Roman Mosaics & Wall Paintins
and the arts of villa


Roman Mosaics

Roman mosaics were a common feature of private homes and public buildings across the empire from Africa to Antioch. Not only are mosaics beautiful works of art in themselves but they are also an invaluable record of such everyday items as clothes, food, tools, weapons, flora and fauna. They also reveal much about Roman activities like gladiator contests, sports, agriculture, hunting and sometimes they even capture the Romans themselves in detailed and realistic portraits.


The Alexander Mosaic, dating from circa 100 BC, is a Roman floor mosaicmosaic is from the House of the Faun, Pompeii and depicts Alexander the Great riding Bucephalus and facing Darius III on his war chariot at the Battle of Issus 333 BC is believed to be a copy of an early 3rd century BC Hellenistic painting,


Roman Mosaics in the Roman World

Most mosaics were laid on the floor. They form one of the most well-preserved and widespread types of Roman art, found throughout the Roman Empire from Britain and Spain in the west to Jordan and northern Mesopotamia in the east. They were used in public buildings such as Roman baths and marketplaces and, in late antiquity, in places of worship such as synagogues and churches. The majority of mosaics however decorated private buildings, both large city houses and villas in the countryside or by the sea. Mosaics were a costly and time-consuming addition to a property, although they would thereafter require little maintenance and could be expected to last a lifetime. Because of the heavy initial investment however considerable care and attention was paid to create designs that were attractive and appropriate, both to the owner and to the setting.

Mythological scenes were popular, presumably because they were timeless and familiar classics, though they may also have been deliberately chosen to signify the owner’s learning, taste, and sophistication. Scenes of what may be called daily life, activities such as hunting, fishing, circus races and games involving gladiators, other fighters or animals, also had great appeal. Some of these are subject specific, depicting, for example, the lord of the manor and his retinue or contestants in the arena complete with their names. Perhaps the most famous example however is the mosaic in the entrance to the House of the Tragic Poet at Pompeii in which a ferocious-looking guard dog is depicted together with the warning cave canem (‘beware of the dog’).

Despite all the diversity in their manner of execution, design, geographical setting, and dating, Roman mosaics display a number of shared or common characteristics.


Roman Wall Painting


The history of Roman painting is essentially a history of wall paintings on plaster. Although ancient literary references inform us of Roman paintings on wood, ivory, and other materials, works that have survived are in the durable medium of fresco that was used to adorn the interiors of private homes in Roman cities and in the countryside Surviving examples at sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum has allowed Roman wall painting to be classified into four different styles These paintings represent an uninterrupted sequence of two centuries of evidence.

There were 4 styles of wall panting Pompeii where many of the villas were redecorated in the styles . The House of the Vetti displays the characteristics of the Fourth style with large central panels; there is an increasing use of white for backgrounds, a greater attention to detail and perspective returns in the paintings which include more intricate decorative motifs, floral borders and friezes between panels



Roman Wall Painting
Villa of the Mysteries


The roman villa lies 800 meters from noth-west of pompeii The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. This space may have been a triclinium, and is decorated with very fine frescoes. Although the actual subject of the frescoes is hotly debated, the most common interpretation of the images is scenes of the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Dionysus, a mystery cult that required specific rites and rituals to become a member. Of all other interpretations, the most notable is that of Paul Veyne, who believes that it depicts a young woman undergoing the rites of marriage.

The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored in its original location. It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas.



The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. This space may have been a triclinium, and is decorated with very fine frescoes, believed to be painted in the early-middle 1st century