The Zeugma Mosaics

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The Zeugma Mosaics

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Thu Oct 27, 2005 8:05 pm

Avete amici,

On my flight from Hamburg to Istanbul I browsed thru the airline magazine of Turkish Airlines and found this very interesting article about the mosaics unearthed at Zeugma in South East Anatolia. Unfortunately that wasn’t covered by my itinerary. Anyhow, here’s now my summary of that article:

Zeugma in Commagene used to be one of the largest cities in antiquity. It was founded in the 4th/3rd century BCE by Seleucus Nicator I, on e of Alexander the Great’s generals, and was at one of the easiest fording places on the Euphrates. The name “Zeugma” actually means “bridgehead” or “crossing place”. It grew and developed during the post-Hellenic period. Under Roman rule one legion was stationed there, the Legio IV (or IIII) Scythica. 70,000 people lived there and the wealthy built villae on the banks of the river with a perfect view of the sunset. But Rome’s power waned in the 3rd century and Zeugma was attacked by the Sassanian King Shapour I. Later it was completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake.

The rich built pools laid out with mosaics depicting Poseidon, Oceanus, Thetys and the river gods. Other mosaics depicted Venus/Aphrodite rising from a sea-shell; the Trojan heroes Archilles, and Hector; Bacchus/Dionysos returning from India with Nike the goddess of victory. One mosaic shows “women at breakfast” by the ancient dramatist Menander, against a stage-set background, which bears the signature of the artist Zosimus. The most interesting one is that of a Maenad (dancing girl) whose smoldering eyes remind of those of Mona Lisa.

The Zeugma mosaics are unmatched in the world. The masters of Zeugma used very small tesserae, e.g. 400 to reflect the emotion in a human face. Usually four or five colors were used for mosaics, at Zeugma it was 12 to 13 colors. Also various shades of color added further to the depth of the images.

So far 850 square meters out of 1500 square meters have been unearthed so far. 550 square meters are on display at the newly built Gaziantep Museum. Also you could see there 120 square meters of a 150 square meter mural. The museum also exhibits the 1.55 meter tall bronze statue of Mars as well as other important findings which illustrate the economy and modes of communication of that period, e.g. the “bulls”, seals imprinted in clay for enclosing documents prior to dispatch.
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Links to Zeugma/Gaziantep

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Thu Oct 27, 2005 8:13 pm

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:33 pm

Mille grazie Cleopatra

I don't think I had seen those sites before. Some others though

http://www.zeugmaweb.com/zeugma/english/engindex.htm
http://www.ist.lu/zeugma/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/zeugma/

If you did not make it to Zeugma did you happen to make it to Antioch? There was an exhibition of Antioch's mosaics that passed through here some years ago

Vale optime
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Oct 28, 2005 10:02 pm

Salve Piscine,

Thanks for adding some more nice links to this thread.

I made it "only" to Selcuk (Ephesos), Dalyan (Kaunos) and Antalya (Perge and Aspendos). These sites have been already very interesting. But Turkey is full of Ancient sites so it is impossible to see them all. Also I was traveling with a mate who wasn't that interested in Antiquity so I chose an itinerary which wasn't too much focused on Ancient things. But after seeing even these few places and also the temporary exhibition on gladiators at the Ephesos museum in Selcuk he got hooked onto Antiquity, too :lol:

I'm still working on a little report about this trip which I wanna turn into a web page. But that'll still take some time. Once it's online I'll let you all here at the SVR know.
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