During ongoing excavations in the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium in Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered a beautiful mosaic featuring a duo of lions. The excavation team, operating above the ancient city’s theater, discovered the lion mosaic within a structure linked to the portico. The mosaic-clad room likely served as a late Roman cult site, symbolizing the broader lifestyle of the society or group inhabiting the area, possibly worshipping Dionysus.

Dionysian Cult: A Finely Crafted Mosaic Lion

De6.5 meters (15 x 21 feet)d that the newly found space, with approximate wall dimensions of 4.5 × 6.5 meters (15 x 21 feet), featured interior walls adorned with marble plates applied over a substantial layer of mortar. The room exhibited a rectangular plan oriented in the north-south direction, reports Arkeonews.

The mosaic floor is composed of finely processed tesserae in white, blue, yellow, green, and brown hues, arranged in intricate geometric patterns. The periphery of the mosaic is elegantly framed with larger and more vibrant tesserae, a testament to fine craftsmanship.

Close up of the Lions mosaic discovered in Prusias Ad Hypium. (Konuralp Museum)

Close up of the Lions mosaic discovered in Prusias Ad Hypium. (Konuralp Museum)

The mosaic depicts a scene featuring two lions positioned on either side of a pine tree, adorned with a drum (tympanum) and a pan flute hanging from its branches. Scholars assert that this imagery is intricately linked to the Dionysian cult. Historical evidence points to the likelihood of the room being used in Dionysian processions, where figures like Silenus and Maenads, actively engaged in these rituals, often played musical instruments such as the tympanum and pan flute.

Düzce Mayor Faruk Özlü emphasized the uniqueness of the discovery, stating:

“We uncovered a singular mosaic in Turkey. This mosaic holds significant importance within the undiscovered portions of the Ancient Theatre here. Archaeologists affirm its status as a distinctive artifact.”

Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, ecstasy, and revelry, played a central role in the Dionysian cults. Revered as the deity of fertility, theater, and liberation, Dionysus was often associated with the transformative power of wine and the uninhibited pursuit of pleasure.

Dionysian cults, prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome, celebrated the ecstatic and mystical aspects of the god’s worship, involving frenzied rituals, music, dance, and theatrical performances. Participants, including followers known as maenads, engaged in ecstatic experiences to achieve a heightened state of consciousness, blurring the boundaries between the divine and mortal realms.

Prusias Ad Hypium: An Ancient Hellenistic Polis

Prusias ad Hypium is situated in the Konuralp district of Düzce and often referred to as the Ephesus of the western Black Sea. Founded in the 3rd century BC under the name Hypios, the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium underwent substantial transformations following the Roman conquest in 74 BC, reports Archaeology Mag.

This conquest not only led to a change in the city’s name but also brought about profound cultural influences that shaped its identity. The archaeological remnants of this historical evolution are seen through notable landmarks, such as the remarkably preserved ancient theater, colloquially referred to as the Forty Steps.

The ancient theater of Prusias ad Hypium at Konuralp, including the lions mosaic site. (Faruk Özlu/Düzce Municipality)

The ancient theater of Prusias ad Hypium at Konuralp, including the lions mosaic site. (Faruk Özlu/Düzce Municipality)

In the 2nd century BC, the Bithynians, under the leadership of their king, Prusias I, achieved the capture of Kieros from the Mariandyns and Herekleia State. Following this conquest, Prusias I undertook significant improvements to the city, embellishing it with numerous monuments and fortifications. As part of his efforts, he not only fortified the city but also bestowed upon it his own name, resulting in its transformation into Prusias.

Rediscovered in the 19th century, the ancient city has been the focus of recent excavations led by the archaeology department of Düzce University, conducted under the auspices of the Konuralp Museum and with support from the Municipality of Düzce.

The ongoing excavations reveal distinct characteristics of a Hellenistic polis, reports Heritage Daily. Surviving remnants that allude to this include portions of the city walls, a fortified gate, an open-air theatre, an aqueduct, and a Roman bridge. What’s more, last September, a well-preserved portrait of Alexander the Great was found.

Top image: A mosaic featuring two lions recently found at the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium. Source: Faruk Özlu/Düzce Municipality

By Sahir Pandey

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