The Roman villa of Piazza della Vittoria, Palermo

The Mosaic of the Seasons, found inside a Roman villa in the centre of Palermo, is today kept in the Salinas Archaeological Museum.

The triumphant figure of Neptune, god of the seas, stands out in the splendid mosaic of the seasons found in the Roman domus of villa Bonanno, in Palermo, and now preserved in the A. Salinas Archaeological Museum. The bust of the God, together with other allegorical portrayals, is enclosed in an octagonal panel decorated at the edges with a refined ornamental pattern featuring a double weave.

The collection


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Mosaico delle Stagioni, Palerno

Il Museo Archeologico A. Salinas di Palermo, divenuto museo nazionale nel 1860 e oggi dedicato al celebre Archeologo Antonio Salinas, possiede una delle più ricche collezioni di arte punica e greca; ma fu soprattutto l'afflusso di materiali provenienti dagli scavi effettuati in gran parte in Sicilia, tra cui i grandi mosaici rinvenuti a Palermo, che determinò la rilevanza e il ruolo centrale del museo, considerato l'istituzione museale più importante e antica dell'isola.

Mosaico delle Stagioni, Palermo

Oltre al più celebre Mosaico delle Stagioni, il Museo Archeologico A. Salinas di Palermo conserva un altro straordinario tesoro: il mosaico pavimentale che raffigura Orfeo circondato dagli animali. Secondo il mito, infatti, Orfeo, figlio di Calliope, fu un grande poeta e cantore, che con la lira ricevuta in dono da Apollo, suo presunto padre, suonava melodie incantevoli che avevano il potere ammaliante di smuovere le montagne, placare le tempeste e quietare le belve più feroci.

Il Mito

The figure of Neptune, god of the sea, stands out in the majestic Mosaico delle Stagioni preserved at the Museum A. Salinas of Palermo. His festival, the Neptunalia, was celebrated on 23rd July with water games such as the famous naval battles (naumachie), grand and extremely expensive shows where real naval battles were represented taking place in natural or artificial reservoirs flooded for the occasion. The most famous was the one organised in Rome in 46 BC by Julius Caesar in order to celebrate his triumphs.

The art work

Villa Bonanno di Piazza della Vittoria in Palermo was discovered by chance in 1868 by the Director of Sicilian Antiquities, Francesco Cavallari, who began to bring to light the remains of two Roman constructions that had belonged to patrician families. Inside one of the two buildings, comprising a house and thermal baths, the famous Mosaic of the Seasons was found, which dates back to the Severan age, i.e. the early part of the 2nd century A.D. The rooms were decorated with an elaborate mosaic floor comprising a large panel, edged with a yellow, red and green dual-weave border, which was in turn divided into 20 panels separated by 12 circular and almond-shaped medallions decorated with fish. The subjects in the large mosaic rug, of an oriental style, are placed precisely: male figures sitting on one side, Zeus’ loves on the other while the central section contains four large medallions with the allegories of the seasons.

The last part of the panel is dedicated to the four Atlases and the busts of the gods, placed diagonally: Helios, Hercules and the great triumphant Neptune all surround the figures of Dionysus and the Griffon, with Europa and Zeus who takes on the appearance of a bull. This iconological path in the mosaic conjures up the allegories of the Dionysian world that refers to the initiation phases of mystery religions, which were widespread during the Severan age alongside the official religion.