Abstract: The Mosaics of Zeugma on the Euphrates: visual culture on the Roman frontier

In the summer of 2000, as the city of Zeugma was about to be partially submerged under the waters of the new Turkish dam across the upper Euphrates, archaeologists from various nations worked hard to reveal all that they could about the areas of the city that were fated to disappear. The most spectacular of the finds, and certainly those which attracted the greatest media attention, were the magnificent mosaics which adorned the houses of the city’s elite, mosaics often of very high quality, and decorated with a wide range of figured scenes. My talk looks at those mosaics in their context, replacing them where possible in their original architectural settings, and considers them as evidence for the wider culture of the individuals who commissioned, made, and looked at them. How were these mosaics used in the overall decoration of the house? What sort of subject matter was favoured, and why was it chosen? And what can we tell from the mosaics about the interests and preoccupations of the owners of the houses, and the messages that they wished to convey to their guests? Zeugma was a frontier city, Greek in origin, but undoubtedly of very mixed population; yet the mosaics reveal a cultural atmosphere that seems remarkably homogeneous, clearly deliberately cultivated by their proprietors as an assertion of identity.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

M. Önal, Zeugma Mosaics: a corpus, Istanbul 2009, A Turizm Yayinlari (Excellent photographs, limited text)

www.zeugmaarchproject.com – report on recent excavations

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