After a lovely visit to Noto, I drive a little further south to the Villa Romana del Tellaro. After having already visited the Villa Romana del Casale a few days before, I know this will be a much smaller sample of mosaics, but it is especially the scene from the Odyssee I am interested in. When I arrive, there is only one car at the parking, and I suddenly wonder if it will be open at all. It turns out not just to be open, but also that entrance is free on Sundays. I read the explanatory boards in the first room, where I also see the old foundations under the current building. The Villa del Tellaro dates back to the fourth century CE, and was destroyed by fire. A farm was unknowingly built right on top of the foundations of the villa; the mosaics were discovered by chance in 1971. Art dealers tried to sell the mosaics, but were caught by the financial police who thus saved them for the larger public. The farm was destroyed, the mosaics moved to a lab, restored, and reinstalled.
The mosaics are now exposed behind the building, under a roof. The first I see, is the one I came for: it is a partly destroyed mosaic depicting the ransom for the body of Hector. On the left, I partly see Odysseus and Achilles, facilitated by their names written in Greek, and at the bottom, the feet of Hector's body, who is being weighed. There is gold which will be paid as a ransom. Priam and other Trojans are no longer visible: the rest of the mosaic was unfortunately lost when the farm was destroyed to reach them. The next room has mosaics of satyrs and maenads, with four large kraters (ancient Greek vase), with flowers and fruit emerging from them. There are four frames, each with a satyr and a maenad with a musical instrument in their hands. The central part of the mosaic is missing: it probably contained the god Dionysus, the god of wine. The Villa was probably owned by Roman aristocrats who had earned their wealth through the wine estates which are still being exploited in our time.
The next, and last, room with mosaics has a large hunting scene. In the middle, a female figure, probably symbolising Africa, sitting on a rock surrounded by trees. Like the Villa del Casale, the mosaics here were probably laid by African artisans. There are scenes of a tiger attacking hunters, who are then defended by other hunters. In the right part of the mosaic, I see hunters wading through water with their animals. The lower part of the mosaic shows hunters under trees, their horses tied up, having a lunch, their bounty on tables, and slaves handing them wine. The frame of the mosaic shows swastikas and birds alternating. This is the best preserved mosaic, even though a large crack runs straight through it. Behind these mosaics, is a large rectangular one with geometric figures. It is partly damaged by fire and earthquakes, and is not at all level anymore. Even when I leave, I am the only visitor.
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