The Ancient Library

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On this page: Mosaics (continued)



covered in 1829, in the floor of the east portico of the temple of Zeus, at Olympia, possibly little later than the first half of the 4th century b.c. It is formed of rough round pebbles of various colours from the bed of the Alpheus, and it represents Tritons of graceful design surrounded by a tasteful border of palmettes and meandering lines (see Baumeister's DcnkmfUer, fig. 998).

The earliest mosaics mentioned in litera­ture are those made for the ship of Hieron II, about the middle of the 3rd century, with scenes from the Iliad, which took 300 skilled workmen a whole year to execute (Athenseus, 206 d). To the same age

themselves on the rim of the bowl. The best known copy of this is that called The Capitoline Doves (fig. 1), found at Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli. It is entirely composed of cubes of marble, without any admixture of coloured glass.

The art of reproducing paintings i r mosaic probably originated in Egypt, and thence found its way to Italy. The largest mosaic picture of Roman workmanship is that executed for the Temple of Fortune at Prseneste, restored by Sulla (Pliny, xxxvi 189). This was discovered in 1640, and is generally supposed to represent a popular fete on the occasion of an inundation of

(1) * THE CAPITOLINB* DOVES. (Rome, Capitoline Museum.)

belongs the only artist in mosaic whose name is recorded in literature, Sosus of Pergamon, famous as the inventor of a kind of mosaic called the asclroton (the " un-swept" floor), in which the floor of a room is inlaid with representations of fruits, fishes, and fragments of food that have fallen from the table (Pliny, xxxvi 184; cp. Statius, Silvre i 3, 36). Mosaics of this type have been found not only at Pompeii, but also at Aquileia and in Algiers. Acccording to Pliny, the original design by Sosus included a remarkable representation of a dove drinking and casting the shadow of its head on the water beneath, while several other doves were to be seen sunning

the Nile. It probably belongs to the time of Hadrian.

Among the mosaics of Pompeii the most famous is that identified as the Battle of Issus, possibly a copy of the painting of the same subject by a female artist, Helena, " daughter of Timon the Egyptian," which was placed in the temple of Peace in the time of Vespasian (Photius, Bibl., p. 482). It represents the critical moment when Alexander is charging, bare-headed, in the thick of the fray, and has just transfixed wiUi his lance one of the leaders of the Persians; while Darius, with his lofty tiara and red chlamys, is extending his right hand in an attitude of alarm and despair (figs. 2

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