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Roman Mosaics at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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The main mosaic room contains some large examples found in Iberian villas.

 

Last week, I shared some of the Celtiberian artifacts at the newly remodeled Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. The museum also has a strong collection of Roman artifacts, reflecting Spain’s longtime importance in the Roman Empire. Most gripping are the mosaics. Spain had numerous wealthy villas both in the cities and countryside, and thankfully many of these have been discovered and preserved.

The triumphal entry of Bacchus, 2nd century AD from Caeseraugusta (modern Zaragoza). Bacchus is being crowned by Victoria, who raised the palm of victory.

The triumphal entry of Bacchus, 2nd century AD from Caeseraugusta (modern Zaragoza). Bacchus is being crowned by Victoria, who raises the palm of victory.

The labors of Hercules, from a 3rd century AD villa in Liria (modern Valencia).

The labors of Hercules, from a 3rd century villa in Liria (modern Valencia).

Mosaic of the Muses, from a 4th century AD villa in Arellano (modern Navarre). Each muse is shown with a master of the art, so Urania is shown with Aratus, Calliope with Homer, Erato with an unidentified master, Melpomene with an unidentified master, Euterpe with Hyagnis, and Clio with Caducus.

Mosaic of the Muses, from a 4th century AD villa in Arellano (modern Navarre). Each muse is shown with a master of the art, so Urania is shown with Aratus, Calliope with Homer, Erato with an unidentified master, Melpomene with an unidentified master, Euterpe with Hyagnis, and Clio with Caducus.

Although most of the collection is from what is now Spain, the museum has acquired several smaller mosaics from Italy, including the one below.

Late 2nd century AD, Italy. Images of Egypt were hugely popular in the Roman Empire. This shows an unfortunate fellow getting chomped by a crocodile in the Nile.

Late 2nd century AD, Italy. Images of Egypt were hugely popular in the Roman Empire. This shows an unfortunate fellow getting chomped by a crocodile in the Nile.

While the mosaics are the showpieces of its Roman section, the Museo Arqueológico Nacional has an excellent collection of Roman jewelry, weapons, tools, ceramics, and inscribed lead tablets, including many tablets that served as official announcements of new laws and were put up permanently in public places.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the museum’s medieval treasures.

 

Sean McLachlan is a freelance travel and history writer. He is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and the post-apocalyptic thriller Radio Hope. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.

All photos copyright Sean Mclachlan.

"I'd like to be, under the sea. . ." Second or third century AD from Villaquejida (in modern León)

“I’d like to be,
under the sea. . .”
Second or third century AD from Villaquejida (in modern León)

Roman frat party, 4th century, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid.

Roman frat party, 4th century AD, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid.

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