chapter  6
14 Pages

DIONYSOS AND HERAKLES IN GALILEE

The Sepphoris mosaic in context
BySean Freyne

The discovery of the now famous Dionysos mosaic from Sepphoris in 1987 is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Eric Meyers and his teams’ discoveries in Galilee (Meyers et al. 1987). This elaborately conceived mosaic, adorning the floor of what must have been the triclinium in a large atriumstyle villa, has been rightly acclaimed for the detail of its conception and the superb level of the craftsmanship. Josephus’ description of the city as ‘the ornament of all Galilee’ comes readily to mind in describing the design, colouring and thematic richness of the mosaic. Yet for all the brilliant execution of the work, it has not featured as prominently as one might have expected in subsequent discussions of Galilean culture and society. It seems as though scholars have been so impressed by its brilliance that they have simply continued to admire it, considering it too precious to be questioned in the messy task of piecing together the fabric of social and cultural life in Galilee. So complete and exquisite is the work in its own right (despite some inevitable ravages of time), that it seems to call for the finely tuned skills of art historians to highlight its details rather than the multi-varied competencies with which historians must necessarily operate.