A guide to the mosaics along the Roman Baetica Route (Spain)

On a recent trip to Southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and I visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

The Roman Baetica Route

Before the arrival of the Romans, the area was occupied by the Turdetani, a powerful tribe and, according to Stabo, the most civilized peoples in Iberia. The south of the Iberian peninsula was fertile and agriculturally rich, providing for export wine, olive oil and garum (the fermented fish sauce). The economy was based mainly on agriculture and livestock, along with mining. This economy formed the basis of the Turdetani’s trade with the Carthaginians who were established on the coast. The Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula during the Second Punic war in the 2nd century BC, and annexed it under Augustus after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes. Soon, Baetica became the most romanized province in the Peninsula.

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Hispania Baetica was divided into four territorial and juridicial divisions (conventī): the conventus Gaditanus (of Gades – Cádiz), Cordubensis (of Corduba – Cordoba), Astigitanus (of Astigi – Écija), and Hispalensis (of Hispalis – Seville). Trajan, the first emperor of provincial birth, came from Baetica though he was of Italian origin. Hadrian came from a family residing in Italica while her mother Paulina was from Gades.

SEVILLE

  • Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla

Located in the Maria Luisa Park and originally built as part of the 1929 exhibition, the Archaeological Museum of Seville is one of the best museums of its kind in Spain. The focus is on the Roman era but there is also a prehistorical section which includes the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. The galleries on the first floor are devoted to the Roman era with statues and fragments rescued from the nearby ancient site of Italica. Many mosaics are exhibited there and other highlights include sculptures of local born and raised emperors; Trajan and Hadrian.

One of the most impressive mosaic housed in the museum is the opus tessellatum mosaic from Ecija depicting the mythological scene of Bacchus’s triumph over the Indies. The god is portrayed crowed with bunches of grapes in a chariot drawn by tigers. He wears a woman’s chiton covered by a nebris belted at the waist and he holds the reigns with his left hand and a thyrsus in right hand. Accompanying him in the chariot is a nude figure of the young Ampelos. In front is a satyr, covered in a fawn’s skin and holding a shepherd’s crook in his left hand.

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, 3rd century AD, from Ecija (Roman Astigi), Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, 3rd century AD, from Ecija (Roman Astigi), Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Another splendid mosaic is the figurative mosaic representing the well-known episode of the Judgement of Paris that led to the Trojan War. It was found in 1985 in a Roman villa in the town of Casariche alongside a rich series of geometric mosaics. The mosaic of the Judgement of Paris is in opus tessellatum and is dated to the 4th century AD. It decorated the atrium of the Villa del Alcaparral. The composition follows the tradition of Hellenistic pictorial motif core surrounded by geometric motifs. It depicts the moment when Paris, seated on a rock wearing a Phyrgian cap and holding a pedum (a shepherd’s crook) in his hand, offers the golden apple of Venus.

The Judgement of Paris, 3rd Century AD, Roman Mosaic from the Villa del Alcaparral in Casariche, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

The Judgement of Paris, 3rd Century AD, Roman Mosaic from the Villa del Alcaparral in Casariche, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Read more about the Judgement of Paris on theoi.

In the same room as the Casariche mosaic is a mosaic fragment coming from nearby Italica. It was found in the so-called House of Hylas, named after the mosaic. Thought to date from the early 2nd century AD, the centre panel (emblema) of a larger mosaic depicts the mythological scene when Hercules’ companion and lover Hylas was kidnapped by Nymphs because of his beauty while off on a mission to fetch water. Hylas, carrying a pitcher, approaches the water spring where he is trapped by the nymphs. He desperately looks towards Hercules for help who is unable to save him. The subject matter was inspired by an epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes on the mythical expedition of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Hylas by Nymphs, goddesses of waters, from Italica, 2nd century AD, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Hylas by Nymphs, goddesses of waters, from Italica, 2nd century AD, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Read more about the Hylas on theoi.

Another room in the museum (room XII) houses more figurative mosaics. The first two depict the personification of Spring and Autumn. Spring is represented as a young girl with flowers in her hair. Autumn is dressed as a mature woman next to a stripped tree.

On the wall next to these are two other mosaic fragments of great interest since the themes are less frequent than the previous ones. They represent one of the Romans’ favourite modes of entertainment: the races and games in the circus. Two quadrigae (Roman chariot led by a four-horse team) driven by their charioteers are represented, competing for triumph in the arena.

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

The last mosaic located in room XII is from Italica and is an emblema with a lion which would be inserted into a larger mosaic.

Mosaic from Colonia Aelia Augusta Itálica depicting a Lion, 176-275 AD, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Mosaic from Colonia Aelia Augusta Itálica depicting a Lion, 176-275 AD, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Finally, in Room XX called the “Imperial Room” for the numerous imperial portraits exhibited, another figurative mosaic is dedicated to Bacchus. The god appears in the central medallion adorned with ivy leaves. Around him are symbolic representations of the seasons, tigers with thyrsus, old bearded men and lions that lay down on the evil eye. (see the full mosaic here)

Room XX with the Mosaic of Bacchus and the four seasons from Italica (101 - 225 AD) and bust of Hadrian, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Room XX with the Mosaic of Bacchus and the four seasons from Italica (101 – 225 AD) and bust of Hadrian, Archaeological Museum, Seville

  • Lebrija Palace

One of the least known of Seville’s museums is the Lebrija Palace, a 16th century palace with a wonderfully varied private collection. The Countess Lebrija bought the palace in 1901 and reconstructed it during 13 years until 1914. The Countess loved archaeology and during these 13 years she bought Roman mosaics and amassed many other antiquities. Her magnificent collection included a spectacular range of mosaics taken from Italica, most notably one representing the god Pan which paves the palace’s central courtyard. Pan, who is in love with Galatea, can be seen in the central panel of the mosaic serenading her on his flute. The medallions show the love stories of Zeus with Leda, Europa, Ganymede, Antiope, Danae, Io and Callisto, while in the corners are representations of the four seasons. The galleries surrounding the patio are paved with Opus Sectile dating to the 3rd century AD.

Central courtyard with the God Pan mosaic from Italica, Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

Central courtyard with the God Pan mosaic from Italica, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

In 1999, the descendants of the Countess and the current owners decided to open the house to the public as a museum. The public can visit the ground floor and view the Countess’ great archaeological collection and discover the passion of a true collector.

Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

The Columns room, paved with a geometric mosaic and decorated with fragments of mosaics on the walls and two Roman colums, one made of green marble and the other made of a mixture of various colours

The Columns Room, paved with a geometric mosaic and decorated with fragments of mosaics on the walls and two Roman columns, one made of green marble and the other made of a mixture of various colours, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Octogonal Room paved with a mosaic which previously had a fountain at its centre, it is thought to date from the Hadrianic period, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Octogonal Room paved with a mosaic which previously had a fountain at its centre, it is thought to date from the Hadrianic period, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

Central panel of a mosaic depicting Ganymede being kidnapped by Zeus disguised as a eagle, Room of Ganymede, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

Central panel of a mosaic depicting Ganymede being kidnapped by Zeus disguised as a eagle, Room of Ganymede, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Medusa Room, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Medusa Room, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

See more images of Palacio Lebrija here.

ITALICA

The archaeological site of Italica is located in Santiponce, not far from Seville. It is one of the most important sites of Andalusia’s archaeological heritage. Italica was founded in 206 BC during the Second Punic War by the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio who settled his Italian veterans on this site. Although the nearby town of Hispalis (Seville) would always remain a larger city, Italica became an important centre of Roman culture and was awarded the title of colonia. Hadrian gave the colony his family name, Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica. Under his rule, Italica enjoyed a period of splendour during which its architectural development flourished with the construction of new public buildings such as the amphitheatre as well as houses with well preserved mosaic floors. About twenty intricate mosaics lie amongst the uncovered ruins still in situ.

Some of the houses uncovered include the House of the Planetarium with its hexagonal mosaics depicting the seven planetary divinities who gave their names to the days of the week. In the center is Venus (Friday). Anticlockwise from bottom center are Jupiter (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday), Helios or Sol (Sunday), Luna or Selene (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), and Mercury (Wednesday).

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Sun, Italica

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Helios/Sun (Sunday), Italica

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica

The House of the Birds is a large residence endowed with a good quantity of mosaics of high quality. One of them, the Bird Mosaic, gave its name to the house and consists of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds.

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica

The House of Neptune is named after a mosaic with all kinds of aquatic animals. In the centre is Neptune, the god of the sea with his trident. The mosaic is surrounded by a wide edge that is decorated with Nilotic scenes where one can see crocodiles, a hippopotamus, a palm tree, and several pygmies fighting ibises.

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica

CARMONA

Coin of Carmo

Coin of Carmo

Carmonenses, quae est longa firmissima totius provincia civitas

(Carmona is by far the strongest city of the province)

– Julius Caesar (Commentarii de bello civili)

In the past, Carmona was one of the main enclave settlements on the lower Guadalquivir with nearly five thousand years of continuous occupation. Its “mighty wall” was mentioned by Julius Caesar in his De Bello Civile while the city received the dispensation to mint its own coinage bearing the name “Carmo”. Carmo became a major crossroads on the Via Augusta and an important outpost in the Roman empire. Two mosaics can be seen in Carmona, one in the City Museum with an allegory of the Summer season and another one in the Town Hall with the head of Medusa.

  • Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona
Mosaic, 2nd - 3rd century AD, Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona Courtesy of Li Taipo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mosaic fragment with an allegory of the Summer season, 2nd – 3rd century AD, Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona
Courtesy of Li Taipo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

  • Ayuntamiento de Carmona

The courtyard of the Town Hall of Carmona contains an important Roman mosaic, which was found in the old quarter of the town.

Medusa mosaic, Ayutamiento Carmona

Mosaic with the head of Medusa surrounded by allegories of the Four Seasons, Ayutamiento Carmona

CORDOBA

  • Museo Arqueológico de Cordoba

Córdoba (Roman Corduba) was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Baetica. The Via Augusta connected the city with Carmo (Carmona) and Hispalis (Seville) in the west, and Tarraco (Tarragona) in the northeast. The most important Roman buildings still standing today are the Roman bridge, the Temple of the Imperial Cult, the Mausoleum and the remains of the Palace of the Emperor Maximian in the Archaeological site of Cercadilla. Great Roman philosophers such as Seneca the Younger, and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba. Córdoba has the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

Reconstruction of Corduba (Córdoba)

Reconstruction of Corduba (Córdoba)

The Archaeological Museum of Cordoba houses an emblema of a mosaic with a rare depiction of Pegasus. Pegasus was the immortal winged horse which sprang forth from the neck of Medusa when she was beheaded by the hero Perseus.

Mosaic emblema with Pegasus, 2nd century AD, Archaeological Museum of Córdoba

Mosaic emblema with Pegasus, 2nd century AD, Archaeological Museum of Córdoba

  • Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs

A series of exquisite mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd century AD are displayed in the so-called Hall of the Mosaics of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval Moorish palace and castle located in the historic centre of Córdoba. The mosaics were discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera. They once belonged to a wealthy Roman mansion.

Among the mosaics of the collection are:

Oceanus the divine personification of the sea depicted with lobster claws protruding from the head and with dolphins and fish escaping from his beard.

Mask of Oceanus with obster claws protruding from the head and fish escaping from his beard, 2nd - 3rd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mask of Oceanus, 2nd – 3rd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

The Cyclops Polyphemus and the goddess-nymph of the sea Galatea. The Cyclops is represented with three eyes, one set in the middle of his forehead. He is draped in an animal skin and holds a staff. Galatea is seated on the back of a Ketos, a wolf-headed sea monster with the body of a snake and the tail of a dolphin. The Cyclops Polyphemus loved the beautiful sea nymph, however Galatea loved a handsome Sicilian River-God named Acis. Polyphemus jealously killed his rival by crushing him against a huge rock.

Mosaic with the Cyclops Polyphemus and the nymph of the sea Galatea, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 2nd century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics), Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mosaic with the Cyclops Polyphemus and the nymph of the sea Galatea, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 2nd century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics), Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Eros and Psyche embraced. Psyche was a mortal woman of extreme beauty. Zeus rewarded Psyche with immortality because of her love and sacrifice for her beloved God Eros. The theme of the mosaic is taken from “The Golden Ass” (Asinus aureus), one of the most important works written by the 2nd century writer Apuleius.

Eros and Psyche, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 3rd - 4th century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Eros and Psyche, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 3rd – 4th century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Another mosaic shows the head of Medusa, one of the three daughters of the marine goddess Phorcys, as a central motif. The round, childlike face of Medusa is depicted with multicoloured vitreous paste tessarea of great strength. However, the tessarea that framed the image of Medusa have not survived. The rest of the pavement is decorated with geometric designs, made up of rectangles on a black background and Salomon’s knot squares on light backing tones.

Mosaic with Medusa depicting with a round, childlike face, 2nd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mosaic with Medusa depicting with a round, childlike face, 2nd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

ÉCIJA

The significant archaeological excavations in progress in Ecija have shed new light on the city’s past and its importance during Roman times when Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi was one of the four government capitals of the Baetica province. Mosaics and objects of great artistic value have been found during various excavations. Noteworthy are the remains found during extensive excavations that took place at Plaza de Espana and at Plaza de Armas.

  • Museo Historico Municipal

The Municipal History Museum of Écija is housed in the Benameji Palace, a magnificent example of Baroque architecture from the 18th century. It contains a large room dedicated to the Roman mosaic pavements that were unearthed during the excavations. The set of mosaics from Écija is one of the most important from the Roman West due to its quality, variety and size.

Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija, Spain

Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Four Seasons was found during the excavations of a Roman house at a depth of 2.84m below the present-day street level. It is a mosaic of great artistic quality. The theme is related to the four seasons as well as the apotheosis of the god Annus (Year), the Roman deity who personified the cycle of the year.

Mosaic of the Seasons, in the central octagon the Apotheosis of Annus (Year) between two winged victories, in the corners allegories of the Four Seasons, second half of 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Seasons, in the central octagon the Apotheosis of Annus (Year) between two winged victories, in the corners allegories of the Four Seasons, second half of 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Nereids is a fragment of a marine themed-mosaic with a Nereid riding a sea-monster. It paved one room of a Roman house, perhaps of the private baths area.

Mosaic of the Nereids, fragment of a mosaic depicting a Nereid riding a hybrid sea monster (Ketos), it paved a room of a Roman house perhaps of the private baths area (thermae), 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Nereids, fragment of a mosaic depicting a Nereid riding a hybrid sea monster (Ketos), it paved a room of a Roman house perhaps of the private baths area (thermae), 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping is a very rare mosaic depicting both the myth of the kidnapping of Europe and Ganymede. For the kidnapping of Europe, Zeus transformed himself in a bull. For the kidnapping of Ganymede, he turned himself into an eagle. A head, possibly Bacchic, emerges from the sea.

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus is a wonderful polychrome mosaic floor that once belonged to a rich Roman house. The central medallion or emblema shows a quadriga drawn by male and female centaurs. The god Bacchus triumphantly rides the chariot. The central medallion is surrounded by circles, octagons and hexagons depicting various characters of Classical mythology (Leda and the swan, Orpheus and a nymph, Narcissus, Castor with a horse, Silenus, Pan, a satyr and a Maenad) as well as allegories of the seasons.

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of Oceanus, dating back to the 4th century AD, is the latest found in Écija. In its centre is depicted the head of Oceanus who is portrayed as an old bearded god with long hair and a rivulet of water streaming from his mouth. He is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons.

Mosaic of Oceanus, Oceanus is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons, ca. 4th century AD, from a urban house (Domus) of Roman Astigi (Ecija), Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of Oceanus, Oceanus is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons, ca. 4th century AD, from a urban house (Domus) of Roman Astigi (Ecija), Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The last mosaic is the Bacchic mosaic of “The Gift of Wine”. It depicts scenes of the myth according to which the god Bacchus donated the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and wine-making to mankind. The central scene shows Bacchus as a child riding on a panther, dressed only with a chlamys (small wrap) and holding a thyrsus. Several objects related to his myth are placed around him: a rython (drinking horn), a tympanon (tambourine) and a krater, a vase used to mix wine and water.

Bacchic mosaic depicting scenes of the myth according to which Bacchus donated to mankind the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and winemanking, second half of the 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Bacchic mosaic depicting scenes of the myth according to which Bacchus donated to mankind the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and winemanking, second half of the 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

  • Ayuntamiento de Écija

In the Town Hall’s Chapter House a mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce can be seen. Dirce is shown being dragged by a bull, a punishment inflicted by the two sons of Antiope, Zethus and Amphion, whose mother she had mistreated.

Mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce, 3rd century AD, Écija

Mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce, 3rd century AD, Écija

VILLA ROMANA DE FUENTE ALAMO

logo_villa_romana_fuente_alamoThe Roman villa of Fuente Alamo is situated next to a stream and surrounded by olive groves, about 3km away from the town of Puente Genil. It is a Hispanic-Roman villa built in the 3rd – 4th century AD that was devoted to wine and olive oil production, like many others that proliferated around that time in Hispania. Fuente Alamo is well known thanks to its mosaics in an excellent state of preservation. The three most important figurative mosaics are The Triumph Bacchus, the Three Graces and the Nilotic mosaic (now in the Archaeological Museum of Cordoba, although not currently on display). There are also geometric mosaics of different periods, manufacturing methods, and bichrome and polychrome compositions. These mosaics provide us with information about interests and social status of the villa’s owner.

The first mosaic is known as The Triumph Bacchus. In the lower scene, Bacchus, bearing a crown of vine leafs and grapes, attacks the Indians. Satyrs and nymphs, loyal followers of Bacchus, come to the attack while the Indians try to defend themselves. One of them, standing on his feet, brandishes his sword and shield in a vain attempt to survive. Rejoicing for his victory, Bacchus marches triumphally in the upper scene in a chariot pulled by tigresses. Carried by a small donkey is Silenus, Bacchus’ former tutor and man of great wisdom. At the center of the composition lays the god Pan, protector of shepherds and flocks as well as Bacchus and Ariadne, his loyal lover, on the left. The apse is paved with a mosaic depicting a shell divided into 28 segments as a central theme. It is highly possible that it once held a representation of the Goddess of love, Venus, emerging from the sea in a shell. With this design, the owner of the house wanted to symbolize the spirit of fertility, regeneration and vitality.

Mosaic depicting The Triumph Bacchus, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic depicting The Triumph Bacchus, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

The second mosaic represents the Three Graces, the goddesses of grace, beauty, adornment, mirth, festivity, dance and song. Their names are Aglaea (“Splendor”), Euphrosyne (“Mirth”) and Thalia (“Good Cheer”). They preside over the ceremonies, dances and all pleasant social events. Together with the Muses, their companions, they sang to the gods in Mount Olympus and danced to the rhythm of the beautiful music that Apollo played with his lyre. In Classical art, the Tree Graces were usually depicted as naked women, holding hands and dancing in a circle, like in this mosaic from Fuente Alamo. To their left Pegasus, the god’s winged horse, is fed by a nymph; to the right a satyr is engaged in his favorite activity, pursuing the nymphs, as they were never sexually satisfied.

Mosaic, left: Pegasus, the god’s winged horse is fed by a nymph; in the middle Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty; on the right a Satyr pursuing the Nymph, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic, left: Pegasus, the god’s winged horse is fed by a nymph; in the middle Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty; on the right a Satyr pursuing the Nymph, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic with the Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic with the Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

The following mosaic floor is a geometric mosaic made of thousands of tesserae of different colours, with a size of 8 to 10 millimetres. A band formed by triangles in red and black colour frames the two panels of the mosaic. The larger panel is framed by a border decorated with two-stranded braids. Tri-dimensional elongated cubes give movement to the scene, embracing a labyrinth where our imagination gets lost. The square in the centre is decorated with a Salomon’s knot. The design of the smaller panel features pelta motifs, a semi-circular shield pattern.

Geometric mosaic, 3rd - 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Geometric mosaic, 3rd – 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

MUSEO DEL MOSAICO DE CASARICHE

The town of Casariche is located 122 km east of Seville. In the new Roman Mosaic Museum (inaugurated in 2014), you can see the collection of mosaics extracted from the nearby Villa del Alcaparral. Among the mosaics discovered is the mosaic of Judgement of Paris exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Seville and presented earlier. The desire of the museum is to have the mosaic returned from Seville. The image digital reconstruction below shows how the mosaic would be exhibited in the villa.

Digital reconstruction of the of the entrance of Roman of the Villa del Alcaparral with the mosaic of the Judgement of Paris and the atrium, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Digital reconstruction of the of the entrance of Roman of the Villa del Alcaparral with the mosaic of the Judgement of Paris and the atrium, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

The Roman villa of El Alcaparral was discovered in 1985. It is a late Roman villa rustica whose existence extended from the mid-3rd century AD to the early 5th century AD. It is likely that its destruction was linked to the invasion of the Vandals in 411 AD, given the remains of ash found in a stratum of the site. The villa belonged to a rich aristocratic landowner who traded with Byzantium during the crisis of the Western Roman Empire. At the crossroads of the trade route, the villa controlled a vast territory dedicated to olive oil exportation.

Plan of the Villa del Alcaparral, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Plan of the Villa del Alcaparral, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

A mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, paved the oecus, the principal hall or salon in a Roman house. The portrait is surrounded by geometric motifs.

Mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Detail of the mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Detail of the mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

The tablinum of the villa was paved with a black and white geometric mosaic with swastika motifs.

Black and white geometric mosaic with swastikas motifs that paved the triclinium of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Black and white geometric mosaic with swastikas motifs that paved the tablinum of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Another oecus near the tablinum had a geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a border of braids and a meander border. Unfortunately the mosaic was deteriorated by fire.

Geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a meander border, it shows deterioration by fire, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a meander border, it shows deterioration by fire, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

For more information:

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About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
This entry was posted in Archaeology Travel, Baetica, Museum, Photography, Roman Mosaic, Spain and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A guide to the mosaics along the Roman Baetica Route (Spain)

  1. itinerant3 says:

    Wow perfect. Will update my map and I will share with you to have suggestion! Thanks a lot

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Craig Baugh says:

    Thank you so much. I have been long term planning a trip to Hispania and this will be ab invaluable resource.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ritaroberts says:

    Absolutely Fabulous post Carole. Thank you so much for sharing Have a great trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A guide to the mosaics along the Roman Baetica ...

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks so much🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: A guide to the mosaics along the Roman Baetica ...

  7. Terry Walsh says:

    ¡Muchísimas gracias! A very informative and useful post, with lovely mosaic photos, which bear comparison with those from, e.g., Zeugma and Cyprus. BTW, Claudius was probably the first emperor born in the provinces (at Lyon).

    Like

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