Archaeologists in the UK have recently uncovered a stunning mosaic from the Roman era depicting the famous battle between two protagonists of the Trojan War: Achilles and Hector.
The artwork, measuring eleven meters (thirty-six feet) by almost seven meters (22.9 feet), was discovered in 2022 in the county of Rutland of central England during excavations of an elaborate villa complex comprised of a host of structures and other buildings, dating to the third or fourth century AD.
Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, described the finding as “remarkable.” Historic England is a public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s historic environment.
Roman-era mosaic in England “most exciting” such discovery in a century
John Thomas, of the University of Leicester, told the Press Association that it was “the most exciting Roman mosaic discovery in the UK in the last century” and a “very well-preserved example of a villa in its entirety.”
He added that the person who commissioned the artwork clearly had “a knowledge of the classics…[and] the money to commission a piece of such detail.”
Other buildings and features revealed by site surveys include what appear to be aisled barns, circular structures, and a possible bathhouse, all within a series of boundary ditches.
Human remains were also discovered in the rubble covering the mosaic and are thought to have been interred after the building was no longer occupied.
The story of Achilles and Hector in the Trojan War
The Trojan War, as magnificently described in Homer’s Iliad, is so vivid that it is considered by many to be historical fact rather than simply an epic poem.
As described by Homer, Hector is one of the principal defenders of Troy, and he very nearly won the war for the Trojans. After Achilles temporarily deserted the Greeks, Hector stormed the Greek camp, wounded Odysseus, and threatened to burn the Greek fleet—until Agamemnon rallied his troops and repelled the Trojans.
Later, with Apollo’s help, Hector killed Patroclus, the best friend of the great Greek warrior Achilles, and stole his armor, which actually belonged to Achilles.
Enraged by the death of his friend, Achilles reconciled with Agamemnon and joined the other Greeks in fighting against the Trojans in order to pursue Hector.
As the Greeks stormed the Trojan castle, Hector came out to meet Achilles in single combat—wearing the fateful armor of Achilles removed from the body of Patroclus. Achilles aimed and shot his spear into a small gap in the neck area of that armor, killing Hector.
Afterward, the Greeks desecrated Hector’s corpse by dragging it around the grave of Patroclus three times. King Priam, Hector’s father, then went to Achilles to beg for his son’s body to give it a proper burial.
Despite the abuse of the corpse at the hands of the Greeks, Hector’s body had been kept intact due to the intervention of the gods.