Ganymede and the eagle
The house of Dionysus. Late 2nd century CE. Paphos, Archaeological Park

Ganymede and the eagle.

The house of Dionysus. Late 2nd century CE.

Paphos, Archaeological Park

Further to the east one can admire one of the best mosaics of the house. It consists of a small panel set in a field of superimposed octagons and meanders. It represents the moment in which Zeus, in the form of an eagle, carries away young Ganymede.

Ganymede, the shepherd of Ilium (Troy), was considered the most beautiful of all mortals. Not even Zeus could resist his charm. One day, after Hebe the cup-bearer of the gods fell and spilled the nectar, Zeus seized the opportunity and turning himself into an eagle lifted Ganymede to Olympus to make him the new cup-bearer of the gods. There he “even now mixes the wine-cups, and supplies Jove with nectar, to the annoyance of Juno” (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book X).

The eagle with wings fully spread is gripping the boy protectively. In his turn Ganymede fastens himself onto the eagle with his hand round the bird’s neck. Ganymede is naked but for a cloak and boots. On his head he wears a Phrygian cap (that denotes his place of origin) and in his right hand he holds a spear. On the left, in mid air, we see a pelta that Ganymede has dropped in his confusion.

This is one of the most impressive mosaics but, as we have already said, it is quite clear that a miscalculation on the part of the mosaicist has necessitated the trimming of the tips of the eagle’s wings.

© 1998 Photo, text: W. A. Daszewski, D. Michaelidis. “Guide to the Paphos Mosaics”. Bank of Cyprus cultural foundation, 1998. P. 31—32.
Keywords: μωσαϊκό mosaic mosaics mosaica mosaici mosaik mosaïque mosaic mosaico floor meander bird eagle abduction rape of ganimede light shield pelte spear cup-bearer hat headdress headdress phrygian cap berretto frigio cappello frigio berretina maeonia mitra wing winged
History of Ancient Rome