Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Italica

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across. This installment of the series will focus on Italica.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

Italica

The archaeological site of Italica is located in Santiponce, not far from Seville. It is one of the most important sites of Andalusia’s archaeological heritage. Italica was founded in 206 BCE during the Second Punic War by the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio who settled his Italian veterans on this site. Although the nearby town of Hispalis (Seville) would always remain a larger city, Italica became an important centre of Roman culture and was awarded the title of colonia. Hadrian gave the colony his family name, Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica. Under his rule, Italica enjoyed a period of splendor during which its architectural development flourished with the construction of new public buildings such as the amphitheatre as well as houses with well preserved mosaic floors. About twenty intricate mosaics lie amongst the uncovered ruins still in situ.

Some of the houses uncovered include the House of the Planetarium with its hexagonal mosaics depicting the seven planetary deities who gave their names to the days of the week. In the center is Venus (Friday). Anticlockwise from bottom center are Jupiter (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday), Helios or Sol (Sunday), Luna or Selene (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), and Mercury (Wednesday).

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Sun, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Helios/Sun (Sunday), Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

The House of the Birds is a large residence endowed with a good quantity of mosaics of high quality. One of them, the Bird Mosaic, gave its name to the house and consists of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds.

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

The House of Neptune is named after a mosaic with all kinds of aquatic animals. In the centre is Neptune, the god of the sea with his trident. The mosaic is surrounded by a wide edge that is decorated with Nilotic scenes where one can see crocodiles, a hippopotamus, a palm tree, and several pygmies fighting ibises.

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica. Image © Carole Raddato.

View the previous entry in this series, the Lebrija Palace, and stay tuned for future installments.

Originally published at Following Hadrian; republished with permission.
Filed under: Travel

by

Carole Raddato’s favourite hobby is travelling and for the last 8 years she has taken a huge interest in the history of the ancient world. She has dedicated all her free time to this passion. She loves to share with other history fans all the incredible facts and stories that she discovers throughout her journeys. She is neither a professional photographer nor an ancient history scholar, but she hopes that everybody can enjoy her photos. She is particularly interested in everything related to the emperor Hadrian whom she finds fascinating. He was himself an incessant traveller, visiting every province in the Empire during his reign. When Carole is looking for new ideas for her travels, she usually takes inspiration from his journeys and it is a great motivation for her to follow him in his footsteps.