The Mosaico de los Amores positively confirms A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.
However, historians aren’t always overjoyed when A Thing of Beauty is unearthed.
Once upon a time Cástulo was a prospering city associated with lead and silver mining.
Nowadays, from a distance, Cástulo is just an undistinguished flat hilltop.
Cástulo is also remarkably undistinguished in Wikipedia.
Castulo was an Iberian town and bishopric near modern Linares.
Evidence of human presence since the Neolithic period has been found there.
It was the seat of the Oretani, an Iberian tribe which settled in the vicinity in the north of the Guadalquivir River beginning in the sixth century BC.
According to tradition, a local princess named Himilce married Hannibal, gained the alliance of the city with the Carthaginian Empire.
In 213 BC, Castulo was the site of Hasdrubal Barca’s crushing victory over the Roman army with a force of roughly 40,000 Carthaginian troops plus local Iberian mercenaries.
Thereafter the Romans made a pact with the residents of city – who then betrayed the Carthaginians – and they became foederati (allied people) of Rome.
Its medieval name was Cazlona. It lost importance even more when Andalusia fell under Islamic rule in the Middle Ages, and at the same time the nearby village of Linares grew because of its strong castle – first built as an Arab fortress, then rebuilt by the Christians after the Reconquista – overlooking the city.
In 1227 the walls of Castulo were destroyed, and the town was depopulated shortly afterwards.
Enthusiasm for Cástulo is only expressed in the French and Spanish versions of Wikipedia.
The site of the Ibero-Roman city of Cástulo, five kilometers from Linares, comprises a vast archeological area of 3,123 hectares belonging to the municipal term of this population and those of Lupión and Torreblascopedro.
Located on the right bank of the river Guadalimar, the city was one of the main urban centers of the peninsular south during the antiquity, for its extension and for its strategic position as a communications node and privileged access to the mining resources of Sierra Morena.
20 Minutos – 26 July 2011
Another of the findings is a monumental sculpture of a lion of stone of 1.20 by 0.90 meters and a ton of weight, that would be located, presumably next to another similar, flanking a northern access of the city that could have been in functioning from the Carthaginian domination until the beginning of the first century.
There are also two lamps, in the area identified as the market, which present the symbol of the menorah, along with other fragments that show this Jewish symbol, which could indicate the existence in Cástulo of a Jewish community….
Other remarkable discoveries are a large cistern of the period, and a set of fragments of carved glass, belonging to a patena of the fourth century that shows one of the earliest representations of Christ.
Made of glass of greenish tonality, patena measures 22 cm in diameter and 4 cm in height, retains 80% of its volume and shows by means of the sgraffito technique a beardless Jesus and curly hair in the Alexandrian style, which holds a gemstone cross in the right hand and the Holy Scriptures on the left, and which is flanked by two apostles, possibly Peter and Paul.
The scene is framed between two palm trees, a traditional allegory of the beyond in Christian iconography;
This is probably because there are a few issues with the historical narrative.
These issues are generally overlooked in polite academic circles.
1) How was Cástulo so effectively levelled and buried under two metres of dirt and rubble?
2) Why do pre-Roman coins struck in Cástulo display a strong Indo-Greek influence?
3) Why do artefacts found in Roman Cástulo depict Greek imagery?
Archaeologists working in the archaeological site of Cástulo de Linares (Jaén), dependent on the Ministry of Culture, have found a Erote, winged god of love, engraved in a rock crystal that measures in its long side 16 mm and dated to the first century.
They locate in the deposit of Cástulo a glass jewel engraved with a Erote
Europa Press – 1 July 2015
The Erotes are a collective of winged gods associated with love and sexual intercourse in Greek mythology.
The Erotes became a motif of Hellenistic art, and may appear in Roman art in the alternate form of multiple Cupids or Cupids and Psyches.
4) Why do Roman mosaics in Cástulo depict striking Indo-Greek symbolism?
Gigapan – Mosaico de los Amores imágenes by ForvmMMX
http://gigapan.com/gigapans/129300 [high resolution – mosaic elements]
Gigapan – Mosaico de los Amores imágenes by ForvmMMX
http://gigapan.com/gigapans/128754 [high resolution – complete mosaic]
5) Why do Roman mosaics in Cástulo depict Greek mythological narratives?
The mosaic, called Mosaico de los Amores by its discoverers, measures 12 by 6 meters and shows geometrical motifs around two mythological scenes in the center, the Paris trial and the myth of the goddess Selene and Endymion
Paris, also known as Alexander, the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, appears in a number of Greek legends.
The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and (in slightly later versions of the story) to the foundation of Rome.
In Greek mythology, Selene is the goddess of the moon.
In Greek mythology, Endymion, was variously a handsome Aeolian shepherd, hunter, or king who was said to rule and live at Olympia in Elis, and he was also venerated and said to reside on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor.
In fact, Cástulo makes it easy to believe the Roman Empire was really Indo-Greek.
In this regard, remember that, until the discovery of Castulo pavement, the representation of the famous legend of the “Judgment of Paris” was documented in only two Hispanics mosaics – that of the villa “Alcaparral” in Casariche (Sevilla) and another discovered in Noheda (Cuenca), of the fourth century A.D. -, in Caesarea mosaic in the Museum of Cherchel (Algeria), in Sarmizegetusa pavement (Romania) and in two of the Eastern Empire, the Atrium House at Antioch, in the first half of the second century A.D., and the Baths of Cos, between the late second and early third century A.D..
Written and Visual Culture About the Mosaic of Castulo
Maria Luz Neira Jiménez – JMR 8, 2015 61-79
An Indo-Greek Empire with a rich cultural heritage.
Heracles was both hero and god, as Pindar says heroes theos; at the same festival sacrifice was made to him, first as a hero, with a chthonic libation, and then as a god, upon an altar: thus he embodies the closest Greek approach to a “demi-god”.
Strabo and Herodotus have referred 10 temples of Hercules alias Heracles and Radhamanthus at a number of places in the ancient world.
All those names signify Lord Krishna.
Either way, the Cástulo mosaics are most definitely magnificent.
FOOTNOTE with a Sting in the Tail
The similarities in mythologies make it difficult to differentiate Greek from Roman imagery.
How can you tell the difference between:
Greek Heracles, Roman Hercules and Etruscan Hercle?
All three are butt naked muscle men with a big cudgel and draped lion skin.
The twelve labours of Heracles or Hercules are a series of episodes concerning a penance carried out by Heracles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, whose name was later Romanised as Hercules.
They were accomplished over 12 years at the service of King Eurystheus.
The episodes were later connected by a continuous narrative.
The establishment of a fixed cycle of twelve labours was attributed by the Greeks to an epic poem, now lost, written by Peisander, dated about 600 BC.
In Etruscan religion and myth, Hercle (also Heracle or Hercl), the son of Tinia and Uni, was a version of the Greek Heracles, depicted as a muscular figure often carrying a club and wearing a lionskin.
He is a popular subject in Etruscan art, particularly bronze mirrors, which show him engaged in adventures not known from the Greek myths of Heracles or the Roman and later classical myths of Hercules.
Hercle can be recognized in Etruscan art from his attributes, or is sometimes identified by name.
Since Etruscan literature has not survived, the meaning of the scenes in which he appears can only be interpreted by comparison to Greek and Roman myths, through information about Etruscan myths preserved by Greek and Latin literature, or through conjectural reconstructions based on other Etruscan representations.
In other words:
Attribution often depends upon the predetermined historical context.
This makes life a lot easier for the imagery experts.
Unfortunately, it can also make a predetermined expert opinion totally worthless.
Is the central figure [below] really a beardless Jesus with curly hair in the Alexandrian style?
Or could the central figure actually be the Greek god Apollo?
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology.
The life-size so-called “Adonis” found in 1780 on the site of a villa suburbana near the Via Labicana in the Roman suburb of Centocelle is identified as an Apollo by modern scholars.
In the late 2nd century CE floor mosaic from El Djem, Roman Thysdrus, he is identifiable as Apollo Helios by his effulgent halo, though now even a god’s divine nakedness is concealed by his cloak, a mark of increasing conventions of modesty in the later Empire.
Another haloed Apollo in mosaic, from Hadrumentum, is in the museum at Sousse.
The conventions of this representation, head tilted, lips slightly parted, large-eyed, curling hair cut in locks grazing the neck, were developed in the 3rd century BCE to depict Alexander the Great.
Some time after this mosaic was executed, the earliest depictions of Christ would also be beardless and haloed.
A “haloed Apollo” with “head tilted, lips slightly parted, large-eyed, curling hair”?
I guess it all depends upon your prejudices, preconceptions and the predefined context.