In Brief

1,400-Square-Foot Roman Mosaic of Hercules’s Labors Found in Cyprus

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The mosaic at Larnaca depicting the Labors of Hercules (photo courtesy Cyprus’ Department of Antiquities)

Construction crews working on the sewage system beneath the southern coastal city of Larnaca in Cyprus recently found themselves face-to-face with Roman-era scenes of toil: a large-scale mosaic floor of the Labors of Hercules dating to the 2nd century CE. According to Cyprus’s Department of Antiquities, remains from that period are rare finds in Larnaca, the country’s third-largest city, and the mosaic provides evidence that what was once known as the city-kingdom of Kition had a significant role in establishing Roman culture in the region. One of the reasons why ancient artifacts, especially on a scale this large, are such precious discoveries is that two earthquakes — in 322 and 342 CE — essentially destroyed Kition. Larnaca was founded on its ruins.

Measuring a whopping 62 by 23 feet, the mosaic’s faded tiles appear to be part of what was once a baths complex, as Antiquities Department Chief Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou said. The mosaic has suffered some damage, but you can still make out hints of the challenging tasks Hercules had to perform as a kind of penance after murdering his wife and children. According to the epic tale, written and told by a number of poets, the Greek hero had to slay, capture, and steal many beasts as well as clean some stables in a day, though he got some help from a number of gods.

Archaeologists have only revealed part of the floor, with excavations currently ongoing. The team may even have to gain access to private property to unearth more sections of the baths complex. Once fully revealed and properly preserved, the work will find a new home at the Larnaca District Archaeological Museum. Although leaving it in situ would allow the public to view it as Cyprus’s ancient civilians once did, water and other elements would damage the mosaic, communications minister Marios Demetriades said.

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The mosaic at Larnaca depicting the Labors of Hercules (photo courtesy Cyprus’ Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works)
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The mosaic at Larnaca depicting the Labors of Hercules (courtesy Cyprus’ Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works)
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