After our visit to Leptis Magna, our minds are still in Roman times during lunch, and our driver takes us to the coast on a dead-end road. We see an old building, and our driver opens the fence, also allowing several locals in. We meet our guide again, who tells us that Villa Selene (House of the Mooon) is only opened on request, and the others are using the opportunity of our arranged visit to see the place for themselves. We learn that this was the mansion of a wealthy Roman family in the 2nd century CE, although parts of the building are older. We meet an enthusiastic archeologist, who asks us to take off our shoes when we enter the building. We are walking on mosaics: the entire floor is covered by what at first sight look like dusty mosaics. We bend forward for a better look, and then start to see that these are beautiful works of art.
Then, the archeologist takes out a special liquid, and starts cleaning part of the mosaics with a cloth. They now come to live: their colours start to shine, and the details come out so much better. Instead of mosaics, they now start looking like fine paintings. Every time our friend the archeologist cleans up a mosaic, we go and see what he has uncovered. We see hunting scenes, we see mythical scenes, we see gods and goddesses. One of the most impressive mosaics of Villa Selene is a hippodrome. Running horses with jockeys on their backs, a man counting the laps with ostrich eggs, the hippodrome itself which was likely located in Leptis Magna further east, dolphins: it contains a lot of different elements. Our guide tells us more about the races, and the importance of ostrich eggs in Roman times, and before.
There is a mosaic depicting a struggling Lycurgus, trying to slay Ambrosia who turns into a grapevine to escape death. Lycurgus is subsequently driven insane by Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest. Another fine mosaic depicts Amphititre, the spouse of Neptune, the god of the sea. Yet another rich mosaic shows the Four Seasons, a extremely well executed masterpiece with an angel and the sun god Helios arising from the sea with his horses on top, and a man with a zodiac in the right. The quality of the mosaics does not stop to amaze us, room after room, mosaic after mosaic. We find many more outside, depicting animals. In the bath area, we also find wall paintings; the mosaics here are still covered by dust and sea salt. Ah, to see Villa Selene as it must have been almost 2000 years ago, we are now starting to realise it must have been truly stunning.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Villa Selene (Libya). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Villa Selene. Read more about this site.