The presence of the mosaic was first discovered last year by Jim Irvine on a family walk on his father’s land. He saw some Roman pottery fragments in a wheat field. When he examined satellite imagery of the spot, he saw a cropmark delineating a building beneath the surface. A little digging revealed a small section of a mosaic. Irvine notified Leicestershire County Council and county archaeologists followed up, excavating a small trench to get a better idea of the mosaic beneath the surface. They were able to determine that the mosaic was in good condition and was figural with people, horses and chariots.
The trench was then expanded, revealing additional figures that identified the mosaic as containing scenes from the Trojan War.
The floor is enormous, 36 feet by 23 feet, and was likely a grand dining room. Within a guilloche pattern border are three comic-book style panels showing the clash between Greek hero Achilles and Prince Hector of Troy. The top panels depicts the chariot battle between Achilles and Hector.
In the middle panel, Achilles drags Hector’s corpse behind his chariot while Hector’s father, King Priam, begs Achilles to return the body for proper burial. The third panel features the exchange of Hector’s body for its weight in gold. A Trojan servant balances a huge scale on his shoulders with Hector’s corpse on one side and a bowl of gold on the other. Priam adds more gold vessels to meet the ransom requirement.
Interestingly, This last panel proves that the source was not actually The Iliad, because Homer’s account of the death of Hector has Priam ransoming the body with a cart full of rich gifts after he begs Achilles to think of his own father and have mercy. Before that plea softened his heart, Achilles had said he would never give the body back not even for its weight in gold. The story of the scale with Hector’s body on one side and a pile of gold on the other comes from a lost play by Aeschylus (Phrygians, or the Ransom of Hector) now known only from marginalia and fragments.
The room was part of a large villa in use between the 3rd and 4th century. While only the mosaic room and another building next to it have been excavated so far, geophysical surveys have found numerous outbuildings — barns, a circular structure, a possible bath house. It was probably the villa of a wealthy, classically educated individual. Fire damage and later burials indicate the villa was reused after it was abandoned.
This is in England. Roman mosaics memorializing Greek tragedies.ReplyDelete
As always in such cases is my questioning. If England had been continuously occupied, how then did they not know the villa had been there? And how did it revert to a field? And how did it get covered with a layer of soil thick enough to plow?
Black Death much?Delete
"Continuously occupied" looks different after a 66% die-off.
When the Roman legions pulled out in 410 AD, first the Picts to the north and Irish to the west began heavy raiding. Then after, according to legend, hiring Germanic mercenaries to help them, the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and smaller groups began moving in in ever increasing numbers. The Romano-Briton economy collapsed almost completely. All villas and many settlements were abandoned. By any reckoning, there was a major die-off. Other than initial looting, the Anglo-Saxons shunned Roman sites. Londinium and other cities were almost completely abandoned. London itself wasn't re-occupied until the Viking invasions when they came to stay, not just raid and run. For the first time, the Anglo-Saxons had real need of the old Roman walls, even in a severe state of disrepair. For the first 200-250 years of Anglo-Saxon England, there is no evidence for any population center with more than a few hundred people. England has been continuously occupied, but between 410 and 450 the population dropped drastically, and many areas were very lightly populated in family farmsteads and hamlets. It was well into the 600s before there was real growth again.Delete
no matter where or what age, I find archaeology to be fascinating. Never resolved question with discoveries such as this is; "who the heck buried all that stuff"? Sure wudna centuries of decomposing "vegetative waste", accumulation of blowing dust or natural calamity like earthquake or volcano eruption. So what gives?ReplyDelete
1600 years and it's only a foot of soil and turf over it. What's so hard to believe about that?Delete
Might have been easier to cover the floors with good earth than to dig them up and cart it off. That or wind and/or floods could do it. Amazing what people have done to gain ground for farming.Delete
And now son Jim and family will lose part of their farmland, but gain the revenue of a National Trust museum that will make them small-scale wealthy for life.ReplyDelete
One hopes they'll make the effort to restore the mosaics to their pre-holed glory as much as possible, at some point.