Mosaic Fragments, Roman 300-500 CE

Mosaics were a prominent art form in ancient Greek society made with small natural stones set in mortar. Over time, the natural stones were replaced with tiny tiles, called tessera. Tessera were made using stone, glass, ceramic, wood or bones. As time passed, mosaics became more decorative and intricate. Since both Greeks and Romans desired pretty things, it wasn’t long before they were adopted by the Romans and spread across the Empire. Mosaics could be found on walls, ceilings and floors and ranged from simple single colored designs to elaborate and colorful florals, or even short quotes. [1]

According to the plaques on display at the Chrysler Museum in the Ancient Worlds and Non-Western Art Gallery, the pictured mosaic tile, made from small objects set into cement or plaster, was originally part of a Roman villa in North Africa. It is one of four mosaics that the Chrysler Museum has on display in their Greco-Roman collection. The other three are a horse with a hoof raised, a peacock in a field of flowers, and a camel in mid-gallop. This particular piece which I have chosen is of an inscription written in Greek which reads: “Berrullos, son of Dominus of Siantha, Having made vows with his wife and children, Made this mosaic in secret up to this point in time.”[2] The fact that this particular piece is written in Greek but present in a Roman home tells us that Greek and Roman culture were intertwined. Unlike many conquered civilizations, when the Roman’s conquered the Creeks, the Romans realized that the Greeks were much better educated and considered their humanistic views represented in all aspects of Greek life as finer points.

The Romans did not care for the Greek political inclinations but had no issues integrating their language, art, and culture. The Romans even went as far as to take the Greek Gods and rename them for themselves. In order to better educate the Roman society, the Romans would take on Greek tutors from their prisoners of war. Greek would become the spoken language of the Roman elite and therefore used to adorn their homes in such ways as the mosaic tile pictured above. They say that “imitation is the best form of flattery.” I feel that that is present in this piece of art.

Picture Taken by Mrs Mac: Mosaic Fragments, Roman, 300-500 BC,  Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia

Source: Mosaic Fragments, Roman, 300-500 BC, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. Accessed October 18, 2017 (http://www.chrysler.org/ajax/load-artwork/69)

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