One of the finest mosaics discovered in recent years has come to light at Palmyra, the great oasis city in the desert, halfway between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. The total mosaic can be seen to the right with the two finest panels at the centre. There are numerous other smaller panels showing animals and fish, but they are all placed facing in different directions. Did the mosaic conceal some hidden meaning?
The finest panel at the centre shows Bellerophon. on the winged horse, Pegasus, slaying the Chimera.
Does this represent the Palmyrene King Odainat ,who in the 260s AD turned himself into a client king of the Romans and conquered the Sassanians, the newly emergent dynasty of the Persians who were posing a major threat to the Roman Empire?
Another picture of an archer slaying a tiger. Does this also represent Odainat slaying the Persians? Note that in both pictures, although the general outline is classical, the horseman is portrayed wearing eastern clothes with trousers.
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 12. Click here to subscribe