Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lod Mosaic- now at the Legion of Honor Museum

Sometime in the 3rd century AD, a wealthy Roman commissioned an ensemble of floor mosaics for his villa in ancient Lydda, part of what was then the Roman province of Palestine and part of the ancient kingdom of Israel (now contemporary Israel). Move forward almost two thousand years. A  road was being built between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem which unearths the mosaics and prompted an immediate rescue excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

G. W Bowerstock wrote an interesting essay in the NY Times blog. In that, he put forth the theory that the animal motifs represented the worship of Dionysus. The Met's curator, Christopher Lightfoot believes that there are traces of Dionysiac imagery in the mosaic.

Mutually antagonistic animals did frolic together in some of the surviving representations from antiquity. Bowerstock cites a sarcophagus from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Yet, as he also points out, here is no trace of Dionysus in the Lod Mosaic. The animals are not frolicking peacefully together; they are attacking each other. There are no vines, no panther skins - in short, little to support this theory.

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