the earth, which, as it turned out, date back to the third century CE. More than half of them are now in the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Turkey. The mosaics are very large; the largest of them showing hunting, located in the United States and measures about 6 by 7 meters.
Mosaics show mainly geometric patterns and figures (one of them depicted), hunting scenes, or refer to ancient myths.
IX. Borghese Gallery in Rome
The Borghese Gallery in Rome is a museum where you can admire the huge collections of works of art that the members of the Borghese family managed to collect. The 20 rooms have been made available to visitors, with facilities – dating back to ancient times.
Among the most interesting artifacts is certainly the famous Roman mosaic from the early 4th century CE. The object measures about 28 meters and shows gladiator fights. Interestingly, the names of gladiators placed a sign ∅, which probably means which of the gladiators fell in battle.
X. Archaeological Museum in Sousse
In the city of Sousse in Tunisia there is the Archaeological Museum, which has a really impressive collection of ancient objects, including Roman mosaics. Among them we can distinguish characters from the myths: Medusa or Okeanos. The beautifully preserved mosaic depicting Neptune traveling on his sea chariot is especially impressive. The object is dated to the middle of the 3rd century CE.
In addition to mosaics, the museum can see sculptures, including statues of the emperor Hadrian or deity Priap, with an impressive” attribute of masculinity”.
Author of the photo of the mosaic from the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Turkey: Nevit Dilmen | Multi-license with GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.5 and older versions (2.0 and 1.0)
Author of the mosaic photo from the Archaeological Museum in Sousse: © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons
This article is dedicated to Mrs. Paulina – the patron of IMPERIUM ROMANUM.