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Monday, April 19, 2021

Gallo-Roman villa of Orbe-Boscéaz

Orbe-Boscéaz, also named Boscéay, is an archaeological site in Switzerland, located at the territory of the town of Orbe (Vaud). It includes a vast Roman villa measuring over 200 m long comprised of about 100 rooms, some heated by hypocaust, colonnaded porticoes, and ornamental ponds.  Nine of the rooms featured intricate mosaics depicting gods, trompe l’œil geometric shapes or figurative scenes of Greek mythology, such as the famous labyrinth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Excavations have revealed the villa, constructed at the end of the 2nd century CE on the remains of a structure from the 1st century CE, was mostly abandoned during the crisis of the 3rd century CE.  Sadly, by the 5th century CE much of the structure became a quarry for building materials.

The first of its mosaics were discovered in 1841. The Triton and the Labyrinth mosaics were found in 1845 (the latter is reburied the same year, then rediscovered in 1930), the Divinities mosaic in 1862, the laurel leaves mosaic in 1863 (reburied and rediscovered several times up to 1925), and the Mosaic of Achilles on the island of Skyros, was discovered in 1993 and recently underwent restoration. The site is now open to the public.

The Triton mosaic at this villa depicts ichthyocentaurs, mermen with a horse's forelegs in place of arms.  The earliest known examples of this artistic variation of traditional Greek tritons date from the 2nd century BCE. The term "Ichthyocentaur" did not originate in ancient Greece, though, and only appeared in writing in the Byzantine period (12th century).  They were also known as "Centaur-Tritons".  Double-tailed tritons began to be depicted by the late 2nd century BCE, and can be seen on the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus at the Glyptothek in Munich.

Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) - The Deities Mosaic includes four medallions with a Triton and a Nereid. This photo shows the southwest medallion. The Deities Mosaic is preserved in its original location and the Gallo-Roman villa is a site open to the public and can be visited. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sylvain Gailloud. (adjusted perspective, sharpened and enhanced)


Mosaic depicting Zeus in the form of an eagle and Ganymede at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Leemburg-CH.


Another medallion from the Triton mosaic at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Leemburg-CH.


Geometric mosaic with leaves at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Paulusburg


Closeup of the Deities Mosaic depicting Mars, the God of War at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Leemburg-CH


Mosaic of the deities at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Leemburg-CH


Mosaic of the Rustic Procession at the Gallo-Roman Villa of Orbe-Boscéaz (Vaud, Switzerland) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Leemburg-CH


Triton with two fish-tails. Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus. Glyptothek Munich courtesy of Wikimeddia Commons contributor Miguel Hermoso Cuesta



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