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Museum of Mosaics – Devnya

Museum of Mosaics in Devnya

The Museum of Mosaics is a museum in the town of Devnya in Varna Province, northeastern Bulgaria. The museum, built on top of a large ruined Roman villa from Late Antiquity, exhibits mosaics from the Roman and early Byzantine city of Marcianopolis, as well as other archaeological artifacts.

The best-known of the mosaics in the museum is the depiction of the gorgon Medusa, which covers the floor of the tablinum, or office of the house’s owner, which is 8 m × 8 m in size. The image of Medusa is surrounded by a round geometric shield, the shield of Athena. Despite the gorgon’s reputation as a horrible monster and the presence of snakes instead of hair, the image in the Museum of Mosaics is rather tame and not particularly frightening. Instead, the role of the mosaic was that of a talisman to protect the home from the forces of evil. Medusa is depicted with her face turned slightly to the right, though with her eyes staring left. Tiles of various shades have been employed in order to lend volume to the image.

The mosaic of Zeus and Antiope lies on the floor of the cubiculum, or bedchamber of the villa, which measures 5.60 m × 4.40 m. The image in the House of Antiope is among the few contemporaneous depictions of that episode. As in mythology, Zeus is portrayed as a young satyr who kidnaps Antiope, attracted by her beauty. The mosaic is accompanied by two inscriptions in Ancient Greek, which explicitly label the characters as ΣΑΤΥΡΟΣ (“satyr”) and ΑΝΤΙΟΠΗ (“Antiope”). Other mosaics in the villa include the story of Ganymede, who is transported to Mount Olympus by Zeus transformed into an eagle, which covers the oecus, the largest premise; the badly damaged Seasons mosaic in the women’s apartments, which features images of animals, geometric motifs and personifications of the four seasons, of which Autumn has been preserved; and the geometric Pannonian Volutes mosaic, moved to the museum from another ruined ancient building of Marcianopolis.