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Asparagus, Roman Mosaic

Asparagus, Roman Mosaic


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Learn the Ancient History of Mosaics and How to Make Your Own Colorful Creation

Now that you know all about the splendid history of the mosaic, why not try making your own? Learn how to craft a basic yet beautiful assemblage in just a few steps.

Mosaic glass on a table. (Photo: Denys Kurbatov via Shutterstock)
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Materials:

Tools:

Making a mosaic. (Photo: Nadezhda Kulikova via Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo)

Steps

  1. Sketch a design on the piece of wood.
  2. Attach the tiles to the block using the adhesive. To do this, simply apply the glue to the wood in sections and stick the tesserae within 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch of one another.
  3. Let the piece dry for at least 24 hours.
  4. Once dry, it's time to grout! Wipe off the surface of your mosaic to get rid of any debris or extra glue.
  5. Put on your gloves and use your fingers to apply the grout. Cover the entire piece (even the tiles themselves!), making sure it's getting in between the gaps.
  6. Once you're done, use your hand to wipe off as much excess grout as you can. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  7. Use a damp sponge to clean the grout from the surface of your piece. Once done, throw any leftover grout into the garbage&mdashnot down the sink!
  8. Voila! Enjoy your new work of art!

Once you've mastered this method, you can shape the glass yourself using tile cutters. Similarly, try replacing the simple wooden block with tabletops, picture frames, and other creative bases. The possibilities of the mosaic practice are endless!


Ancient Recipe: Asparagus Patina (Roman, 4th century CE)

Originally, a patina was a specific type of Roman pottery a round, flat, shallow dish. Over time, the word came to be used for the food cooked in the dish, not just the dish itself (compare modern terms like barbecue, hot pot, and terrine). The 4th-century Roman cookbook Apicius has a whole chapter devoted to patina recipes, including patinae of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and my personal favorite, calf’s brains and roses. The only common ingredient is ovae, eggs. As such, modern authors have often characterized patina as similar to a modern frittata, raw beaten eggs mixed with other ingredients and baked until solid. But the recipes in Apicius use eight different verbs to describe methods of incorporating eggs into patina, implying that the term was a general one covering everything from baked scrambles to delicate, airy soufflés. There were also egg-free variations, as in the recipe above, which instructs you to add beaten eggs only si volueris, “if you want”.

An element of surprise or trickery is found in many Roman dishes, making the food itself a form of table-side entertainment as guests attempt to identify what’s front of them. This celebration of the transformative aspects of cooking is found in many cultures, from Medieval European sugar-sculpted “subtleties” to the old Korean tradition of reshaping fruits and nuts into a confection shaped like the original. With its brilliant green color and the unusual step of pureeing the asparagus, I can imagine a group of Roman diners being similarly charmed and surprised by this recipe. I’ve made it for an Ancient Roman dinner I hosted and for my classes on Roman food, and it holds up to a modern taste-test quite well. It is named in the text of Apicius as “aliter patina de asparagis“, “another asparagus patina“, because there is a similar recipe immediately preceding it. The first asparagus patina is almost identical except for one ingredient: the meat of tiny birds called ficedulae (literally “fig-peckers”), three of them for one patina. I’ll be saving that for another time.

As it doesn’t deviate far from the modern palate, this is one of the most popular Ancient Roman recipes for revival, and there are numerous modernized versions out there. I mainly follow Cathy Kaufman’s reconstruction in her book Cooking in Ancient Civilizations (2006), but this recipe can also be found in other great books about Roman cooking, like A Taste of Ancient Rome (1994) and The Classical Cookbook (2012). The original Latin says to strain the crushed vegetable and wine mixture, a step which some translators follow and others, like the one quoted above, don’t. I personally think the recipe is better if you don’t strain. Roman vegetables were tougher and stringier than our vegetables, so this step was probably necessary to make 4th-century asparagus more palatable, but most modern asparagus will turn out sufficiently soft anyway.

Modern fermented fish sauce (available where Asian groceries are sold) will stand in for the near-identical Roman version. Savory and lovage are two herbs used in this recipe that you might not be familiar with, as they are less-popular today than they were in historical times. Savory is one of the traditional components of herbes de Provence and has a slightly bitter, spicy flavor. If you can’t find it, use thyme, marjoram or sage. Lovage has a similar flavor to celery, and crushed celery seed or the inner leaves of celery make a good substitute. All these substitutions were plants known to the Romans, so perhaps a strapped 4th-century chef might have done the same. The presence of pepper in the recipe hints at the intended audience of Apicius: enslaved or formerly-enslaved career chefs laboring in the kitchens of the wealthy. In Rome, pepper (known in three forms, black, white, and long) was a costly dried import from India. Households of more limited means used only fresh green herbs as seasoning.

Asparagus and herb mixture.

First, gather your non-liquid ingredients: six eggs, 1 bunch of asparagus (trimmed), 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, 1/4 teaspoon ground black or long pepper, 1 teaspoon dried savory or sage, and 1/8 teaspoon celery seed or lovage.

You will also need 1 tablespoon of olive oil (plus more for the dish), 1/2 a cup of white wine, and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Spread the inside of a one-quart gratin dish, pie dish, or cast-iron skillet with oil.

Puree all the ingredients except the eggs in a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Depending on the size of the equipment you are using, you may find it necessary to mash up the asparagus first and then add it to the other ingredients. Make sure everything is combined to a smooth, even texture. Beat the six eggs and add them to the pureed vegetables. Mix well to combine, and pour the mixture into the dish. Bake until set (about 35-40 minutes. If a fork or chopstick inserted into the center comes out clean, the patina is done). Serve with fresh cracked pepper.

Raw patina about to go into the oven.

THE VERDICT

The predominant flavor in this dish is, of course, asparagus, but the spices and herbs come through quite nicely. It’s best-served and eaten with a spoon, as it has a mushy texture. It goes well with crusty bread, white wine, and, I’m assuming, fig-peckers. VIII out of X.


Roman floor mosaic depicting asparagus. It is dated to 4th century CE. Object located in Vatican Museums, Rome. [750x500]

The most amazing thing is that it’s still bundled the same way!

Wonder where they got the elastics from?

First thing I thought too, but then I figured. what other way is there to bunch asparagus lol

They also used wheels like we do.

I’m gonna need a floor mosaic of some garlic butter to go with this, OP.

This would have actually been an advertisement at the time it was made. Markets commissioned tile artists to create these panels to advertise what they had in their store.

That's a good post for the beginning of the asparagus season. Better than christmas time in my opinion. To be very petty it doesn't really qualify as artefact by scientific definition. If it's part of or integrated in a building you rather define it as a remnant. But i love asparagus. Great post.


2,000-Year-Old Mosaics Uncovered In Turkey Before Being Lost To Flooding

Zeugma was one of the Roman Empire's most important and prosperous cities outside of Europe. Situated by a bridge over the River Euphrates it was a vital hub on the Silk Road linking the empire with Asia. Following an invasion and then a devastating earthquake it was abandoned and forgotten.

Originally founded in 300 BC by one of Alexander the Great's commanders, Seleucus I Nicator, before the Roman general Pompey conquered it in 64 BC. The next few hundred years were the heyday of the city, as it became a major trading hub. A whole legion of troops were based here on the very eastern edge of the Roman Empire. A series of pontoons, which operated as a financially lucrative toll bridge, crossed the Euphrates which was the western border of the Persian Empire.

A Roman Villa flooded by the River Euphrates

Rich traders and diplomats built massive villas facing the river, taking advantage of the cooler temperatures in what is otherwise a very arid and extremely hot environment. They imported skilled artisans from Rome to lay intricate mosaics often depicting water scenes as well as ancient Greek and Roman mythology, many of which unique to Zeugma.

Although it was invaded by the Persians in 253 AD the houses were left very much intact, before being damaged and buried in a massive earthquake soon after. The interiors of many of the buildings are comparable to Pompeii, also buried and preserved by a natural disaster.

The Archaeological Museum at Zeugma

It was antiquity smugglers who alerted the nearby Gaziantep Museum in 1987 that there was something special buried by the riverbanks. They were disturbed while digging a tunnel into an ancient Roman villa, which was found incredibly intact, from the mosaics on the floor to the household goods still scattered around.

Small archaeological digs followed until the Turkish government announced it was to dam the River Euphrates only 2 km from Zeugma, totally flooding the mainly unexcavated site.

As the flood waters rose higher and higher, there was a lot of pressure to excavate the city. The image below shows the floodwaters rising up over an example of a mosaic.

Below, here is the same mosaic (pictured above) after it was saved and restored from the rising waters.

A sense of urgency and a rush of help from European and American institutions led to around-the-clock work to recover the incredible mosaics, even as the waters of the Euphrates began to lap the villas, eventually covering much of lower Zeugma by the year 2000.

Oceanus and Tethys in the Gazientep Mosaic Museum

Excavation still continues on the sites situated on higher ground, and you can visit Zeugma and see the work as it still continues. There is a small winding road from the E90 Sanliurfa-Gaziantep road near Belkis that stops 500 metres from what appears to be a large airport hangar.

There is space for about three cars to park, but that is not a problem, as few visitors seem to make there way here. A hire car is vital to visit, as Zeugma is beyond the reach of any public transport.

A short walk takes you along the shore where you can peer into the sunken villas and see the floors where the mosaics once lay. The new beach that has been created by the dam is made up of a mixture of small rocks and broken Roman pottery, some painted in bright colours, which gives you an idea of how much has been lost by the flooding of the city.

Dionysus, Telete and Satyros in the Gaziantep Mosaic Museum

Inside the large metal structure is an ingenious multi-level viewing platform protecting the remains of five Roman houses. Zeugma was clearly quite advanced, with water and sewerage pipes visible running alongside the roads.

A few mosaics remain, but most have been removed to be put on show at the world-class Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep. Although quite a small site it is fascinating to see into the villas, with many still having their original painted walls, and imagine what life was like in this idyllic setting.

Eros and Psyche in the Gaziantep Mosaic Museum

The Gaziantep museum was opened in 2011 and holds the huge collection of recovered mosaics. Possibly one of the best museums in the world I have visited, the curators have spent a lot of time and effort in showing off the beauty of the mosaics. Some are placed on walls so you can closely inspect them, while others can be walked over via clear glass bridges.

Pride of place in its own room is the 'Gypsy Girl' mosaic. A piece of art that is recognisable all over Southern Turkey as it is used in almost all the publicity brochures and websites for the region, it is thought to be an image of Gaea, the goddess of earth.

It was one of the last mosaics recovered from Zeugma from a villa that had already been ransacked by traffickers previously. Hidden under layers of dirt, it had been totally missed. A special technique has been cleverly used by the artist to make the eyes follow you around no matter what angle you look at them. A beautiful mosaic in an incredible museum.


How to teach … the Romans

S tudying ancient Rome and the huge influence the Romans have had on our society is a fascinating perennial subject for primary and secondary schools, and the Guardian Teacher Network has a stunning set of resources to bring the subject alive across the key stages.

For an unparalleled glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire, from the bustling street to the intimate spaces of a Roman home, the British Museum's education team has shared inspiring teaching resources created for the Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. Start with this fantastic image bank for a flavour of the incredible remains found preserved under the ash after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. The cities lay buried until excavations in the 18th century started to reveal a unique snapshot in time and tell us so much about the daily lives of people who lived nearly 2,000 years ago in typical Roman towns at the heart of the empire. The image bank showcases objects from the exhibition, including a perfectly preserved, 2,000-year-old loaf of bread, alongside site photographs.

If schools can't come to the Pompeii exhibition, the exhibition can come to schools via Pompeii Live. Key stage 2 and 3 pupils can be transported to the heart of the life and times of the people of the Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum in this 60-minute live screening for schools, taking place at 11am on 19 June in over 260 cinemas across the UK. This Pompeii Live from the Museum resource explains more and how to book. Presenters will be joined by experts, including historian Mary Beard, in an investigation of fascinating objects, including a child's charm bracelet, a tiny crib in which the remains of a baby were found under a small blanket, a soldier's belt and sword, a mosaic of a dog on a lead and carbonised food and furniture flash-preserved by 500-degree volcanic surges. Also find an exhibition guide for key stage 2 and one for key stage 3. More information at www.britishmuseum.org/pompeii and on Twitter #PompeiiLive

The British Museum's permanent Roman galleries have much to offer schools. This Emperors of imperial Rome resource and accompanying slideshow make a great visual starting point for cross curricular work on Rome. The resources look at the coins, busts and sculptures from the British Museum's collection, identifying the key emperors in charge of Britain during the Roman conquest, and other artefacts from imperial Rome and its empire.

For an insight into Roman music, this slide show is a gorgeous visual guide to the types of musical instruments used by the Romans, from rattles and drums to pipes and lyres. Find information on each instrument in the notes section below each slide.

A-level students studying themes of gods and emperors, goddesses and women, imperial portraiture, the army, Christianity plus death and burials will find Roman Empire a fascinating resource. Key stage 5 students can also explore the process of Romanisation in Britain in more detail and discover how archaeology has been able to give the Britons a voice and show they were actually more sophisticated than was previously thought (so influenced are we by the surviving writings of Roman aristocrats such as Cicero and Caesar and their view of the British as "barbarians").

To explore the impact of the Roman Empire on the UK, see the British Museum's Life in Roman Britain, which, together with this slide show, gives an overview of life in Roman Britain through a variety of objects in the British Museum's collection including coins, pottery, stonework, statues and writing tablets.

This guide to life in Roman London, part of the brilliant Pocket Histories series from the Museum of London, offers an intriguing insight into the subject and is ideal for getting pupils interested in archaeology or for any classes looking at the Romans.

Those interested in studying Roman forts should see English Heritage's Housteads Roman fort teacher's kit, which explores, in glorious detail, one of the most complete and best preserved Roman forts anywhere. Pupils also get to investigate the when, why and how of Hadrian's Wall and there are some great cross-curricular lesson plans and ideas contained in the pack. Also find this entertaining Roman remains worksheet, which will help primary school-aged children think like archaeologists and find out more about Roman Britain.

Finally, thanks to Miss Tilly for sharing the PowerPoint she created for her year 7 history class, on Roman towns, ready made for teachers to use and adapt in their own classroom and to history teacher Dave Shackson for this thorough PowerPoint on the organisation of the Roman Republic.


Hinton St Mary Mosaic

  1. Click on the image to zoom in. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum
  2. Click on the image to zoom in. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum
  3. Excavation of the mosaic in 1963. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum
  4. Map showing where this object was found. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum

This mosaic is probably one of the oldest surviving depictions of Christ. It comes from a Roman villa in Dorset. Christ is portrayed as a fair-haired and clean-shaven man wearing a tunic and cloak. Behind his head are the letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ - Christos. Christ's head is a part of a larger mosaic, also containing pagan elements. These include the Greek hero Bellerophon riding Pegasus and slaying the monstrous Chimera.

When did the Roman Empire become Christian?

In AD 312 the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and the religion began to spread freely throughout the Roman Empire. Britain was at that point a far-flung province of the empire that would be abandoned 100 years later. This mosaic may have come from a villa's dining room or house-church owned by one of Britain's long-established Roman aristocratic families. Combining Christian and pagan imagery was common in this period and Bellerophon slaying the monster may represent Christ's triumph over death and evil.

Roman emperors banned the depiction of Christ on mosaic floors. It was thought disgraceful to walk or spill food on him

What inspired the mosaic?

The Hinton St Mary mosaic can provoke debates about Christian iconography and Christianity in Britain, but it also asks us to consider what inspired its designer in Dorset. I have argued before that the villa owner or mosaicist was inspired by a coin of the emperor Magnentius (AD 350-3) which was struck in large numbers at Amiens, Trier, Lyon and Arles in France in AD 352-3. It is the first overtly Christian coin ever to be struck in the Roman Empire.

If one looks at the reverse of the coin, one sees a prominent Christian symbol, the chi-rho, between an alpha and omega (‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’ – Revelation 21.6). The obverse shows the bare-headed bust of the emperor with a distinctive chin and swept back hair.
Comparison with the head of Christ on the mosaic immediately shows that there are similarities. I believe that the head of Magnentius has been turned to face us on the mosaic, the hairstyle and prominent chin of the emperor being preserved on the mosaic. Furthermore, the Chi-Rho has been placed behind the head of Christ, in a way mirroring its appearance on the reverse of the coin. The artist has changed the image slightly, giving Christ a tunica and pallium instead of an imperial cloak and military cuirass. Furthermore, the alpha and omega are replaced by pomegranates, figurative images of eternal life commonly used in the ancient world.

Can we imagine that the patron of the mosaic asked a local mosaicist for an image of Christ on his floor? Is it possible that the mosaicist looked back in bemusement, stating that he did not know how to represent Christ? Was it then that a coin of Magnentius was produced to act as a model for the head of Christ? This is all speculation, but it is interesting to note that such a coin was found pierced, for use as a pendant, in a Roman cemetery just outside of Dorchester – for at least one local it was certainly an important Christian symbol.

The Hinton St Mary mosaic can provoke debates about Christian iconography and Christianity in Britain, but it also asks us to consider what inspired its designer in Dorset. I have argued before that the villa owner or mosaicist was inspired by a coin of the emperor Magnentius (AD 350-3) which was struck in large numbers at Amiens, Trier, Lyon and Arles in France in AD 352-3. It is the first overtly Christian coin ever to be struck in the Roman Empire.

If one looks at the reverse of the coin, one sees a prominent Christian symbol, the chi-rho, between an alpha and omega (‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’ – Revelation 21.6). The obverse shows the bare-headed bust of the emperor with a distinctive chin and swept back hair.
Comparison with the head of Christ on the mosaic immediately shows that there are similarities. I believe that the head of Magnentius has been turned to face us on the mosaic, the hairstyle and prominent chin of the emperor being preserved on the mosaic. Furthermore, the Chi-Rho has been placed behind the head of Christ, in a way mirroring its appearance on the reverse of the coin. The artist has changed the image slightly, giving Christ a tunica and pallium instead of an imperial cloak and military cuirass. Furthermore, the alpha and omega are replaced by pomegranates, figurative images of eternal life commonly used in the ancient world.

Can we imagine that the patron of the mosaic asked a local mosaicist for an image of Christ on his floor? Is it possible that the mosaicist looked back in bemusement, stating that he did not know how to represent Christ? Was it then that a coin of Magnentius was produced to act as a model for the head of Christ? This is all speculation, but it is interesting to note that such a coin was found pierced, for use as a pendant, in a Roman cemetery just outside of Dorchester – for at least one local it was certainly an important Christian symbol.

Sam Moorhead, National Finds Advisor, British Museum

Colonising a pagan culture

Remember we know very little about the social context of these images. There are Christian images popping up all over Roman Britain in the fourth century. There are very similar images at Lullington in Kent, at Frampton in Devon. You find the Chi Ro symbol and Bellerophon in both those places, so it seems that there is an accepted symbolic language which people might have known. They clearly knew what the Chi Ro symbol meant. Constantine had given that currency literally: it appeared on his coins. But whether people – or everyone who saw the Bellerophon fighting the chimera – realised that this was some sort of symbol for Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness, or whether they simply absorbed it as decoration, would be hard to say. I mean on the Hinton St Mary pavement we really don’t know what the four figures around Christ mean – are they the four winds, are they the four seasons, are they the four evangelists?

This is a period of cultural flux when half-converted people who have adopted Christianity may still be practicing pagan magic, they may still have some of these pagan notions knocking around in their heads, they may well be hedging their bets - and that’s true at every period when Christianity encounters a pagan culture. It’s absorbed into the culture but there is no instantaneous transition from the old religion to the new. There’s a period in which people are just living in two worlds – even Constantine after his conversion had inscriptions to the sun god Sol Invictus on his coins - sometimes alongside the Chi Ro.

So it enables us actually to see the point at which Christianity begins to colonise a great pagan culture, and of course in the process is partly colonised itself by that culture.

Remember we know very little about the social context of these images. There are Christian images popping up all over Roman Britain in the fourth century. There are very similar images at Lullington in Kent, at Frampton in Devon. You find the Chi Ro symbol and Bellerophon in both those places, so it seems that there is an accepted symbolic language which people might have known. They clearly knew what the Chi Ro symbol meant. Constantine had given that currency literally: it appeared on his coins. But whether people – or everyone who saw the Bellerophon fighting the chimera – realised that this was some sort of symbol for Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness, or whether they simply absorbed it as decoration, would be hard to say. I mean on the Hinton St Mary pavement we really don’t know what the four figures around Christ mean – are they the four winds, are they the four seasons, are they the four evangelists?

This is a period of cultural flux when half-converted people who have adopted Christianity may still be practicing pagan magic, they may still have some of these pagan notions knocking around in their heads, they may well be hedging their bets - and that’s true at every period when Christianity encounters a pagan culture. It’s absorbed into the culture but there is no instantaneous transition from the old religion to the new. There’s a period in which people are just living in two worlds – even Constantine after his conversion had inscriptions to the sun god Sol Invictus on his coins - sometimes alongside the Chi Ro.

So it enables us actually to see the point at which Christianity begins to colonise a great pagan culture, and of course in the process is partly colonised itself by that culture.

Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity, University of Cambridge

Converting to Christianity

The Hinton St Mary mosaic is absolutely fundamental it’s very well known. It’s a youthful Christ without a beard he seems to be wearing Roman clothing and I think this is an experiment. It’s an experiment in how to depict Christ in familiar iconographic form.

The problem with the mosaic is that we can’t date it very precisely. But let’s suppose its fourth century AD – that was after the emperor Constantine, and the emperor Constantine seems to have converted himself to Christianity, and started to favour the Christians. It’s impossible to underestimate that connection. Whatever Constantine himself believed, he set Christianity on a completely different track, and by the end of the fourth century it was the official religion of the Roman Empire, and that continued for both East and West until right through the Middle Ages.

We don’t know that the impact was immediate in Britain, but what we have from Britain – Roman Britain in 4 AD after Constantine - are a number of archaeological finds including this mosaic and some silverware from Water Newton in Cambridgeshire, and also another mosaic from Kent, in Lullingstone, with Christian signs on them. So we know that members of the elite – probably Romans – were converting to Christianity and they were members of the bureaucracy the people who were out there ruling the provinces. And they were decorating their villas, their elaborate villas, with Christian signs and symbols. What we don’t know much about is the general population. We have these elite objects but who knows what the general population was thinking at this time?

The Hinton St Mary mosaic is absolutely fundamental it’s very well known. It’s a youthful Christ without a beard he seems to be wearing Roman clothing and I think this is an experiment. It’s an experiment in how to depict Christ in familiar iconographic form.

The problem with the mosaic is that we can’t date it very precisely. But let’s suppose its fourth century AD – that was after the emperor Constantine, and the emperor Constantine seems to have converted himself to Christianity, and started to favour the Christians. It’s impossible to underestimate that connection. Whatever Constantine himself believed, he set Christianity on a completely different track, and by the end of the fourth century it was the official religion of the Roman Empire, and that continued for both East and West until right through the Middle Ages.

We don’t know that the impact was immediate in Britain, but what we have from Britain – Roman Britain in 4 AD after Constantine - are a number of archaeological finds including this mosaic and some silverware from Water Newton in Cambridgeshire, and also another mosaic from Kent, in Lullingstone, with Christian signs on them. So we know that members of the elite – probably Romans – were converting to Christianity and they were members of the bureaucracy the people who were out there ruling the provinces. And they were decorating their villas, their elaborate villas, with Christian signs and symbols. What we don’t know much about is the general population. We have these elite objects but who knows what the general population was thinking at this time?

Dame Averil Cameron, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History, University of Oxford

Comments are closed for this object

Comments

I think it's an awesome piece of work! It was discovered by my dad when I was a toddler! The hole near the centre has a story. I like this image because it is not a Western stereotype of Jesus, but very culturally relevant to the Roman world. Amazing how he is still shaping history 2000+ years on.

Wow! Paul - How did your dad discover it. What is the story about the hole in the centre?

To me the figure actually looks like the Emperor Constantine. It has the same chin, face shape and eyes. The Chi-Rho symbol is also associated with the Emperor Constantine. What does anyone else think?

I wonder why Bellerophon and Christ are facing different ways. One would expect them either to be facing the same way, for the convenience of the people walking through, or they would both be facing the centre, for the convenience of people wishing to see both from the centre.

It seens to me likely that there were entrances to both sections from the outside, and therefore possibly no through way between them. The old-fashioned pagans would pay homage to Bellerophon, the Christians to Christ.

The 4 corners could possibly represent the 4 seasons - 2 depict flowers and 2 fruit. Of the fruit ones (those nearest to Bellerophon) the left one would depict autumn, the right winter, as the leaves of the right one look like they might be about to fall off. Of the flower depictions, the left has more leaves than the right, so perhpas the right in spring (the blosson has just come out) and the left is summer (flowers and leaves are both out).

But these thoughts are probably just fanciful.

What you say is interesting. Perhaps the image was doing homage to the Emperor and the artist was unaware of the Christian connotations - but then why the pomegranates? Again, perhaps these also appear of some Roman coins - after all, Roman Emperors liked to think they were, or would become, gods, and therefore live for ever.

Doesn?t the Head of Constantine's colossal statue at the Capitoline Museums, as viewed in Wikipedia, look just like the figure on the mosaic and should that surprise me? Why can?t The Hinton St Mary mosaic be a mosaic of Constantine and not Christ? Constantine was after all Mithraic too. ?Sol Invictus? and the naming of Sunday are typically his and resultant of Mithraic sun worship aren?t they? Mithrace worship was an officer class thing wasn?t it? More likely to find examples of it archaeologically I would have thought. If the latter more powerful church wanted to eradicate irreverent walked on images mistakenly associated with their Christ that was their business and simply emphasizes the possibility in my mind that they were not intended to be interpreted that way in the first place.
A quick google search reveals that the symbols chi rho appeared on ancient Egyptian coins struck over 200 yrs B.c in the Ptolomies period. A tad wierd for a Christian God don?t you think? Wikipedia says:- The Chi-Rho symbol was also used by pagan Greek scribes to mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage the combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chr?ston, meaning "good."[2][3] Some coins of Ptolemy III Euergetes were marked with a Chi-Rho.[4]
I wonder what Emperor Constantine was reading the evening before the battle of The Milvian Bridge? The sermon on the mount? I don?t think so.
Also,I had a feeling there would be an Egyptian connection. Didn?t early Christian zealots there destroy and then trash what remained of religious practises a little while later? Didn?t they murder Hypatia, legendary pagan mathematician-philosopher of Alexandria, mathmatician and woman? Clever old Christians. I don?t think so. Clever new Wikipedia. Thanks The British Museum. Fabulous series.

In the Mithraeum of the Seven Sphere excavated by Petrini, in the years 1802-1804 the constellations are separated by an eight pointed star symbols in the mosaic. Pomegranates are also associated with the birth of Mythrace.
Now here?s a thought. After a night in contemplation in a Mithraeum Constantine emerges and both he and his troops witness a star rising (say Mars or Venus for example) into the pre-dawn sky. Suddenly remembering the eight pointed star symbol used to join up the constellations in the mosaic of some Mithraeum Constantine decided upon it as the symbol to be painted on the shields of his men before the battle. He might have thought it would act as a potent sign for his officers and troops to rally behind. It would have been seen as especially good as identification was always a necessity in battles between fellow Romans and some such symbol had to be chosen anyway. In my imagination I can see two possibilities exist there after:

In describing the eight pointed star symbol from the Mythraeum he may have referred to the chi rho symbol used by Greek scribes (as pointer marks in the margins of books to indicate something good in an adjacent passage) to his aid de camp. He might even have handed over the book (or astrological prediction) he had been reading that night with the Greek chi rho marks he had penned himself in the margin. In a mix up his aid de camp orders the wrong symbol to be painted on the shields.
Or
Perhaps: He had a second inspiring thought. Maybe seeing that the Chi Rho itself might be used to unite Mythracians, Greeks, Egyptians, Christians and possibly even Indian mercenaries (chi rho for Krishna) by some mystical associations that each might give it. Thus I imagine how it might have become the winning symbol of unification to rally an empire under. For poor old Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius October 28 ought to have been the happy sixth anniversary of the day that he assumed the Empire. He probably read the night sky differently. I wonder how he ended up in the river?

Afterwards the emperor?s men no doubt used the chi rho symbol in mosaics to remind themselves of their part in his rising stardom. Christianity which was already prominent in Roman society chose this moment as the earliest possible indicator of his Imperial favor. Can anyone tell me if it was Constantine who proposed it after becoming the head of the Christian church? Only later came the purge on mosaics with the emperors image placed before the chi rho symbol lest he be mistaken for Christ. Was that after he died?

Anyway, thus I imagine. Should I worry myself about it? Fortunately since we ran out of emperors and confession torturing churches its no-longer a necessity. Thanks again. Really enjoying your series. Thanks also to Wikipedia.

Paul White, in the first blog, mentioned a story that explained the hole in the Hinton Pavement but never elaborated. Paul is my third cousin and when his father John was born his grandmother told her husband Walter (my great uncle and Paul?s grandfather) that an extension to the clothes line would be needed to dry the nappies. He unwittingly dug the hole for the new post through the pavement, commenting how hard it had been. The pavement was not far below the surface and the adjacent field had always been known as ?stony ground?. It was not until John himself dug up some tessarae and realised their significance that the pavement was revealed. In 1963 I was a teenager and remember the excavation.

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Mosaic History

The ancient and mystical art of mosaics has seen a recent revival around the world. Whether it’s in the style of the Roman traditionalists or the complexities of the shard method, mosaics are popping up everywhere once again. From galleries and museums to subway tunnels and hotel lobbies, from airports and kitchen countertops to backyard gardens, they are adorning both public arenas and private residences. Today’s mosaic artists still follow many of the same techniques and principles as their predecessors did thousands of years ago. Styles range from abstract to representational, traditional to deco, and from the simple to the extremely complex. This unique and original art, revered for its intricacy and beauty, is as pleasing to create as it is to view.

The History

Called the eternal art form by many, mosaics can be traced as far back as the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. There, pebbles were used as floor coverings and as embellishments on walls, for decoration as well as for added strength. Remnants of mosaic pavements in the ancient gardens of China and as far away as the Mayan ruins have also been unearthed. Thousands of years of history surrounds mosaic art, and its popularity today is testament to its enduring appeal.

Mosaic as an art form first thrived during the Greco-Roman period, from Alexander the Great until the fall of Rome. The Greeks began cutting natural stone into small triangles, squares, and rectangles called tesserae, replacing the pebble mosaics originally used to cover their floors. Today, the term tesserae describes all types of materials used to make mosaics. This style was embraced by the Romans, who by 200 AD were beginning to create mosaics on walls as well, with examples such as “The Battle of Isus”, depicting the famous battle of Alexander the Great and Darius. Public buildings and common areas were frequently adorned by the intricate and fascinating patterns of local mosaic artists some copied from Far Eastern rugs, some illustrated important events in history, some recorded their daily lives.

The next surge came during the Byzantine era, from the 5th to the 15th centuries. It was during this period that mosaics reached their pinnacle of quality and excellence. No longer confined to discrete panels, mosaics were created covering entire walls and ceilings in buildings throughout Europe, such as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Many of these spectacular creations still remain for us to marvel at today. By this time, glass and gold tesserae were also being freely added to the images, magnifying their luminosity and intensity with their epic scale. Cathedrals, public buildings, royal estates, museums, and private homes were all palettes for the mosaic artist. By the middle of the 15th century however, with the advent of the Renaissance, there became a renewed interest in pictorial realism, and a rejection of the use of gold so common at this time in mosaics. Used mainly afterward in church decoration, mosaics increasingly began to imitate contemporary painting.

The Art Nouveau movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries once again rekindled the interest in mosaic art, especially on the exteriors of buildings. Two significant artists redefined the traditional methods of mosaic art. Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect working in Barcelona, created startling new architectural forms, many of which he covered with mosaics. Influenced by the Moorish tradition of using glazed tile, Gaudi improvised by adding fragments of tiles, bits and pieces of stone, and shards of glass. In the 1930’s, Raymond Eduardo Isidore, of Chartres, France began the mosaic work that would eventually cover every surface of his house, both inside and out, using every shard, fragment, and piece of usable material he could find. His neighbors called him Picassiette, which translated, means “plate stealer”. Contemporary mosaic artists have an abundant source of traditions and inspirations from which to draw on, allowing them to add their own personalities and modern visions to such an ancient art, and stretch the limits even further.

Traditional Mosaics

Traditional mosaics are based on the Roman and Greek methods of cutting tile, stone and other tesserae into uniform shapes, and then placing them onto a prepared surface to form a design. Mosaic arrangements may be done by using either the direct or indirect method. Using the direct method, each bit of stone or tile is placed face up directly into a soft medium, such as mortar. The surface remains slightly uneven, which allows interesting light patterns to form. By using the indirect method, the artist can create and recreate their design on a temporary surface many times before cementing it in place. The finished piece has a much flatter, more uniform surface. Traditional mosaics can range from simple geometric patterns to intricate images and designs.

Collage Mosaics

Shard Art, also known as Bits and Pieces, or Pique Assiette, refers to the blending of fragmented pieces of broken pottery, buttons, china, glass, beads, and other collectibles which are then cemented onto a base. The base the artist chooses, as well as the combination of pieces are limited only by the imagination of the creator. Everyday objects are transformed into vibrant works of art a simple lamp or mirror becomes a finely crafted sculpture. Each shard is an artifact, reminding us of dinners with families, treasured heirlooms, gifts from friends, or remnants of the past. By bringing together bits and pieces that have had other lives, and served other purposes, modern artists can use this distinctive technique to produce truly contemporary and unique pieces with overtones of the past.


Mosaic under the vines

A team of archaeologists from the Superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape of Verona, began to investigate the area where the villa had been unearthed back in 1922.

While examining some ground under a vineyard they found something amazing, a pristine mosaic, that once decorated a floor. The BBC quotes the local commune’s website as saying that “diggers finally made the discovery after decades of failed attempts”.

The find was first made in the Fall of 2019 and the researchers returned to further investigate the location, ‘before the excavation was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic’, The Guardian reports. However after work resumed, archaeologists found the mosaic floor from the villa that had been discovered nearly a century ago.


JOKES

Marcus Martial, who lived during the reign of Nero, wrote hundreds of short humorous poems called epigrams, which provide one of my favorite glimpses into the past. Martial unabashedly admits to sending honey cakes to elderly men in the hopes of a mention in their wills and of finagling invitations to choice dinner parties. His poems touch on many aspects of daily life including men’s talk at the public baths, Roman women’s supposed promiscuity, gladiators sold at auction, snail forks, and the virtues of coming to a dinner party with your own napkin.

Plutarch, the first century historian, tells my all time favorite tall-tale. I can just imaging Plutarch regaling dinner guests with the story of how supposedly Mark Anthony wanted to impress his mistress Cleopatra with his fishing prowess, so secretly positioned swimmers under their barge to attach fish to his line. At some point the slaves ran out of fresh fish and attached dead salt fish to the line. Cleopatra, who realized what he was doing all along, tactfully reassured Mark Anthony to leave fishing to others. “Your game”, she said “is cities, provinces, and kingdoms.”

Marcus Varro, an ancient Roman author, wrote a book of humorous essays and advised that conversation at dinner parties should be “diverting and cheerful” and that guests should remember to “talk about matters which relate to the common experience of life.” Jokes and story telling were then, just as now, a lively part of dinner conversation in Italy and certain guests were invited to dinner because of their wit. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch counseled that “the man who cannot engage in joking at a suitable time, discreetly and skillfully, must avoid jokes altogether” and that humor should be “casual and spontaneous, not brought in form a distance like previously prepared entertainment. ” Still sounds like good advice today.

Martial’s books of epigrams were often given to dinner guests as a parting gift. Here are three of Martial’s deliciously witty poems:

Although you’re glad to be asked out,

whenever you go, you bitch and shout

and bluster. You must stop being rude:

You can’t enjoy free speech AND food.

Three hundred guests, not one of whom I know-

And you, as host, wonder that I won’t go.

Don’t quarrel with me, I’m not being rude:

I can’t enjoy sociable solitude.

Readers and listeners like my books,

Yet a certain poet calls them crude.

What do I care? I serve up food

To please my guests, not fellow cooks.

Many delicacies found on a table in antiquity are served today. Dishes such as pesto, custard, pasta, pizza, and pancakes all have their roots in ancient Rome. The recipes below all come from my book The Philosopher’s Kitchen: Recipes for Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook (Random House)

Egg dishes, like the Asparagus Frittata below, were popular appetizers in antiquity as we can infer from the Latin saying, ab ovo usque ad malum, “from egg to fruit,” the equivalent of our expression, soup to nuts.

The frittata pairs well with the Mint Marmalade, which is one of more than 100 sauce recipes for grilled meats listed by the Roman gourmet Apicius. In antiquity ingredients were ground in a mortar to use raw or to incorporate into sauces. Apicius uses this grinding method so often that he is referred to as the “mortar chef.”

Asparagus Frittata

This delicious asparagus frittata makes a perfect appetizer or, served with salad, an elegant light lunch.

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and freshly milled pepper

12 thin asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 small purple onion, minced

3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Beat the eggs, coriander, savory, and parsley in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the onion and continue cooking on high until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium, pour in the egg mixture, and scramble slightly to mix. Cook until just set and beginning to turn golden. Invert the frittata onto a greased flat plate and then slide the frittata back into the pan to cook the other side until golden.

Top the frittata with feta and chives, cut into quarters, and serve warm.

Mint Marmalade for Grilled Meats

The marmalade is delicious with any grilled meat, but especially lamb. It’s also wonderful on grilled vegetables, fish, or chicken.

1/4 cup raspberry or other fruit vinegar

2 tablespoons golden raisins

2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano cheese

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly milled pepper

Simmer the vinegar, raisins, dates, and honey in a small sauce pan over medium heat until the raisins are soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Puree this mixture, along with the pine nuts and cheese, in a food processor until smooth. Add the mint leaves and pulse until minced. Slowly add the oil and continue blending until smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Braised Chicken with Peaches and Squash

Squash was one of the most popular and frequently served vegetables in ancient Roman time.

4 chicken legs and thighs, separated

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

All-purpose flour for dredging

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 acorn squash, peel on, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 firm peach, skin on, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons minced watercress

Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour. In large sauté pan, warm the oil over high heat and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the remaining pan juices and add the caraway, cumin, and squash. Cook the squash until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the wine to the squash slices and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan, cover with a tight lid, and reduce to low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and squash from the pan and arrange on a serving platter. Add the peaches to the pan juices and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat. Stir in the cilantro and watercress, and then pour over the chicken and squash.



Comments:

  1. Rangey

    Don't take it to heart!

  2. Gakree

    In it something is. Many thanks for the information, now I will not admit such a mistake.

  3. Bogdan

    I went to the forum and saw this topic. May I help you?



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