Numerous mosaics were revealed in recent archeological excavations around the cities of Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, which have hosted many civilizations since 4,000 B.C. Mosaics in the extravagant houses of rich merchants as well as members of military and bureaucracy living in these areas throughout history offer invaluable information about daily life, especially during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The ‘Mosaic Road’ region, which has attracted the attention of the world with these findings, has helped uncover important, previously unknown information.
Urfa was called Edessa during the Hellenistic Period under the rule of Seleukos, and became an independent kingdom during the late Roman period. A uniquely local quality and identity appeared, with the unique lifestyle created in the city during the dynasty of the Edessa kingdom, as also apparent in the locally created art, particularly mosaics.
No other examples of the mosaics indigenous to Edessa remain with inscriptions in Estrangelo Syriac, a dialect of the Arami language, depicting local cultural elements and family relations. These mosaics, almost all of which have been found in tombs, are at the necropolis (cemetery) areas located in the northern, western and southern parts of the city. It is also possible to find examples of Edessa mosaics in numerous distinguished museums in Australia, the US and France.
One of the most important mosaics in Urfa is the Haleplibahçe Amazons Mosaic. The only example where four Amazon queens have been depicted on the same board with their names inscribed in Hellenic is the Haleplibahçe Mosaic dating back to the 5-6th century A.D. The Haleplibahçe Mosaics are regarded as the most precious mosaics in the world due the technique used, artistic elements involved, and that they are made of 4 mm² stones taken from the Euphrates
Zeugma, which is considered the “Castle of Mesopotamia” by Strabon, is an important Hellenic and Roman city that served as a gateway to Mesopotamia on the Euphrates, connecting many civilizations throughout history. It was built in the military-city (katoikia) model due to its strategic position. During the excavations between 1993 and 2003, many villas from the Roman period were found in the ancient city of Zeugma. The mosaics on the floors of shallow pools, fountains and rooms in these villas feature theatrical, mythological scenes as well as geometrical patterns
Zeugma Mosaics from 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. are exquisite, with the quantity of small stones (tesserae) used per unit area, the diversity of colors used, the outstanding application of color tones, depth and perspective, the occasional artist’s signature, the frequent depiction of mythological events, unique themes such as Dionysos due to the development in viniculture, and the fact that they enlighten us about the personal characteristics of the house owner. It is also observed that the decoration on the surface of the mosaics has changed over time.
Zeugma, which peaked under the rule of Roman Empire, serves to illuminate previously unknown mythological and literary tales of the antique world through the rich mosaics found in the residences of the city’s inhabitants. These scenes based on previously unknown literary texts are invaluable contributions to ancient world literature and iconography.
During the recent archeological excavations in Kahramanmaraş, it has been discovered that Kahramanmaraş was a very important city in ancient times as a crossing point on the trade routes. Historical sources reveal that the name of Maraş during the Roman Period was Kaiseria Germanicia (city of the Emperor Germanikus). In some sources, it is mentioned that the name Germanicia was given to Antiokhos IV by the King of Commagene to ingratiate himself to the Roman Emperor. It is also said that the city was called Antiokheia during that period since Antiokhos I, the grandfather of Antiokhos IV, the person lying in the tomb on Mount Nemrut (54-36 B.C.), named the city after him, and calling it Antiokheia pros Tauro (Antakya on Taurus Mountains) in order to distinguish it from the other Antiokheia.
The city of Germanicia was deemed as very important since its namesake was an emperor or that its name was changed to honor an Emperor, and it is stated in the sources that high level administrators and citizens of the Empire were settled here. In Germanicia, which was granted the right to mint coins like some other big cities in Anatolia, coins were minted on behalf of the Roman Empire. These coins feature Tykhe, the goddess of the city, with the river god at her feet. It is believed that this river is Ceyhan (Pyramos). These coins were minted during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Lacius and Commodus.
Despite being destroyed frequently, Maraş held onto its importance as a trade center during the Roman period as well due to its location as a Taurus gateway point. As a result of the archeological findings revealed during the local excavations carried out in Maraş, which ensured the communication between the Mesopotamian communities and states with the civilizations in Anatolia, it was discovered that this city was in fact the Ancient City of Germanicia, a very important Roman city in the ancient times mentioned in the inscriptions but the location of which had been unknown. The archeological findings and coins revealed that the mosaics, which were recorded as the first documents regarding the Ancient City of Germanicia, dated back to the 4-6th centuries A.D.
The mosaics found contain detailed information about the social life, architecture, fauna and flora of that period. They also represent the clothing style of the people of the time, shedding light on the class difference and reflecting the Roman effect on the clothing styles. Additionally, it was observed that the artists of the mosaics applied a realistic and natural style on the mosaics, using many colors as well as various tones of these colors to add shading, which they were very particular about.
The greatest distinction that sets the Germanicia mosaics apart from others in the region is the depiction of the buildings reflecting the architecture of the period in the mosaics. Another unique element in the mosaics is that each villa picture in the mosaic represents a different village or small settlement of the period, and the Greek inscriptions on the villas imply ownership.
The famous historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who lived during the Roman Period in the 4th century, refers to Antakya saying, “No other city in the world could outdo this city in terms of the fertility of its soil, or the wealth of trade”. Second in size only to the one in Bardo in Tunusia, the Antakya Mosaic Museum is a spellbinding monument.
Antakya was called the “Queen of the East” by the emperors and explorers who admired the city in the past, and the city itself is like a summary of the world’s history with its heritage going back to 8,000 B.C., bearing the unique marks of 13 civilizations, and its world-famous mosaics.
Antiokheia, a glorious city from the Hellenistic and Roman periods located within the borders of the city of Hatay in the Antakya Province, is an archaic city which has never been without settlement. Antiokheia was established by Selevkos I. in 300 B.C. according to ancient records. Although the mosaics that were found during the excavations in the port city of Seleukeia Pieria and Daphne, the city of wealthy Roman merchants, come from public places such as baths, churches and palaestra, and some from burial chambers, most are from the floors in the houses.
The Antakya mosaics, as archeological objects, reveal the change and development along centuries in terms of 400 years of mosaic tradition in addition to aesthetic and artistic values. At the same time, they make it possible to observe the transformation in the socio-cultural life of the city. The mosaic panels with their figurative scenes in the Antakya mosaics were made in two main ways; using a ceramic frame baked in a workshop with the opus vermiculatum technique as emblemata before being placed in the floor; or by the direct placement of the mosaic stones on the floor as opus tesellatum. Part of the mosaics, which are divided among about 30 museums and personal collections around the world, are still exhibited in the Hatay Archeological Museum.
As project preparation activities, regular meetings are held with the representatives from the Municipalities who all support the project. Planned as a 4-day 3-night culture tour in the first phase, the project will include conferences and such events throughout the USA, Europe and Asia.