Civico Museo Archeologico Platina, Piadena

This page was last updated on 28th January 2005.


medium white and black mosaic
dimensions overall length and breadth 52"
length and breadth of centre 7½"
average path width 1½"
average inter-path gap 1"
original location Calvatone (6 km east of Piadena)
layout clockwise; 4(9(¼)+); I9,3(2(O3,I,I,O3),I8),2(O,O3),I,2(I,I3)); square.
visit 2004
local information

The mosaic and the domus of the maze

In the course of the excavation of the site of Bedriacum in the years 1959/1961 by the Lombardy Superintendence of Antiquities, there came to light a famous residential complex, referred to in the literature by the name of "domus of the maze" on account of the paved decoration that is exhibited here.

[The removal of the mosaic after its discovery was eased by lighting a fire to dry out the ground.]

The house, whose exploration has been resumed recently by the Universities of Milan and Pavia, consisted of at least six rooms, paved with crushed pottery not decorated or fired, two of which were situated on the south, perhaps slaves’ quarters, one of these also containing a basin for workmen’s ablutions. The other four rooms had pavements of decorated crushed pottery; two of these, being smaller and nearly square in shape (2.60m x 2.50m), could be reckoned cubicola (small rooms); they were decorated with regularly arranged tesserae with one stone tile in the centre.

The two larger ones on the other hand would have probably had the function of triclinia (banqueting rooms): one (3.70m x 5.90m) was adorned with polychrome polygonal floor tiles, marking out a zone in the shape of a "U"; whereas the other (3.60m x 5.90m) had a layout of mosaic tesserae and, in a position off-centre, a square mosaic with sides of 1.35m, representing a maze surrounded by walls and in the centre the dying Minotaur.

The crenellated walls are punctuated by doors to the centre from all four sides, while in the corners four towers appear. The maze, composed of four sections of which three have a meandering course and the fourth, which forms the termination of the path, is coiled, may be compared in this respect with the two mosaic mazes at Pompei and with the one from the via Cadolini in Cremona: in none of these other famous cases does the fusion of the two schema occur.

[Cremona, Ala Ponzone collection. Attica black-figure ancretta (6th cent. B.C.), with representation of the killing of the Minotaur.]

The figure of the dying Minotaur, represented without its killer Theseus, depicted in polychrome tesserae, does not appear to be of refined workmanship; however the choice of the "heroic" subject suggests, together with the overall scale of the domus, the elevated social position of its owner. Judging from the details of the excavation and from considerations of its stylistic character and iconography, there have been proposed various chronologies, for the mosaic and hence for the entire residential complex, that date them between the middle of the 1st century B.C. and the end of the 1st century A.D; however, thanks to more recent and detailed research, it seems certain to be not later than the Augustan period (last decades of the 1st century B.C. / beginnings of the 1st century A.D.).

[Cremona, the mosaic of via Cadolini.]

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