Lecture 2


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Classics 456 Dr. Soren

Roman Mosaics and Painting


               Lecture 2: The Rise of the Pebble Mosaic


A. The Very First Pebble Floors

   l. Mari- Middle Euphrates area in the third millennium

   2. Til-Barsib and Arslan-Tash- Assyrian royal palaces of the

      9th to 8th centuries B.C.


Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu, is an archaeological site in northern Syria. It was the center of an Aramean Iron Age kingdom, which was conquered by the Assyrians in the 9th century BCE. The site of Arslan Tash was explored by the French archaeologist François Thureau-Dangin in the 1920s and 30s who discovered a city with a palace, surrounded by city walls and gates adorned with bulls carved from stone, now in the Louvre. The most important discoveries from Arslan Tash were however the ivory objects of high artistic quality which today are kept at the Archaeological Museum in Aleppo and in the Louvre.


B. The Crazy Quilt Mosaic of Gordion, Turkey- 8th to 7th c. B.C.


Gordion is situated on a low flat mound called Yassihoyuk, on the east bank of the Sakarya (Sangarios) river, north of its confluence with the Porsuk (Tembris). The site was first investigated by the Korte brothers in 1900, and from 1950 Was excavated by the Pennsylvania University Museum Expedition under the directorship of Rodney Young, until his tragic death in 1974. Since then, the expedition has been led by Kenneth Sams and Mary Voigt.


   l. Rodney Young- Phrygian settlement on Sakarya76/.mnv

   2. Elegant designers- bichrome pottery

   3. Home city of Mita of Mushki in Assyrian annals of Sargon II

      (722-705 B.C.)

   4. Megaron 2- just within tell's Phrygian propylon

   5. Destroyed circa 690 B.C.

   6. Natural pebbles- dark red, white, dark blue

   7. Tapestry inspiration but moth-proof

   8. Earlier unpatterned floor 30 cms below

   9. Patching- plain grey pebbles

  10. Checkerboard, reticulates, crosses, triangles tete beche, lozenges, squares with central contrasting pebble, rosette in circle, swastika


C. Temple of Athena Pronaia at Delphi - 6th century B.C.


D. Fifth Century B.C.- The Pebble Explosion in Greece

   l. Athens, Corinth, Motya (western Sicily), Olynthus

   2. Scenes with fighting animals and decorative borders

   3. Corinth- circle in square, circle with rosette

      a. Palmettes

      b. Wave or running dog

      c. Meander pattern

      d. Animal battles in corners

   4. Athens Enneakrounos Area- circles, X patterns, lozenges

   5. Motya- Punic colony dug by Joseph Whitaker in 1921

     a. Animal fights with griffins

     b. Meanders and wave borders

     c. Destroyed 397 B.C.

   6. Olynthus- Chalcidice Peninsula

      a. Macedonian town captured by Philip II and destroyed

      b. D.M. Robinson 1928-1938

      c. Noted for mythological scenes from 420 B.C.

      d. Brown mortar interstices- light on dark

      e. Lay out outline and fill with white

      f. Two dimensional plus foreshortening

      g. Meanders, waves, palmettes, diamonds, vines, laurels,

      h. Wall to wall carpets of black, white, green, red, yellow, pink, purple      

      i.  Rudus- 7 cms cement and large stones

      j. Nucleus- Buff or red-buff 7 cms

      k. Emblema- depressed floor center

      l. Bellerophon vs. the Chimaera

           l. Corinthian hero beloved of Proetus' wife Anteia of Corinth or Tiryns but shuns her and is slandered   


           2. Sent to Iobates of Lycia with note to be killed

           3. Pegasus caught at Peirene

           4. Chimaera- lion body, snake tail, goat middle


E. Pella

   l.  Petsas 1957-1961

   2. Birthplace of Alexander and his capital, Ptolemy, Seleucos

   3. Opus Signinum- Signia in Latium

   4. Coccio Pesto

   5. Increased plasticity

   6. Sensitivity to pointillism

   7. Zeuxis of Athens- ca. 400 first to do light and shade in 3D

   8. Gnwsis epoiesen


F. Aegae- palace area of the Macedonian kings