Stunning Ancient Mosaics Adorn New Museum in Sparta, Greece

A technician works on the Roman mosaic of Orpheus with the Animals. Credit: AMNA
Two rare Roman floor mosaics discovered in Greece will feature in a new museum in Sparta which officially opens on November 21st.

The Abduction of Europa and Orpheus with the Animals mosaics were accidentally discovered in the late 19th century on private property.

The two mosaics discovered in 1872 and 1877 are from the end of the 3rd century AD and the start of the 4th century AD.

Mosaics in Greece fell to obscurity
Until now, the mosaics had no permanent home. One was left in a private garden while the other was placed in a wine storage space. The property was bought by the state, and a shelter was erected over them after which the mosaics fell to obscurity.

Researchers believe the two mosaics were part of the decoration of a bath complex. Possibly, the bath infrastructure and mosaics were part of a rich Roman house or two neighboring ones.

Both are distinguished for their composition, rich colors, and craftsmanship.

The magnificent mosaic of the Abduction of Europa by Zeus. Credit: AMNA
The 2.05 x 1.98 meter mosaic with the representation of the Abduction of Europa is the central theme of a larger mosaic floor. The woman is depicted sitting on the back of a bull, the form taken by Zeus, in motion towards the right while two winged cupids frame the figure.

With the introduction of the euro as the common European currency on January 1, 2002, Greece chose the representation of the Abduction of Europa in the Sparta mosaic as the motif for the two-euro coin, designed by Giorgos Stamatopoulos.

Orpheus With the Animals mosaic. Credit: AMNA
Orpheus is a Thracian bard, legendary musician, and prophet in ancient Greek religion. He was also a renowned poet and, according to the legend, traveled with Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. He even descended into the Underworld of Hades to get his lost wife, Eurydice, back.

Mosaics discovered in Greece tell the story of Europa and Zeus
In Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess of Argive Greek origin and the mother of King Minos of Crete. The continent of Europe is named after her.

Zeus, the king of the Olympian Gods, transformed into a beautiful white bull to abduct her. The story of Europa is one of the most famous tales of love and lust between the gods.

Zeus was not only known for being the most prominent deity in the ancient Greek pantheon. He also had a reputation for endless love affairs.

Europa was picking flowers with her helpers when she suddenly saw the bull approaching from afar. The princess was astonished by the beauty of the animal. As they neared each other, he quickly leaned down at Europa’s feet in an act of utter submission to her. Encouraged by her helpers, she climbed on the animal’s back.

Zeus got up and slowly started walking around. Soon, however, he accelerated his pace and eventually broke into a gallop, with Europa clinging on for her life. The king of the gods and the frightened princess reached the seaside and dived into the sea.

Zeus had carried Europa from Phoenicia to Crete. Once they got to the island, Zeus reclaimed his human form and finally materialized his lust by mating with her under an evergreen tree.

Europa’s earliest literary reference is in the Iliad, which is most likely from the 8th century BC. Another early reference to her is in a fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, discovered at Oxyrhynchus. The earliest vase-painting securely identifiable as Europa dates back to the mid-seventh century BC.