The Cosmological Mosaic in Mérida, Spain: Preserving Pagan Roman Tradition through Art

Zachary J. Richards


The Cosmological Mosaic, a Roman imperial period mosaic found in Mérida in western Spain, has been the subject of inquiry for numerous archaeologists and art historians since its excavation in the 1960s. Though a large portion is no longer extant, there is much to be gleaned about this mosaic through the stylistic, scientific, historical, political, and religious contexts in which it finds itself. The visual resemblance to other mosaics in the Middle East and North Africa show that this work was invested with connections and interests spanning across the large empire. This view is supported by the elements of astronomy found in the work and how they relate to the possibility of an abundantly prosperous society. With this, one may deduce what exactly would have occupied the missing portion of the mosaic. The time period in which the mosaic was likely constructed provides insight into the political climate of the era, which then reveals the possibility of religious motivation for installing the mosaic in its space. Here, I intertwine all of these factors to speculate on the significance of the Cosmological Mosaic, not only in terms of broader history of art, but for the motivations of its ancient Roman owner as well.


Roman; Mosaic, Cosmological Mosaic; Mérida; Spain

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