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Mosaic depicting two wrestlers

Mosaic depicting two wrestlers
© BA Antiquities Museum/M. Mounir

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Antiquities of the BA Site

Mosaic depicting two wrestlers

Category:
Architecture, architectural components, mosaics
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Ptolemaic Period, 2nd cent. BCE
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, El Shatby, Bibliotheca Alexandrina Site
Material(s):
  • Rock, marble
  • Rock, limestone
Length:
3.25 m;
Width:
2.75 m
Hall:
Antiquities of the BA Site


Description

Mosaic portraying two naked men wrestling. One is white and the other, of whom only the head survives, is black. The white wrestler is standing upright on the tips of his toes, trying to seize his opponent. A remarkable expression of intense concentration and resistance is shown on the black wrestler's face. On the right side of the Emblema  is a water fountain. The mosaic in question could have paved a public bath or gymnasium.

The mosaic is distinguished by its strong expression and the accurately chosen colors. It was possibly part of a wider image that was surrounded by a decorative ornament with the colors of the sea, one of the attributes of Alexandria mosaic school.

The other border is the decorative famous Greek Meander.
 
 The scene illustrates the lifestyle that prevailed in Alexandria during the three centuries after Alexander the Great died.

The Olympic Games

The Olympiad of 776 B.C. was the first major athletic festival of the ancient world. The Olympic Games, as they are known today, were begun in Olympia in Greece to honor the god Zeus. It was the legendary home of Titans, the mythical giants who ruled  the earth before the Olympian gods who resided at the Olympus mountain. The games were held every four years for about 12 centuries. They ended in the late A.D. 300s on the order of the Emperor Theodosius.

The athletic events were open to all Greek men, but not slaves. However only rich aristocrats could afford the time to train and travel to these major athletic events.


Anatomy

There is no doubt that the deep and wide scientific development that took place in Alexandria from its founding has had an impact in the community of Alexandria, Egypt and even Hellenistic society in general. The features of this seemed to influence the Art of the Hellenistic era when artists tended to implement the pieces of sculpture reflecting new concepts and assets of dissection to the human body, that science, which was a school of Alexandria scientific merit in performing its development, especially by the world famous Alexandrian “Hirophilos”. The two mosaics discovered in the library site were the best proof of that, since not only for the artist to show his capabilities to understand and implement the various feelings on the faces (both, faces of animals or humans), but also expressed a clear understanding of the dissection of animal and human body.  

Medical researches first began during the 3rd century B.C., on a regular basis, to dissect and even vivisect humans. Levels of sophistication in anatomy largely unsurpassed until the renaissance. At that time sculptors started to show the anatomy of their bodies. In addition to their impressive achievements, but none of their followers made any really significant contribution.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

References
  • Zahi Hawass, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The Archaeology Museum (Cairo: The Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2002): 52-53.
  • Carroll Moulton, ed., “Mosaic”, in Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students, vol. 2 (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1998).
  • David Sacks, “Olympic Games”, in Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World, edited by Oswyn Murray, illustrated by Margaret Bunson (New York, NY: Facts on File, 1995).
  • Doreya Said and Ahmed Abd El-Fattah, “Découvertes Récentes dans le Quartier Royal Ptolémaïque de L'Ancienne Alexandrie dans la Zone de la «Bibliotheca Alexandrina»”, Le Monde Copte 23 (1993): 111-117.
  • Doreya Said and Ahmed Abd El-Fattah, “Découvertes archéologiques dans le quartier royal ptolémaïque de l’Ancienne Alexandrie”, Égypte, Afrique et Orient 6 (1997): 19-22.
  • Dorreya Saïd, “Deux mosaïques hellénistiques récemment découvertes à Alexandrie”, Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (BIFAO) 94 (1994): 377-380.
  • Mona Serry, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Antiquities Museum, introduction by Ismail Serageldin (Alexandria: Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Antiquities Museum, 2015): 126, 129-130, 323.
  • Sean Sheehan, “Olympic Games”, in Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece (Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002): 104:106.
  • Sean Sheehan, “Olympus”, in Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece (Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002): 106.
  • Anne-Marie Guimier-Sorbets, “Alexandrie: les mosaïques hellénistiques découvertes sur le terrain de la nouvelle Bibliotheca Alexandrina”, Revue Archéologique, no. 2 (1998): 263-290.
  • Anne-Marie Guimier-Sorbets, “La mosaïque aux lutteurs de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Techniques picturales et mosaïstiques dans les palais d'Alexandrie”, Musiva et Sectilia 1 (2004): 15-34.
  • Graham Speake, ed., “Anatomy”, in A Dictionary of Ancient History, Blackwell History Dictionaries (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994): 31-32.
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