Nile or, to be
precise, the Villa of
the Nile Mosaic, is situated near the port of the ancient
city of Lepcis
It is named after three mosaics from the second century with
Nilotic scenes that were
excavated inside this mansion, which was situated close to the beach.
Pictures of the river Nile were common in the ancient world: near
Lepcis, they have also been found in the Villa
Selene and the Villa
Dar Buc Ammera.
The first mosaic shows a ship entering a port that may resemble the one at Lepcis Magna with its temple of Jupiter Dolichenus. Several erotes accompany the boat; one of them has discovered an interesting way of windsurfing (using an amphora as board).
The second mosaic represents the Nile flood. The symbolism is complex. To the right, we see two bald priests welcoming the waters: the river god is shown to the left, sitting on a hippopotamus. (Like most ancients, the maker had probably never seen a hippo; his representation is not better than the description by Herodotus of Halicarnassus.) All in all, fourteen figures -twelve erotes and two ladies- are in the procession. The number fourteen represents the fourteen cubits of a good Nile flood; the two ladies also represent Upper and Lower Egypt. Finally, the herm to the right reads Agathe Tyche, "good luck".
The third mosaic is probably the best: it shows several fishermen at work.
The fourth mosaic has a different theme and may have been made a bit later than the three first works of art. It shows how six ladies who are washing the winged horse Pegasus. I am not aware of any ancient myth about this subject.
|There are several other mosaics, which show hunting scenes. They were made
in the fourth century and must
have been added later. This mosaic, although very damaged, shows
several people, some on horseback, trying to kill a boar. It is hard to
imagine that this is a scene from Libyan daily life: boars typically
live in forests with broad-leaved trees, which are rare on the southern
part of the Mediterranean world.
| In the upper part of the scene, a man is turning
and about to throw a javelin to a lioness; in the lower part, the
hunter has already struck at the lion. The lion chase was a typical
activity of the nobility of ancient Libya, also mentioned in the works
of Cyrene, a younger contemporary of the artists who made the
hunting mosaic in the Villa Nile.
All these mosaics can be seen in Libya's beautiful National Archaeological Museum in Tripoli.
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 16 May 2012