Coming soon - a new blog post about the dearth of pre Byzantine mosaics in the history of art. Here’s an early example of how Roman mosaics have been treated as something lesser and not worthy of attention: fragments in the floor of the Byzantine church of San Vitale, Ravenna.
The Nemi Ships were two ships, with one ship larger than the other, built by the Roman emperor Caligula in the 1st century AD at Lake Nemi. Although the purpose of the ships is only speculated on, the larger ship was essentially an elaborate floating palace, which contained quantities of marble, mosaic floors, heating and plumbing such as baths among its amenities. Both ships featured technology long thought to be recent inventions. It has been stated that the emperor was influenced by the lavish lifestyles of the Hellenistic rulers of Syracuse and Ptolemaic Egypt.
There is considerable speculation regarding why the emperor Caligula chose to build two large ships on such a small lake. From the size of the ships it was long held that they were pleasure barges, though, as the lake was sacred, no ship could sail on it under Roman law implying a religious exemption.
At the foot of the hill of the Acropolis, in a raised terrace that dominates the area and is marked by an ancient oak tree, the impressive remains of the palace lay.
The floor plan of the ancient housewas of a peristyle courtyard with rooms surrounding it. The house coudl accomosdate 4,000 residents and 500 guests.
The palace is organized around a large colonnaded courtyard and includes a temple dedicated to Hercules Patroos and luxurious banquet rooms for the king and his officials. In one of them the mosaic floor was preserved beautifully.
The architect was famous Pytheas, who designed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (355-350 BC), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the temple of Athena Polias in Priene in Asia Minor. This important monument, dating back to the second half of the 4th century BC, was a major attraction of the building program of Philip II. It should have been completed in 336 BC, when King to excuse the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to the king of Molossos Alexander of Epirus.
One of two Emperor Caligula’s Nemi ships, which were elaborate floating palaces containing quantities of marble, mosaic floors, heating, and plumbing. They were rediscovered in the 1930’s but destroyed by a fire during WW2.
Fragment of a Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis. The bejeweled woman, holding the measuring tool for the Roman foot, is identified by the Greek inscription as Ktisis, a figure personifying the act of generous donation or foundation.