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Article

Richard J. A. Talbert

This damaged, but still striking, floor-mosaic map offers a unique and invaluable example of late antique cartography, as well as the earliest surviving vision of the Holy Land. The map was discovered by accident around 1890, when the inhabitants of the recently repopulated village of Madaba in modern Jordan were erecting a new church (dedicated to Saint George) in the ruins of a former Byzantine one in the province of Arabia. By far the largest part of what survives of the map extends up to 10.5 × 5 metres (34 × 16 feet), although within this span several areas are missing. The survival of three other small segments reinforces the probability that the original map covered the full width of the nave(14 metres/46 feet). The orientation is east, so that the top of the map is closest to the apse and altar. The coverage visible comprises two large sections: (1) the Nile delta, part of Sinai, and the south coast of Palestine as far as Gaza; and (2) Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and several towns around it. There is no means to determine how much farther the original map extended in each direction, but in all likelihood it ranged considerably farther north at least. The Jordan and Nile rivers, the Dead Sea, and the city of Jerusalem in bird’s-eye view (Fig.

Article

Erica Rowan

The ancient Graeco-Roman diet was based on cereals (Gk. sitos, Lat. frumentum) but supplemented and flavoured by a wide variety of legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, meats, other animal products, fish, and other seafood. The Greeks used the generic term opson for food eaten with bread or other cereal products. Olive oil and wine were important sources of fats and calories for those living within the Mediterranean climatic zone. In the more northern regions of the Roman Empire and in Egypt, beer was the more common beverage. Most of the meat consumed in the ancient world came from the major domesticates. Garum or fish sauce was eaten in the Greek world but became ubiquitous during the Roman period and was shipped all over the empire. A huge array of fish and shellfish were eaten, fresh where possible but also salted, at both coastal and inland sites. Food in the Greek and Roman world served a multitude of purposes in addition to basic sustenance and human survival. Particular items such as figs, olives, barley, and emmer wheat were strongly connected to notions of Greek and Roman identity. Wealth, status, education, and cultural belonging were displayed through food, and foodstuffs appear frequently in all forms of Greek and Roman literature. Food was also a popular subject in art, and numerous mosaics depict raw ingredients and agricultural scenes. The field of ancient food studies originally explored diet through the ancient textual sources and often focused on the grain supply to Rome. Since the 1980s, however, it has evolved to incorporate all manner of archaeological and environmental evidence to explore a wider array of topics that includes animal sacrifice, non-elite diet, regional and chronological dietary variation, gender, economics, and identity.

Article

palaces  

Kim Shelton

The term palace may be defined as a grand residence or home for a head of state, royal, or high-ranking dignitary. Usually applied to the large houses of the European aristocracy, “palace” is equivalent to palazzo in Italian and palais in Old French, both of which derive from the Latin palātium, residence of the emperor. The designation developed from the location of imperial residences in Rome on the Palatine Hill. In the later Roman Empire, imperial residences were increasingly constructed outside of Rome as well. The term palace is used also by scholars to label the royal residences of the rulers of Macedonia and of the Hellenistic kingdoms; in Greek, these residences were called anaktora, as were the monumental central structures of Minoan Crete and the Mycenaean Greek mainland during the Bronze Age.Beginning with the House of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 72.1) (41/40–36bce), one of many wealthy houses on the .

Article

Hallie Franks

“Greek” mosaics refers to mosaics that date from the 5th to 2nd centuries bce and appear in contexts associated with the Greek-speaking world in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean. These mosaics, popular primarily in domestic contexts, were exclusively floor decoration. From the 5th to 3rd centuries, mosaics were most often made of naturally shaped and coloured pebbles set into plaster; their designs and iconography vary. Experimentation with mosaic materials in the 3rd century included the development of tesserae, which are pieces of glass, stone, or ceramic cut into regular squares that can be set flush with one another. By the 2nd century, tessellated mosaic techniques that take advantage of the precision of tesserae were widespread throughout the eastern Mediterranean.For the purposes of this entry, “Greek” mosaics refers to mosaics that date from the 5th to 2nd centuries bce (i.e., prior to Roman hegemony in the Mediterranean) and appear in contexts associated with the Greek-speaking world in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean. Like their Roman counterparts, Greek mosaics are exclusively floor decoration. Until the development of tesserae in the .

Article

Irene Bragantini

Pavements in the Roman world were made with a wide range of techniques and materials: virtually every material capable of creating a resistant, hard surface could be used. We have examples of pebbles, stones, layers of clay, beaten earth, concrete (with potsherds, stone chips, or tesserae scattered or arranged to compose various designs), bricks, mosaic (black-and-white or polychrome), and opus sectile pavements (limestone or marble slabs arranged to compose designs exploiting the different colours).

Simpler pavements could be covered by perishable material such as mats (in daily use), or textiles (used on special occasions), which have mostly disappeared.

Given its thermal properties and its ready availability, timber was also used, probably not only for functional use. Pliny (HN XIII 29) states that the bizarre plays of colour of rare woods were highly appreciated for use in furniture and wall facings; we might therefore hypothesize that a similar taste led elite patrons to have floors made of rare or inlaid woods.

Article

Zeev Weiss

In the heart of the Lower Galilee lie the remains of Sepphoris, capital of the Galilee during long periods of antiquity. Both literary sources and archaeological finds indicate that the city’s population included pagans, heretics, and Christians living alongside the Jewish population. Many sages lived in the city, which, according to rabbinic literature, boasted numerous synagogues and academies (batei midrash). When Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (the Patriarch of Judaea) moved to Sepphoris at the beginning of the 3rd century, the Jews gained a significant presence on the city council. With the growth of the Christian community came the construction of churches and the involvement of the episcopus (head of the Christian community) in municipal affairs. Economically, Sepphoris had become a well-established city due to the fertile soil in the nearby valleys and its active trade with the immediate surroundings and distant markets. Hellenistic Sepphoris was built on its hill and slopes. Early in the 2nd century ce, the city spread considerably eastward, boasting an impressive grid of streets with a colonnaded cardo and decumanus running through its centre. Various public buildings were built in the city, including a temple, a forum, bathhouses, a theatre, a monumental building identified as a library or archive, as well as churches, synagogues, and some other structures dating to the early Byzantine period. Most of the common people lived in simple houses, while the wealthy lived in spacious, well-planned dwellings. The architectural layout of these large structures is impressive, as are the more than sixty colourful mosaics from the 3rd to 6th centuries ce uncovered in its private and public buildings. The various depictions in the mosaics have parallels in other cities of the Roman and Byzantine East, not only enhancing the ancient ruins of Sepphoris but also providing invaluable information about the city and its population. The wealth of evidence emerging from Sepphoris offers perhaps the greatest insight into Jewish society and its changing attitudes towards the Graeco-Roman culture to which it was exposed. This new outlook did not occur overnight or in all strata of Jewish society; rather, it was an ongoing process that intensified in the Roman period and reached a peak in the 5th and 6th centuries ce.