Seleucia Pieria, Turkey
2nd century AD
Materials: Stone and concrete
This mosaic is from the House of Cilicia at Selucia Pieria, the harbor of ancient Antioch. Much of the city was excavated by a team of archaeologists from Princeton University in the late 1930’s. Their findings (including further information on this mosaic) were published by Doro Levi in Antioch Mosaic Pavements (Princeton, 1947).
This mosaic floor depicts a personification of the Roman territory of Kilikia or Cilicia. Prior to its excavation and removal, the floor contained other personifications as well. The largely obscured figure to the left of Kilikia was likely a representation of Mesopotamia. Additionally there would have been representations of four river gods just beyond the corners of our portion of the mosaic. These representations included personifications of the Tigris, and Pyramos rivers, the other two river gods have been lost to time but were most likely the Euphrates, Kydnos rivers . The two surviving corner pieces can now be found at the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Smith College Museum of Art.
This mosaic was part of a triclinium or dining room. This can be determined examining the way in which the entire mosaic was originally laid out. Traditionally in a triclinium there are three couches arranged in a U-shape along three walls of the room. This produced an open area in the center of the room where the food could be served to all of the guests. In houses with mosaic floors the area underneath the couches would be decorated with relatively simple designs. The central area of the triclinium would contain the most elaborate portion of the mosaic as it would be the part of the floor visible to all the guests during a banquet. The section of mosaic held at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History was the central area of the triclinium as can be seen in the excavation photograph. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]