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Lion Hunt Mosaic, Pella

Lion Hunt Mosaic, Pella



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Lion Hunt Mosaic, Pella - History

Birthplace of Philip and Alexander

The ruins of the city were found by chance in 1957 and are still in the process of excavation. We can see the remains of two houses, some mosaics in situ and more mosaics and other finds in the museum. The agora and palace are not open to visitors. Philip II of Macedon (382-336 BC) and his son Alexander were both born and lived here.

Pella became the capital of the region known as Macedonia when King Archelaos I (413 - 399 BC) moved his court there from Aigai (now known as Veryina) , as part of his efforts to transform Macedonia from a region despised by the city states of southern Greece, who considered the inhabitants to be uncouth, with a reputation for drunkenness. (They called them 'barbarians', a word now synonymous with rough behaviour but originally thought to refer to the language which sounded like 'bar bar'). The reputation for heavy drinking may be deserved but the beauty of the mosaics at Pella, the fine paintings in the tombs and the gold found at Veryina would suggest they also had a taste for the finer things of life. Archelaos encouraged people of culture to his new court, including Euripides, whose play The Bacchae was first performed in the theatre here and who died here in 406 BC. (Socrates was also invited but declined.)

The assassination of Arkelaos in 399 brought an end to the development of Pella, and over the next forty years or so there were seven or eight kings. In 359 Philip II, son of Amyntas II, became king on the death, in battle against the Illyrians, of his brother Perdikas. During his reign and that of his son Alexander the city became prosperous and powerful, and capital of Philip's 'unified' Greece.

During this time it was linked to the sea by a canal. The city was sacked by the Romans in 146 BC, and destroyed by earthquake at the end of the first decade of 1st century BC c95-90

The new museum is fabulous and full of wonderful things, many of which come from houses on the site and so enable us to imagine life in 4th century Pella.

The stunning mosaics which were displayed on the wall in the old museum are now on the floor ( as they would have been originally) we go up a continuous ramp to a gallery from where we can look down on the mosaics.

They come from two of the houses on the site (late 3rd - early 2nd century BC). There were two distinct types of houses in Pella the House of Dionysos, (named after the mosaic found there) is an example of the type with an interior porch (peristyle), and the second, the house of the Abduction of Helen, has a courtyard, the focus of family life. The rooms in daily use and those used for receiving guests were on the northern side, which usually had an upper floor.

The walls were built of stone up to a height of about 1 metre and then of brick. The inside was always plastered in the First Pompeian style.

The floors were decorated with mosaics made of tiny uncut natural sea pebbles, outlined with lead or clay, with semi precious stones, now missing, for the eyes. The mosaics on display here are floors from the houses over the road, dating 325-300 BC, most of them in excellent condition. The magnificent lion hunt is from the central part of the andron (banqueting room) in the House of Dionysos, and is thought to represent the scene when Alexander was rescued from a lion during a hunt at Granikos. The two young hunters, naked apart from flowing capes, stand either side of the lion with their weapons raised poised to stab the lion one has taken his sword from its scabbard, the other, who wears a petasos (a Macedonian style hat), has a spear in one hand, his sword, still in its scabbard, in the other. (The wonderful lion looks somewhat bemused, poor thing!). The outlines of the figures are shown in fired clay.

The rather damaged mosaic of a griffin devouring a deer is also from the entrance to an andron of Dionysos' house. The griffin with huge wings and long curling tail has grasped the stag with its claws and is digging its teeth into his back - drops of blood fall from the wound.

Another superb mosaic shows Dionysos, holding a thyrsos with a swirling red and white ribbon and sitting naked on a beautiful prancing panther, (a bit of a poseur?). Strips of clay are used for Dionysos' curly hair and green and red tesserae for his wreath and the ribbon.

The late Hellenistic period marble head of Alexander has the characteristic upwards tilt, said to be caused by 'ocular torticollis'.

I like the black and white slate circular table top, beautifully inlaid with flowers, and meander pattern. I've never seen anything like it, it was found in the house next to the House of Helen.

There are some beautiful bronze bed posts (fulcra) with horses heads.

There are also many objects found in the agora. In particular lots of rather nice, 2nd century, terracotta female figures/statuettes, some moulds from the workshops, and vases. Look out also for the lovely stele with a farewell scene of a mother and baby, a beautiful bronze arm of a statue, some fine gold wreaths and jewellery found in the cemetery,


Title

Artist(s) or Creators

Preview

Class Name and Date

Art 230: Ancient Art. Fall 2015

Format Type

Time Period

Theme

Mosaics in Hellenistic Greece

Media

Dimensions

Description

In the transition to the Hellenistic Period, Greece was under the rule of the Macedonian leader, Alexander the Great. Artistically, he merged the two styles together to create a complimentary technique in designing the houses of the town, Pella, the capital of Macedonia. The heavily influential Greek style can be seen in the floor mosaics of the formal rooms in private houses and palaces in the area. A mosaic, which is created from tesserae (small cubes of colored stone or marble), provides a permanent waterproof surface ideal for floor decoration.[1] The most revered group of mosaics was mainly found in the “House of Dionysus” and the “House of the Abduction of Helen.” Their depictions belong to two categories: those with simply a geometric decoration covering the entire surface of the floor, and those with representative subjects, such as hunts, Amazonomachy (battle of Amazons) and others.[2]

One of the most remarkable mosaics of animals and people in the House of the Abduction of Helen is the Stag Hunt Mosaic, prominently signed by an artist named Gnosis.[3] The blossoms, leaves, spiraling tendrils, and twisting, undulating stems that frame this scene are in a Pausian design. The coiling frame around it echoes the linear patterns formed by the figures of the hunters, the dog, and the struggling stag. The mosaicist has created an illusion of solid figures through modeling, mimicking the play of light on three-dimensional surfaces by highlights and shading.[4] Through this technique, the artist is able to reveal a sense of movement with the figures, creating a sense of illusion in the flat space. This is done by the deliberate use of the different color pebbles, creating that dynamism of shadow. Another expert approach to this illusion and the interpretation of action is the skill of foreshortening with the dog’s front legs as it sprints into the scene to attack the stag.

Although it is unclear at first glance, it is argued that the figure on the right is actually Alexander the Great, by virtue of the upswept hair off his forehead, as well as its central parting, dating it to the late 4 th century. And although its credibility is limited, the taller figure is thought to be the god Hephaistos, due to his attribution of the double-headed axe, which the figure rears up to swing.[5] Because there is no identification of the figures by the artist, perhaps, according to Chugg, he is one of Alexander’s secretive and scandalous lovers.[6]

Regardless of the mosaic’s subject, the artistic skill in terms of shading and the illusion of shadow is exquisite and should be noted. In comparison to past mosaics, this work is all the more impressive because it was not made with uniformly cut marble in different colors, but with a carefully selected assortment of natural pebbles.[7] The movement of the figures is clear against the dark background, and their energy is definitely present as they hunt the surprised stag, succeeding in their mission of victory. The emotion of this scene makes it typical Hellenistic. The extreme violent movement of the nude figures and the intense drama of the hunt characterize this era’s unique stylizations.

Chugg, Andrew, Alexander’s Lovers. North Carolina: Lulus Publishing, 2006.

Stockstad, Marilyn and Cothren, Michael, Art History. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2014.

Ogden, Daniel, The Hellenistic World: New Perspectives. London: Classical Press of

[1] Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren, Art History (New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2014), 145-146.

[2] Daniel Ogden, The Hellenistic World: New Perspectives (London: Classical Press of Wales, 2002), 135-150.

[3] Stokstad and Cothren, Art History, 145-146.

[4] Stokstad and Cothren, Art History, 145-146.

[5] Andrew Chugg, Alexander’s Lovers (North Carolina: Lulu Publishing, 2006), 78.


The Pebble Mosaics of Pella

But it’s the mosaics that interest me. There are no other figural mosaics in tombs to be found in that period. Take note – no other, none, none at all. In fact the only ancient mosaic that I could find that has any connection to tombs, is this Roman one from Isola Sacra near Ostia:

Tomb marker, Isola Sacra. ClassicsWithMrsB.blogspot

The fact that this is the only example of a Macedonian tomb mosaic suggests that this monument is in a category of it’s own. This is reinforced by the graves of Alexander’s very own father, Philip II of Macedon and members of the royal household at Vergina, 170km to the east of Amphipolis. Those tombs contained a rare wall mural showing an almost identical scene of Pluto driving off with Persephone into the underworld. And although the exquisitely worked contents of the Vergina tombs dazzled the world, none of them contained caryatids and sphinxes, let alone mosaics.

But not far from Vergina is Pella – the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon, Alexander’s birthplace and the place where the art of pebble floor mosaics was first established. The floors of his father’s palace there were decorated with intricate mosaic patterns and motifs which still survive. At the Pella Archaeological Museum among other things you can see the famous hunting scene with a naked Alexander the Great confronting a lion:

Alexander the Great lion hunt. Pella, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

A patterned floor of interwoven flowers:

Interwoven flower mosaic. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics Griffon eating deer. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

And Dionysus riding a compliant cheetah:

Dionysus riding cheetah. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

The Vergina tombs

When the Vergina tombs were excavated in the 1970s they were lauded as one of the greatest discoveries of their time. The tombs contained caskets, ceremonial armour and delicate oak leaf wreaths delicately wrought in gold but one of the most moving artefacts in today’s museum on the site is not the gold but a seemingly unremarkable pile of ashes: pot fragments, bone shards and twisted metal. The label tells you that this is all that was left of Philip’s funeral pyre. That horses, chariots, and household effects were put inside a huge wooden structure alongside Philip’s body and set alight. The twisted metal you see are the remains of the horses’ harnesses, of huge nails, or of roundels – as large as the palm of a workman’s hands – once fastened to the front of the pyre. The fire was so intense the metal curled and each time I look at those ashes I can hear the horses screaming.

And back at Amphipolis the pebble mosaic – in a mere antechamber – shows the mythical horses, the chariot and their passengers being led into the after life.. What nobleman or warrior was so important that his (I don’t buy the idea of this being a female grave) tomb should dwarf that of the great Philip of Macedon?


Greece: Pella

The great Athenian orator Demosthenes, who spoke the purest Greek and who is therefore much studied, spent half his life and many of his best speeches railing against Macedonia, the big brother to the north who was constantly threatening to sort out the unruly Athenians. Yet, whereas Athens was supposedly a democracy, Macedonia was unashamedly a kingdom – and under Philip II and his son Alexander, a very successful one. But how did a kingdom operate, and how did it differ from Classical Greece?

An obvious difference lay in its geographical structure. Classical Greece was based around cities, the polis: the city and its surrounding territory. Macedonia, on the other hand, was a much larger kingdom, comprising a number of different cities – two of which vied to be the capital. The old capital was Aegae, modern Vergina, where the kings were all buried. We have already looked at the burial of Philip II, the grandest burial of all (CWA 50). Then in CWA 51 we went on to look at the rest of Aegae: the huge palace built by Philip II, and some of the other tombs that made up the city.

There was, however, another ‘capital’: Pella was the commercial capital, the place where Philip II and Alexander the Great were born. Today, modern Macedonia is dominated by the great Medieval town of Thessalonika, the second town in Greece and, in the Middle Ages, second only to Constantinople as the queen of the Aegean.

Vergina lies 50 miles to the west, along the old Roman Via Egnatia and the modern motorway. Pella forms the third point of the triangle above Vergina to the west and modern Thessalonika to the east. Today it is 20 miles from the sea, but in Classical times it was a maritime town on a huge inlet of the sea, now long since filled in today, it is the bread basket of Greece.

Mosaic magic
Archaeologically, the features for which Pella is best known are the pebble mosaics. The art of mosaic was perfected by the Romans, who learnt to make mosaics of tesserae – small stones cut to shape but mosaics had already been used by the Greeks, though rather than tesserae, they used pebbles. Most of the resulting mosaics came out in black and white, but occasionally they used coloured pebbles too.

The finest examples of these are found at Pella, where a number of rich houses have been excavated in the blocks south of the agora. The finest of these represents the abduction of Helen, where Theseus has seized Helen and is about to carry her off in a four-horse chariot, and is signed by the mosaicist responsible for the composition, Gnosis.

Another large house, known as the House of Dionysus, consists of two parts formed around two central peristyle courtyards. In the southern part of the house are two andrones (banquet rooms) with the famous mosaic of a lion hunt, now in the museum.

In the centre of Pella was the agora, or market place. This is currently being excavated and restored courtesy of the EU, indeed some would say that it is being over-restored. But excavations are revealing a row of buildings with a workshop at the rear, and a shop to sell the goods at the front.

On the far side of the agora was an administrative complex, housing the city magistrates and certain cultic functions. The south-west section housed the public archives. Here, in a two-storey building with a central courtyard, public documents were transcribed, sealed, and stored. Archaeologists found scores of clay seals from the public documents which had fallen from the archives above on the second floor. They also found broken pens and ink wells, along with stores of clay and stone stamp seals. A popular image used on these seals was that of a grazing cow – which also appears on coins. The inscription ‘Pella exchange’ on another seal is indicative of the commercial activities carried out in the complex.

However, the agora at Pella is, to some extent, misleading. Whereas in a Classical Greek city the agora was not only the commercial centre but also the political centre, being surrounded by the law courts and the offices of the town council, Pella was part of a kingdom, and so the real centre of the town lay in the palace on the higher ground north of the agora.

The palace has five separate units, each with a large central courtyard surrounded by buildings erected on terraces stepped into the hillside. These units, each of which has four to five buildings, communicate with each other via gates, flights of steps, and galleries. On the south side, facing the agora, was a monumental colonnade. Unlike at Vergina, here at Pella the palace was the administrative centre as well as a grandiose royal residence. The royal household lived here along with various administrative, military, and financial services with their suites of handsome banqueting rooms and baths. There were also archives and libraries, the royal mint, and rooms for cultic purposes. For keeping fit there was a palaestra, or wrestling ground, and the portico of a gymnasium.

The original core of the palace was built towards the end of the 5th century but most of the architectural remains discovered date to the Hellenistic period.

Collecting the best
A splendid new museum has just been opened at the site which contains many of the treasures and, unlike at the Vergina museum, one is allowed to take photos of the exhibits.

Many of the finest pebble mosaics have been conserved and laid out. However, for me the finest exhibit was many an archaeologist’s delight: a potter’s shop, which had been overwhelmed in a catastrophe, was discovered still filled with complete pots. All the pots were excavated and put on display for our inspection. Alas, they were no longer for sale as they would have been 2,300 years ago.

I was also fascinated by a case devoted to finds from the sanctuary of the god Darron. Darron was a local, rather minor god – of healing – but, nonetheless, still surviving right down to the 1st century BC, despite the onslaught of the Olympian deities from Greece. Interestingly, the artefacts from his shrine differed little from those found at the shrines of the Olympian gods.

Macedonian rulers wanted the best for their kingdom and were prepared to pay top prices to get it. The great Greek painter Apelles was lured away to do his best work at Pella, none of which, alas, has survived. The playwright Euripides spent his last days in Pella writing one of his most surreal plays, The Bacchae, where fierce women, tricked by the vengeful Dionysus, tear the king Pentheus limb from limb.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 52. Click here to subscribe


Byzantine Empire and Medieval Period

Head of Christ, 12th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

The High Priest Aaron, 11th century, St. Sophia of Kyiv collection.

From the 4th century until the Renaissance, decorative mosaic art lavishly ornamented Christian churches. Ethereal glass mosaic crafts adorned the ceilings and floors of these places of worship. Intricately detailed and glimmering with gold leaf and precious stones, these mosaics were meant to amaze churchgoers and pilgrims with portraits of biblical figures and early saints. During the Renaissance, however, the mosaic as an art form waned. Artists shunned the extravagance of religious mosaics, and painting gradually became the preferred medium.


Lion Hunt Mosaic, Pella - History

The Stag Hunt mosaic floor in Room D of the "House of the Abduction of Helen" (also known as House 1.5, see gallery page 4).

The polychrome mosaic is 3.24 x 3.17 metres. The central emblema (panel) shows two young men, naked apart from cloaks, and a hunting dog killing a stag. It has been suggested that the hunters may be Alexander the Great (right) and Hephaistion (see gallery page 17).

Along the top of the scene the artist has signed his name in white tesserae, "ΓΝΩΣΕΙΣ ΕΠΟΗΣΕΝ" (Gnoseis epoesen, Gnoseis made this), the earliest known artist's signature on a mosaic. The image has a thin frame of white tesserae, surrounded by a continuous decorative border with a floral motif, and an outer frame of black and white spiral waves.

Detail of the central panel of the Stag Hunt mosaic showing the signature of Gnoseis.

A mosaic of Dionysos and "Sleeping Ariadne" from Ephesus,
now in the Izmir Archaeological Museum, Turkey:
Selcuk photo gallery 2

The "Alexander Mosaic" from Pompeii, depicting
Alexander the Great in battle with King Darius III:
Alexander the Great
in our People section

A Hellenistic mosaic, signed by Hephaistion, from Pergamon,
now in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany:
Pergamon photo gallery 2

Ancient mosaics depicting the Gorgon Medusa

Mosaics at Dion Archaeological Site, Macedonia, Greece:
Dion: garden of the Gods
at the Cheshire Cat Blog

Mosaics of Saint John the Theologian, on Patmos, Greece:
Patmos photo gallery

Modern mosaic commemorating Saint Paul
the Apostle's visit to Veria, Macedonia, Greece:
Veria photo gallery

Some of the information and photos in this guide to Pella
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.

All photos and articles are copyright protected.

Images and materials by other authors
have been attributed where applicable.

Please do not use these photos or articles without permission.

If you are interested in using any of the photos for your website,
project or publication, please get in contact.


Lion Hunt Mosaic, Pella - History

It is the largest private house found in Pella so far. Covering an area of 3,160 square metres, the once magnificently appointed house which takes up an entire block of the ancient city's grid system is thought to have been built 325-300 BC.

The remains of the building were among the first to be discovered during the first systematic excavation of Pella in 1957.

The main area of the floor mosaic in the photo above has a pattern of lozenges made of rows of contrasting dark and light coloured natural pebbles (as on a chess board). It covered the floor of the large antechamber of the house's northern andron (see plan of the house below) on which which was the Lion Hunt mosaic.

Interactive plan the House of Dionysos, Pella.

A mosaic of Dionysos and "Sleeping Ariadne" from Ephesus,
now in the Izmir Archaeological Museum, Turkey:
Selcuk photo gallery 2

The "Alexander Mosaic" from Pompeii, depicting
Alexander the Great in battle with King Darius III:
Alexander the Great
in our People section

A Hellenistic mosaic, signed by Hephaistion, from Pergamon,
now in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany:
Pergamon photo gallery 2

Ancient mosaics depicting the Gorgon Medusa

Mosaics at Dion Archaeological Site, Macedonia, Greece:
Dion: garden of the Gods
at the Cheshire Cat Blog

Mosaics of Saint John the Theologian, on Patmos, Greece:
Patmos photo gallery

Modern mosaic commemorating Saint Paul
the Apostle's visit to Veria, Macedonia, Greece:
Veria photo gallery

Some of the information and photos in this guide to Pella
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.

All photos and articles are copyright protected.

Images and materials by other authors
have been attributed where applicable.

Please do not use these photos or articles without permission.

If you are interested in using any of the photos for your website,
project or publication, please get in contact.


File:Stag Hunt Mosaic from the House of the Abduction of Helen, (c. 300 BC), Ancient Pella (6913868698).jpg

The Stag Hunt mosaic (c. 300 BCE) by Gnosis is a mosaic from a wealthy home, the so called "House of the Abduction of Helen" (or "House of the Rape of Helen"), in Pella, the capital of the Macedonian Kingdom.

The emblema is bordered by an intricate floral pattern, which itself is bordered by stylized depictions of waves. The mosaic is a pebble mosaic with stones collected from beaches and riverbanks which were set into cement. As was perhaps often the case, the mosaic does much to reflect styles of painting. The light figures against a darker background may allude to red figure painting. The mosaic also uses shading, known to the Greeks as skiagraphia, in its depictions of the musculature and cloaks of the figures. This along with its use of overlapping figures to create depth renders the image three dimensional.

It is often wondered if Gnosis, whose signature ("Gnosis epoesen", i.e. Gnosis created) is the first known signature of a mosaicist, could have been the painter of an earlier picture which the mosaic reproduces, rather than the mosaic-setter. In the case of pottery, 'epoesen' referred to a maker of the pot while 'egraphsen' was the verb used to designate the painter. Therefore, if an analogy to pottery is warranted, it seems likely for Gnosis to have been a mosaicist. Since gnosis (Greek: γνῶσις) is also the Greek word for knowledge, others have said the inscription does not refer to an author at all but to an abstract pronoun.

The figure on the right is possibly Alexander the Great due to the date of this mosaic along with the depicted upsweep of the hair. The figure to the left wields a double-headed axe, likely alluding to Hephaistos meaning the figure depicted could be the general Hephaestion. The dog depicted is possibly Peritas accompanying Alexander.


Ancient Mosaics Reproductions

Mosaic is an ancient art of creating an image by putting together small tesserae stones through meticulous and labor intensive setting to form various patterns. The history of the mosaic goes back thousands of years ago. The earliest mosaics found at Gordium in Phrygia in Asia Minor have been dated to the 8th century BC. By the 4th century BC, the Macedonians raised the pebble technique to an art form and created complex beautiful large mosaics with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals. The mosaics in Pella and Vergina in Macedonia are the earliest mosaics found on European soil. According to Herodotus, Phrygians once lived in Macedonia and they may have been responsible for passing the art of mosaic to the Macedonians. Mosaic as a form of art spread thought the Macedonian Empire with the conquests of Alexander the Great. A specially manufactured pieces called &ldquotesserae&rdquo made their appearance giving extra detail and range of color to the work. Using small tesserae, sometimes only a few millimeters in size, meant that mosaics could imitate paintings. Stunning mosaics have been discovered in Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch in Syria, Pergamon in Mysia, and even in Bactria (modern Afghanistan). Mosaics later spread to Italy when the Romans conquered Pella, Alexandria, Antioch, and Pergamon. The Romans decorated floors and walls of houses, temples and baths. Many stunning Roman mosaics have been discovered at Pompeii, perfectly preserved thanks to the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the 1st century AD. In the Byzantine Period, the mosaic reached new levels and we find not just floors and walls but also vaults and facades of temples and palaces decorated.

How would like to see these ancient masterpieces decorating the floors and walls of your residence just as they once decorated the houses, palaces, and temples of the Macedonians and Romans? Ancient Sculpture Gallery is giving you that unique opportunity to own any one of them in their exact dimensions, or dimensions of your choice. Here you will encounter the most famous Pella mosaics such as the Stag Hunt, the Lion Hunt, the Dionysus on Panther, the Abduction of Helen the most famous Pompeii mosaics such as the Alexander Mosaic and the Sea Life mosaic the most famous Byzantine mosaics found at Constantinople and Ravena and other famous Hellenistic and Roman mosaics.

All our mosaics are handmade in the same techniques utilized by the ancient mosaicists more the 2000 years ago, with stunning detail and full attention to scale and proportion (see the photo gallery of our production of the Alexander Mosaic). Each mosaic is laid down on a mesh backing and can be installed easily on a wall or floor, both indoors and outdoors. You can decorate any wall with a mosaic image, hallways, floor centers of dining and living rooms, above the fireplace, in an archway, on table tops, pools, and baths due to mosaic&rsquos ability to withstand water and humidity, unlike other forms of art. And because they are made from natural marbles, the colors won&rsquot alter over time.


Watch the video: Mosaic of Alexander the Great killing a lion (August 2022).