Turkey // The Mediterranean coast and the Hatay //

Archeological Museum

The collection of locally unearthed Roman mosaics in Antakya’s Archeological Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi) ranks among the best of its kind in the world. Still in almost pristine condition, they make for an impressive display, laid out throughout the first four rooms of the museum.

Most of the mosaics were unearthed at the suburb of Daphne (now Harbiye), which was Antioch’s main holiday resort in Roman times. That origin is reflected in the sense of leisured decadence that pervades many of the Greco-Roman mythology scenes. A good example is the so-called Buffet Mosaic (no. 4), a vivid depiction of the rape of Ganymede, abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle, and a banquet scene showing different courses of fish, ham, eggs and artichokes. Memorable images in room 3 include a fine portrait of Thetis and Oceanus (no. 1), and a fascinating depiction of the Evil Eye (no. 6) – a superstition that still has remarkable resonance in modern Turkey. Room 4 continues with an inebriated Dionysos, too drunk to stand (no. 12), and Orpheus surrounded by animals entranced by the beauty of his music (no. 23). Climb the spiral staircase in the corner for a bird’s-eye view of the floor mosaic.

After the mosaics, the rest of the museum seems a little mundane, though stand-out pieces include two stone lions, which served as column bases during the eighth century BC, and the Antakya sarcophagus, where the remains of two women and a man, as well as the fine gold jewellery with which they were buried, are displayed.

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