Alexander Mosaic

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Alexander Mosaic, also known as the Battle of Issus Mosaic, is a Roman floor mosaic originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii (an alleged imitation of a Philoxenus of Eretria or Apelles' painting, 4th century BCE) that dates from circa 100 BCE. It is typically dated in the second half of the century between 120 and 100 BCE.


In the 1830s when it was first discovered, the mosaic was thought to represent a battle scene depicted in the Iliad, but architectural historians have found the mosaic actually depicts the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia, which took place about 150 years before the House of the Faun was constructed.

This mosaic may be inspired by or copied from a Greek painting finished in the late fourth century BCE, probably by the artist Philoxenus of Eretria.

The Alexander Mosaic is complemented by other floor mosaics with Nilotic scenes and theatrical masks.

This work of art is a combination of different artistic traditions such as Italic, Hellenistic, and Roman. The mosaic is considered "Roman" based on the broader context of its time and location in relation to the later Roman Republic. The original is preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. The mosaic is believed to be a copy of an early 3rd-century BC Hellenistic painting.

Mosaic Details


It depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia and measures 2.72 by 5.13 metres (8 feet 11 inches × 16 feet 10 inches). Unlike most Pompeian pavements of the late second and early first centuries, this mosaic is made of tesserae, and not the more common opus signinum, or other kinds of stone chips set in mortar.

The grouping of the combatants, the characterization of the individual figures, the skill with which the expressions have been captured and the delicacy of the colouring give the picture a high rank among ancient works of art. Patterns of wear on the mosaic suggest how it might have been viewed by guests of the house. A copy of the mosaic has now been placed in situ while the original can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.


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