The Gladiator Mosaic at Bad Kreuznach, Germany

Last November, I visited the Römerhalle at Bad Kreuznach, Germany. It is a museum that displays finds from a late 2nd century Roman villa as well as other Roman finds from the district of Bad Kreuznach.

Around 58 BC, the Rhineland-Palatinate region became part of the Roman Empire, with a Roman vicus named Cruciniacum, forming a supply station between Mainz (Mogontiacum) and Trier (Augusta Treverorum). During the 2nd century AD, a gigantic palace (81 m × 71 m or 266 ft × 233 ft) was built there, with a peristyle, and 50 rooms on the ground floor alone.

The magnificent Villa Rustica (countryside villa) encompassing a total area of 6000 square metres, was composed of four winged buildings enclosing an inner courtyard garden surrounded with columns. Conforming to its position on a hillside, the Villa incorporated several storeys in some areas. The ground floor alone contained more than 50 rooms beautifully decorated with stucco, marble work and wall paintings. Villas of this size and style are more typically known from England, France and the Mediterranean area.

Model of the Roman Villa, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

Model of the Roman Villa, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

The most important part of the exhibition hall are the two mosaics dating back to the 3rd century AD (no longer in their original location). The first one, depicting gladiators and amphitheatre related scenes, the Gladiator Mosaic, is amazingly well preserved.

Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Found during construction work in 1893, the 58 square metre mosaic floor quickly became one of the leading attractions of the health-resort city. The mosaic shows a large area resulting in 13 different images depicting gladiators fighting each other, gladiators fighting animals and animals against each other.

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, a Thraex (left) fighting a Murmillo (right), Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, a Thraex (left) fighting a Murmillo (right), Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

In this scene (photo above), a Thraex (left) is fighting a Murmillo (right). The Thraex wears a broad-rimmed helmet that enclosed the entire head, a small square-shaped shield (parmula), and two thigh-length greaves. His weapon is the Thracian curved sword.  Thraeces were introduced as replacements for the Gauls after Gaul made peace with Rome. They commonly fought Murmillones or Hoplomachi. The murmillo wears a helmet with a stylised fish on the crest, as well as an arm guard (manica), a loincloth and belt, a gaiter on his right leg, thick wrappings covering the tops of his feet, and a very short greave. The murmillo carris a gladius and a tall, elongated shield in the legionary style. Murmillones were typically paired with Thraecis, but occasionally with the similar hoplomachi.

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Hoplomachus fighting a  Thraex, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Hoplomachus fighting a Thraex, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

In this scene (photo above), a Thraex (left) is fighting a hoplomachus who can be identified by his lance and dagger.

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, a Secutor (left) fighting a Retiarus (right), Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Carole Raddato

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, a Secutor (left) fighting a Retiarus (right), Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, two Eques fighting equipped with lance, sword and the traditional small round shield, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Carole Raddato

Detail of Gladiator mosaic, two Eques fighting equipped with lance, sword and the traditional small round shield, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

In this scene, two Eques are fighting against each other. Like the provocator, the evidence is that eques only ever fought another eques. They began to fight on horseback and were the first to compete in the day’s schedule of gladiatorial games. In pictorial representations they are mostly represented in the final phase of the struggle, after they dismounted and continued to fight on foot with their short sword (gladius), a 27 inch short straight sword.

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Venator fighting a bear, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Carole Raddato

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Venator fighting a bear, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

In this image (photo above), a Venator is fighting a bear. The Venatores fought in Venationes, or hunting shows, which were shown in a variety of different formats. Herds of wild animals were let loose into the arena and were slaughtered by the Venatores. Venationes were scheduled as morning events at the Roman Colosseum and were trained at the Ludus Matutinus (morning school).

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Venator fighting a leopard, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Carole Raddato

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor, a Venator fighting a leopard, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Here a venator is fighting a leopard. The traffic in wild animals for the amphitheatre reduced or exterminated many species within and beyond the empire. Already in 50 B.C., Cicero, in his letters to Marcus Caelius Rufus, reports the scarcity of pantheras Graecas, a creature that Roman appetite seems to have exhausted altogether.

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor depicting an animal fight, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Germany

Detail of the Gladiator mosaic floor depicting an animal fight, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

During the games held to celebrate the inauguration of the Colosseum in Rome, the emperor Titus arranged to have 9,000 tame and wild animals of various kinds slaughtered in the arena. The spectacle went on for 100 days. Trajan surpassed this record when, in order to celebrate his victory over the Dacians, he held games lasting 123 days, during which time 5,000 pairs of gladiators fought and some 11,000 animals were killed in the arena, according to Dio Cassius (68.15.1). This was the largest contest of gladiators in Rome.

For Hadrian’s forty-third birthday, on 24th January 119, a gladiatorial show was put on which lasted for six successive days, with a thousand wild beasts being slaughtered, among them one hundred lions and one hundred lionesses. (Source: Hadrian: The Restless Emperor by Anthony R Birley). Also Hadrian frequently attended gladiatorial shows (Historia Augusta).

Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach Carole Raddato

Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

The lively picture of the central panel of the Gladiator mosaic depicts a scene in an amphitheatre with Venatores fighting animals.

Central panel of the Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

Central panel of the Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

The hypocaust heating system of the villa is completely preserved under the mosaic. A walk through the understructure of the mosaic provides a view of the underside of the floor and reveals the principle and functionality of the Roman hypocaust system.

The underfloor heating system (hypocaust) undernearth the Gladiator mosaic, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

The underfloor heating system (hypocaust) undernearth the Gladiator mosaic, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

The second mosaic, the Oceanus Mosaic, showing the Sea God Oceanus and ocean scenes, was accidentally discovered in 1966, after which the villa was finally systematically excavated. The Oceanus Mosaic had a fountain in its center, which has been reconstructed. From other finds it has been deducted that this floor was part of the triclinium of the villa.

The Oceanus mosaic, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

The Oceanus mosaic, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Discovered in 1968, the 68 square metre Oceanus mosaic was situated in the main presentation room of the Villa. A marble encased water basin with a two-handled bowl and a half round triclinium (couch) in the apse could be reconstructed from the excavation finds. The mosaic is composed of various different scenes: between Mediterranean architecture, harbors and ship depictions and varied sea creatures are splashing about. The apse depicts Oceanus, ruler of all the seas, flanked by two horse-headed fish creatures. The remains of a consular inscription makes possible a dating of the floor to 234 AD.

The Oceanus mosaic, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach© Carole Raddato

The Oceanus mosaic, 3rd century AD, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Further photos of the Römerhalle can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

This marvelous little museum can be easily reached by train from Frankfurt am Main and Mainz (trains run every 30 minutes). Bad Kreuznach is also a spa city, located on the Nahe river, and is widely regarded as one of the loveliest spa and health resorts in Germany. The town and surrounding areas are renowned both nationally and internationally for its wines, especially Riesling, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau grape varieties.

Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach © Carole Raddato

Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach
© Carole Raddato

Useful Information
Address : Hüffelsheimer Straße 11 D – 55545 Bad Kreuznach
Phone : 06719207782
E-mail : info@museen-bad-kreuznach.de
Website : http://www.museen-bad-kreuznach.de
Prices : 3.5 € (child : 2.5 €)
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 to 17 clock (closed in February)

Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany

Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany

About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
This entry was posted in Archaeology Travel, Germania, Gladiator, Roman art, Roman Mosaic and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Gladiator Mosaic at Bad Kreuznach, Germany

  1. Pete Laberge says:

    Thank you! Very nice pictures and write-up.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Links for 30 May | CANEns: The CANE Blog and Newsletter

  3. Wonderful post filled with fascinating facts and wonderful photos. I will be sharing with followers of Mosaic Art NOW via Facebook and Twitter. Much appreciated.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Articles by other classicists | David Allsop Classics

  5. Pingback: Roman Empire Archeology News Today 2013-06-02 - Roman Empire News and Archeology

  6. Pingback: Links for 13 June | CANEns: The CANE Blog and Newsletter

  7. Pingback: Gladiator mosaic and hypocaust pictures | SWPS Classics Department

  8. Carlos says:

    QUE BELLEZA DE ARTE!!!!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s