The Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey, is the largest mosaic museum in the world, and a wonder even for those who (unlike me) are not obsessed with ancient history and literature.
The museum is filled with art from the ancient town of Zeugma, believed to have been founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Many rooms have been reconstructed in the museum, complete with their mosaics, which show mythological scenes, patterns and flowers, and some unknown faces. And then there's the famous Gypsy Girl (pictured above), named for her dark eyes and hoop earrings, but almost certainly one of Dionysus' maenads.
Carefully arranged across multiple levels, the mosaics are displayed so they can be admired from different angles and rediscovered from various heights. The detailing of the mosaics is exquisite and they are beautifully preserved, with many almost complete.
Walking through the museum also shows the layout of different houses and buildings, including the town baths, and there is other artwork from Zeugma on display. But it is definitely the mosaics that catch and keep the attention of all who visit, keeping the ancient gods alive.
From the old sea gods, to the children of Zeus, many of my old favourites appear on walls and floors, complete with their ubiquitous symbols. Aphrodite emerges fully-grown from her shell, her face unfortunately missing, but her body still sensual, and Demeter wears her crown of wheat.
Poseidon is surrounded by the creatures of the sea, and Dionysos is still carousing, reminding me of all the stories I’ve known for so many years. Seeing the Greek myths so bright and complete reminds me of reading them as a child.
For those who prefer something plainer and symmetrical, there are pretty patterned tiles, of timeless designs. Many adore the unnamed people and other more heroic scenes.
But the ancient goddesses and enduring myths are too close to my heart. I see them and remember the stories, and for a moment, I can look at the world with other eyes.
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum is located in Gaziantep, in Southern Turkey. The museum is usually open from 9am – 7pm during the summer and 10am – 5pm in the winter. The entrance fee is 30 Turkish lira.
Last Updated August 11, 2021