Byzantine Mosaics Animals


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In Byzantine times, the floors of shops and houses in the area of the Souks were laid with mosaic pavements. The archaeological excavations of 1996 unearthed some seven hundred square meters of mosaics, most of them dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries A. D. They were recovered from five large villas and a colonnaded street with its shops. The colonnades had mosaic pavements with Greek letters marking the address of each shop. Most mosaics displayed geometric patterns, although a few incorporated figurative designs. One panel found in the shop, designated with the letter Epsilon, depicts a roaring lion. The mosaic lay at the entrance of the shop, most likely to provide protection. A mosaic in a house behind the colonnaded street depicted the mythical scene of Leda and the Swan. A panel discovered in another house carried a moral message: “Envy is the worst of all evils; there is only one good in it, it eats at the heart and eyes of the beholder. ” Recording, cleaning, lifting and storing the large number of mosaics was carried out with great care. Today the ‘Jealousy Mosaic’ can be viewed in Beirut’s National Museum, while some 250 panels of mosaic fragments are kept in storage.