Last updated 9 November 2020
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.
It is filled with art from the ancient town of Zeugma, believed to have been founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals, with many rooms reconstructed in the museum. The mosaics show mythological scenes, patterns and flowers and some unknown faces, like the famous Gypsy Girl (pictured above).
Looking down at reconstructed at the Poseidon mosaic
Europa is carried away by Zeus in the form of a beautiful white bull
Carefully arranged across multiple levels, the mosaics are displayed at different angles and are rediscovered at greater heights. The detailing 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.
The Greek god, Oceanus, the divine representation of the sea – the river that circles the world – with his sister and wife Tethys
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 after all these years, 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.
Going to war
Dionysos, Telete and Satyros frocklicking
Demeter the Greek Goddess of the harvest and fertility
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.