Orpheus and the beasts
The house of Orpheus. Late 2nd — early 3rd century CE. Paphos, Archaeological Park

Orpheus and the beasts.

The house of Orpheus. Late 2nd — early 3rd century CE.

Paphos, Archaeological Park.

This mosaic decorates a room measuring 4.25 × 5.10 m. Apart from a rather simple geometric frame, the whole floor is occupied by one large panel. Orpheus is seated on a rock and with his left hand holds a lyre, the sounds of which attract a multitude of creatures that gather enchanted around him. With his right hand he holds the plectrum and with his finger he indicates the effect his music has on the animals. The magic of Orpheus’ music is also known from two other myths. The most famous is the rescue of his wife Eurydice from the Underworld after Orpheus had enchanted Hades and Persephone with his songs. The other refers to the safe passage of the Argonauts from the dreaded Sirens, whose calls Orpheus drowned with his music.

Orpheus is clad in elaborate clothes and wears a Phrygian cap. The beasts around him are (starting from the bottom left) a fox, a bear and a boar. On a higher register there is a seated cow, a leopard and a lion. Behind the cow there is a partridge, while on Orpheus’ left there is a tiger and on his right a deer. Next to the rock there is a large coiled snake. Higher up on the left there is an eagle, a peacock and fragments of another bird, while on the right there is a parrot (?) and the legs of yet another bird that cannot be identified.

The most important feature of this mosaic is the inscription that runs above Orpheus. It reads ΤΙΤΟΣ (or ΓΑΙΟΣ) ΠΙΝΝΙΟΣ ΡΕΣΤΙΤΟΥΤΟΣ ΕΠΟΙΕΙ, in other words, “Titus (or Gaius) Pinnius Restitutus made it”. This, however, does not necessarily mean that Restitutus was the artist that made the mosaic. In the period we are dealing with, to make something could equally well signify to pay for something to be made. In this case then, Titus Pinnius Restitutus would be the owner of the house. Whichever the exact meaning, such inscriptions are not all that common and this is the first one we know of from Roman Cyprus. It is interesting to note that although written in Greek characters, the name is Latin.

© 1998 Photo, text: W. A. Daszewski, D. Michaelidis. “Guide to the Paphos Mosaics”. Bank of Cyprus cultural foundation, 1998. P. 49, 51.
Keywords: μωσαϊκό mosaic mosaics mosaica mosaici mosaik mosaïque greek greca greco greche griechische griechisches grecque grecquesё mosaico floor orpheus rock lyre plectrum musical instrument music animals song phrygian cap berretto frigio cappello berretina beasts beast fox bear boar cow leopard lion partridge tiger deer snake eagle peacock bird birds parrot inscription titus pinnius restitutus gaius artist