Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Christianized Roman mosaic of the 3rd - 4th century CE

The central panel of this extraordinary mosaic depicts a scene from Classical mythology, the moment when Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, first sees his future wife, the Cretan princess Ariadne. It seems to have been a popular subject for floor mosaics in Syria during the third and fourth centuries C.E. One of the most compelling aspects of this mosaic is its apparent transformation from a purely pagan image to one with Christian overtones. At some point in the mosaic's later history, a bloody wound that recalls the right ribcage injury sustained by Christ at the hands of the Roman soldiers who crucified him was added to Dionysos's left side. Apparently at the same time the red wound was added to Dionysos's side, a flat, vessel-like object was placed in his right hand. The identification of the object is uncertain, but it may represent either a shallow bowl for wine, previously the province of Dionysos but which in Christian iconography represented the blood of Christ, or a dish on which was served the bread that symbolized his body, both of which were consumed by Christ's followers in communion with their god. - Miho Museum, Kyoto, Japan

Image: Roman Mosaic Depicting Dionysos' Discovery of Ariadne on Naxos, 3rd-4th century  C.E., courtesy of the Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan.


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