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The Abduction of Europa

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The Abduction of Europa

Green/Roman Mosaics during the Third Century A.D. were one of the most common attributes of private homes and communal buildings during the rein of the Greek/Roman Empire. Nonetheless, mosaics are not just aesthetic works of fine art but merely are an indispensable memoir of substantial myths, stories, and legends of the past, whether it may be depicting a heroic scene of one of the greatest battles of time to a royal celebration of some sort. The intricate details and time put into creating such a piece of work reveal so much about the Greek/Roman culture. They revere and honour all the hardship they went through and then develop these fascinating life changing events into works of art, which, we now read about in books or view in museums. One specific work of art, which, portrays so much is The Abduction of Europa mosaic, now placed in the National Museum of Beirut. Nevertheless, most Greek/Roman mosaics were used and created to strengthen and support the Greek/Roman social structure and their societal reputation in the empire. They were not only created for societal purposes, but also to keep consequential evocations alive throughout history. The mosaics of the Greek/Roman culture have been said to be influenced vastly from Hellenistic art - some of the most common subject matters artists liked to capture and portray were scenes of the sea and Greek myths, such as Gods and Goddesses and the encounters they endured. This explains clearly, the mosaic we encountered in the National Museum of Beirut. It is about the Greek myth of the God Zeus transforming himself into a Bull, and the abduction of lady Europa. The great convenience of mosaics with the deference to paintings, is the significant longevity and flamboyancy of colour, so immense that in multiple situations there would be no remnants of an excavated area, but the mosaic is almost always close intact and in good condition. In the case of The Abduction of Europa mosaic, if we look closely, there are a few defects throughout the piece. For example, Europa’s feet, a bit of her arm, her scarf, and a small portion of the bulls mouth near the hand of Europa have minimal damage, but all in all the piece is well preserved and closely intact. The level of detail and finesse this piece possess is truly exceptional. The use of neutral earthy tones with tints of vibrant colors help point out important details the artist was trying to convey. If we look closely at the Bull, we can see his facial expression is fierce yet possesses some sort of power, especially in the eyes. The eyes have such a strong focal point, and gaze that it is almost as if we can feel a connection to the piece. The way the bull was rendered with the use of shades of brown, some beige tints, and shades of black all the more convey strength; the muscles of the Bull are well sculpted in this particular mosaic producing this feel of fierceness, courageousness, strength, and power. The Bull in general is a very powerful animal, which is revered and praised in many cultures such as the Bulls Heads excavated from Catalhoyuk, and the Hall of Bulls in the Lascaux Cave in Montignac. The Bull seems to be praised in many cultures throughout history due to possible religious beliefs and celebrations for killing such a powerful animal. In this mosaic, the Bull is actually the God named Zeus who transformed himself into this powerful animal, in hope to lure King Agenor’s daughter Europa into running away together or into the abduction. Moreover, Europa seems to be confused, or portray a look of discern, and dismay. Her face shows almost a look of sadness, though the myth says otherwise. Europa is depicted in this mosaic as someone who looks innocent, and pure. The choice of the white dress and her body language convey such purity, kind heartedness, and innocence. She is graceful as she clasps the horn of the bull and is being whisked away as her scarf flutters in the wind. Europa holds a firm gaze into the horizon. The gaze portrays some sort of courageous strength along with her innocence and purity, in a way that she does not know what is happening or that Zeus transformed himself into a Bull. She has this powerful look in her eyes, which show that even though she is not aware, she has some courage, and is not fearful of what comes of her. In addition, She wears a gold crown, which clearly symbolizes some sort of royalty. For those who don’t know the tale of this specific mosaic, we could depict or start to gain an understanding of what this piece truly means through these intricate details and choice of colors used. The Greek/Roman legend says, that Europa’s brother Cadmos had gone in search of her but was unable to find her. In addition, to Cadmos’s quest in finding his abducted sister, he bequeathed the Phoenician Alphabet to the Hellenes. Moreover, the artist chose to depict this mosaic as if it is was almost life like. The way they exhibited this fine work of art looks very humanistic. It looks humanistic, due to the grave detailing in the face, arms, and feet of Europa, and as for the Bull, the way the artist shows the chiselled muscular forms on the calves, and his facial expression which shows fearfulness, convey this sense of reality and importance to both the Bull and Europa, rather than divine or supernatural beings. Nonetheless, this mosaic seems to be made out of pieces, possibly, of terra cotta, which, could possibly explain that reddish brown shades we see throughout the mosaic mainly in the Bull, the scarf, and the borders of the mosaic. Also, besides terra cotta, other materials that could have possibly been used to create such an exquisite piece could be, small black and white tessera cut from marble, pebbles, pumice stone, maybe even pottery, or even seashells. The process in which, mosaics are mended together and held so intact is by a substance called Mortar; a base is first applied with the pristine mortar then the fragments are then laid closely together with any remaining gaps filled with the thawed mortar commonly known as grouting. Moreover, most roman mosaics have common themes in which they like to convey, whether it may be a figurative mosaic with geometric patterns forming a frame around the central depiction, or just simply a geometric pattern mosaic with no central depiction, possibly used for flooring in a private home, or in a communal areas, while figurative mosaics could be used in royal homes as a big mural on a wall or ceiling, and in areas with high importance, for example, within a church per-say. Greek/Roman mosaics are one of the most appreciated forms of art nowadays. The amount of detailing, hours and time spent into creating such perfection and making sure each fragment is cut precisely with no jagged edges or corners was not an easy task. In addition, to the countless hours artists put into making sure the fragments are perfect, they need to be sure all the fragments sit well and there are no empty spaces within the mosaic itself. These mosaics have a big impact on present day society, they tell us viewers, so much about the past and the advances made. Mosaics are such fine works of art, and the history, the myths and legends that come with the piece itself are just marvellous and fascinating. The imagination it brings is almost as if we were taken back to that specific era and experiencing the moment.

Bibliography:
1. Cartwright, M. (2013, June 13). Roman Mosaics. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.ancient.eu/article/498/
2. Lendering, J. (2012, August 11). Tyre. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from http://www.livius.org/tt-tz/tyre/tyre_t13.html
3.Beirut National Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2014, from http://en.beirutnationalmuseum.org/
4. Milani-Santarpia, G. (n.d.). Ancient Roman Mosaics. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.mariamilani.com/ancient_rome/Ancient_Roman_Mosaics.htm
5. Amanda Claridge. Rome. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010.
6. Martin Henig. A Handbook of Roman Art. Cornell Univ Pr, 1983.
7. Mortimer Wheeler. Roman Art and Architecture. Thames & Hudson, 1985.
8. Simon Hornblower. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford University Press, USA, 2012.…...

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