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Ancient Greek Mosaic Celebrates the Joy of Life

ancient greek mosaic hayat turkey
The ancient Greek mosaic discovered in Hayat, Turkey. Credit: Archaeology and Art/Twitter

A magnificent ancient Greek mosaic discovered in Hatay, Turkey continues to amaze archaeologists and historians attempting to ascertain the exact meaning of its images and inscriptions.

The floor mosaic, which was found in the Hatay Province, located on the Turkish-Syrian border, is divided into three parts, with two images complete and in nearly perfect condition. The third section has mostly been destroyed, but its meaning has, nevertheless, been deciphered by archaeologists and historians.

The mosaic, which is likely from the 3rd century BC, is believed to have served as an elaborate centerpiece of a floor located in the dining room of a wealthy man’s home.

Ancient Greek mosaic found in Turkey puzzles archaeologists

The image that is by far the most controversial among experts is the first from the left, which shows a skeleton (pictured above) lying down and enjoying a pitcher of wine and a loaf of bread beside him. Above him, the Ancient Greek text reads: “Be cheerful, enjoy your life” (“ΕΥΦΡΟΣΥΝΟΣ”).

In the middle scene, there is a sundial and a man running. He has lost one shoe because he is in a rush. Behind him is a bald, older man who is either his servant or slave. The sundial shows a time between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. The inscription on one side reads that the man is in a hurry to get dinner because he’s nearly out of time (“ΤΡΕΧΕΔΙΠΝΟΣ-ΑΚΑΙΡΟΣ”).

All that remains of the third mosaic scene is the head and arms of a servant carrying a flame. According to experts, this represents the heating of water for the master’s bath before supper. The bath and supper were two of the most important aspects of daily life during Greek and Roman times.

However, other historians and archaeologists are of a different opinion on the significance of the skeleton.

If the sequence of the three pictures is read from right to left, the man who rushes to eat and drink also places great importance on food and wine. Hence, he is likely rushing to an earlier death, corresponding to the third image of the skeleton.

The Hatay Province is known for its numerous discoveries of Greek and Roman-era mosaics.

According to archaeologists, this particular mosaic most likely dates back to the third century BC and is an artifact from the ancient Greek and Roman city Antioch, established at the end of the fourth century BC.

Antioch was founded by Seleucus I Nicator, a general under Alexander the Great. The city’s geographic location was significant in the spice trade as well and also served as a stop along the renowned Silk Road and Royal Road.

The city of Antioch flourished for so long because of its great military strength, eventually rivaling Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East. Antioch was the capital of the Seleucid Empire until 63 BC, when the Romans conquered the area.

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