This is a section of mosaic floor panel from the House of the Evil Eye in the ancient capital of Antioch, Syria (present-day Turkey). The mosaic section is approximately 40” high by 38” wide. It shows a series of geometric designs made from hundreds of small blue, white, and red stone chips (called tesserae) set in cement.
The Seleucid Kingdom or Empire at its greatest stretched from Thrace (Greece) to the border of India. It was founded by Seleucus I Nicator, who rose in power and influence under Alexander the Great’s Macedonian army. He became the Governor of Babylon in 321 BC before grabbing the reigns of the kingdom, taking control, and embarking on his ambitious expansion efforts. Antioch was one of the most important cities, both politically and culturally, in the Seleucid Kingdom. The wealthy in Antioch projected their economic and cultural influence by building lavish homes in the Greek (Hellenistic) style. This often involved the inclusion of intricate and beautiful mosaics on the floors.
The House of the Evil Eye is named for a mosaic found on the interior (image shown below) that is currently at the Antakya Archaeology Museum in the Hatay Province of Turkey. The mosaic is apotropaic, meaning it was designed to warn off evil, as can be seen in an attack on the “Evil Eye.” This private residence, where a wealthy family would have resided, was occupied several times over the span of many years. It was, in fact, reoccupied after the fifth century AD. The mosaic from the Classics Collection came from the floor of this home.
Much of the city of Antioch was excavated by a team of archaeologists from Princeton University in the late 1930’s. Their findings (including further information on similar mosaics) were published by Doro Levi in Antioch Mosaic Pavements (Princeton, 1947).
Take a look at this great video to learn about the history of Hellenism and how it led to the creation of some truly incredible objects:
[Stephanie Lynn Allen]