Herodotus Returns

How the Alexander mosaic was viewed by Romans at Pompeii
January 11, 2010, 8:31 am
Filed under: Alexander the Great, Pompeii | Tags: , ,

A recent study examines patterns of wear on the famous Alexander mosaic recovered from Pompeii to determine how the ancient Romans viewed the piece.

Once the visitors had entered the room — we might imagine a group of dinner-guests led by their host — the tour would begin with Darius and his Persians.

The host would have stood above Darius’ horses (1), explained why the great king was fleeing, and pointed out the artistic novelties in the lower portion of the mosaic.

The guests would have milled about at the foot of the mosaic, taking in the overall scene, and then briefly concentrated themselves around the figures of the two doomed Persians (a – b).

Then the host moved to the left and stationed himself in the area above the figure pair composed of Alexander and the unfortunate Persian he is spearing (2).

The guests marched right onto the mosaic and crowded around the image of the Macedonian king, standing right on top of his body (c ), being careful however not to step on his head or that of his horse.

The guests arranged themselves in a semicircle, so as to leave a line of sight open between them and their host, who was also able to see Alexander’s head from his vantage point above.

More on the study.