Putting the Pieces Together: Roman Mosaics in Spain and Portugal
Phelan, Kate E.
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Much archaeological work has been done in all the areas of the Roman Empire, and much has been discovered about how the Romans and those under their rule lived. One important way of determining and understanding this lifestyle is the study of the arts of these people. A major influence from the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula can be seen in the art of the mosaics found there. Typical Roman mosaic styles are found all over the peninsula, but especially along the coasts, including many in the Roman colony of Emporiae. Second and first century BCE mosaics here have designs of white and a few black tesserae (stones) set in opus signinum with patterns of meander, grid of lozenges, and shield of triangles. By the first century CE, however, a shift in taste here led to “large expanses of black-and-white geometric mosaic, covering the floor with all-over patterns” (Dunbabin 144). The Romans also brought their taste for verism (realism) to the Peninsula. In the second century CE, the Hispanic characteristic of limited touches of color in an otherwise bichrome mosaic appeared. A four color technique employing the use of red and ochre was common. In the later third and fourth centuries, polychromy became the norm.