The Mosaics of Rhodes, Greece.

The Mosaics of Rhodes, Greece (or How Mosaics Should be Seen)

mosaics of Rhodes
Partridge feeding her chicks, 2nd century AD, Rhodes Archeological Museum, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

The conversation went a bit like this:

D: There are some really good off-season deals on flights to the islands. Shall we go?

Me: Yes!

D: Santorini or Rhodes?

Me: (Inner musing: Santorini = the whole Greek thing. White washed houses set on cliffs over looking azure seas. Rhodes = mosaics)  Rhodes! 

mosaics of Rhodes
Mosaic floor, Rhodes Archeological Museum, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

And so off we went one weekend to see the mosaics of Rhodes, Greece. As it happens, Rhodes is a perfect place to really see mosaics, not just the tarted up ancient variety which now hang on museum walls. Pebble mosaics, characteristic of many of the Greek islands,  are everywhere in the medieval town of Rhodes covering pavements, shop entrance ways, hotel foyers and cafe floors. What a delight! Instead of cranning your neck to see mosaics plucked from their original settings and displayed like works of art in hushed settings or having to lean precariously over a barrier to get a closer view of them at archeological sites, here they are all over the place. Neither revered or disregarded; they are just there. Continue reading

20 Ancient Mosaic Quiz Questions for Christmas 2015

Ancient Mosaic Quiz

  1. What is this?
  • a) a precusor of Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum in Ravenna?
  • b) a detail of a leprosy victim?
  • c) A leopard’s spots?

IMG_16542. Big bushy beard, droopy eyebrows and a resigned expression after wearing a synthetic fibre costume for too long in the toy department; looks like Father Christmas, but is really which Roman god?

Father Christmas, el Jem museum, destoop

3. How many ancient versions are there of the Unswept Floor Mosaic?


4. Where would you find a rare Roman mosaic depiction of a giraffe? Continue reading

A sealed tomb, a pile of ashes and the pebble mosaics of Pella

New discovery at Amphipolis tomb

There’s a fizz in the air. A crackle of excitement. Something is about to happen. Something big (we hope).

Amphipolis tomb mosaic - chariot led by Hermes
Amphipolis tomb mosaic – chariot led by Hermes.

First an unopened tomb dating from the time of Alexander the Great was found at Amphipolis in Greece (go here for a 3D video of the tomb’s structure).  Tombs from this period have been found before but this is something different. The tumulus covering it is huge – the largest ever found – and the walls surrounding it are capped with fine white marble. Next, things began to emerge. Two sphinxes were unearthed under the entry arch. Draped female stone figures, known as caryatids, were found on either side of a chamber door. Then, last week, part of a pebble mosaic,  measuring 4.5 metres by 3 metres, was revealed and the rest of the mosaic was cleared a few days later. Mosaics in a tomb! Whatever next? Continue reading

Ancient mosaics and big cats

As you might have gathered by now, I have a bit of a mosaic fetish going on. You could even call it a problem. When I am not making mosaics, or fiddling about with designs, I have to admit I can often be found rummaging through photographs on Flickr and Pinterest in a furtive compulsion to look at them.


Many of the more unusual ancient Roman mosaic images come from the Ancient Rome Facebook page and there are also wonderful images posted in the Flickr Antiques Mosaiques group for which I am very grateful, not to mention the ones which turn up on Pinterest which I jealously hoard on my Ancient Mosaics board.

There are abundant examples of wild animals in some of the oldest mosaics but big cats turn up more than most. Their obvious qualities of ferocity and beauty made them ideal candidates for the mosaic medium but their representation is varied, rangeing from the macabre:

martyr2To the tender:

Cleveland Museum of Art, Tiger and cubs.

Among the most famous and extraordinary mosaics featuring big cats are the ones of Pella, Greece (top). Made of finely calibrated pebbles, these mosaics date back almost 2,500 years and show Alexander the Great strutting his manly stuff out in the forests of Macedonia, hunting lions without a stitch on or a care in the world before vaulting on the back of an obliging leopard:


Ah, but they are just the beginning. Here is a random selection of ancient mosaics and big cats: