We have talked about fascinating Roman mosaic specimens from distant Switzerland to the cultural heartland of what is now Israel. This time, the focus shifts to the war-ridden land of Syria, which was an ancient bastion of power for the Roman emperors of the Severan dynasty (circa 3rd century CE). In that regard, in an ongoing excavation, archaeologists have uncovered a massive 1300 sq ft Roman mosaic in the town of Rastan, situated near Homs – the third largest city of modern Syria.
Quite intriguingly, the massive 4th-century mosaic presents a rare depiction of the famed Amazons – the warrior women from Greek and Roman mythology. According to Herodotus, beyond sensationalized storytelling and mythology, these women were (possibly) related to the Scythian groups. They came from the geographical region of Sarmatia (present-day southern Ukraine and southern Russia).
Furthermore, the intricate mosaic also depicts scenes from the Trojan War and the Roman sea god Neptune, along with forty of his concubines. However, the researchers at Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities have still not identified the functionality of the main building that the mosaic was a part of. And while one of the hypotheses relates to how it was a public bathhouse, the answer will become evident once the excavation is complete.
Now lastly, given Syria’s recent past of armed conflicts and civil wars, the town of Rastan was often ignored by archaeologists – given its location on the frontlines. In fact, even till 2018, the entire settlement was in the hands of the opposition forces, until captured back by the government-backed army.
To that end, back in 2017, the mosaic was even put up for sale by armed groups with listings on social media platforms. But fortunately enough, the incredible ancient structure was saved, unlike many other famed sites, like Palmyra being partially destroyed by ISIS. And currently, government agencies, in collaboration with the Lebanese Nabu Museum, have successfully conserved the sites in and around Rastan.