Roman mosaic in Rutland

A rare Roman mosaic depicting scenes from Homer’s Iliad has been found beneath a farmer’s field in Rutland, UK.

The mosaic, which measures 11m by almost 7m, once formed the floor of a dining or entertaining room within a large villa complex occupied during the late Roman period (3rd to 4th centuries AD). In three panels, the mosaic depicts the final scenes of the Trojan War, in which the Greek hero Achilles battles and defeats the Trojan leader Hector. This is the only example of a mosaic depicting stories from The Iliad ever found in the UK, and one of just a few known in Europe (see CWA 105 for information about a parallel found at Caddeddi in Sicily).

The mosaic was discovered in summer 2020 and recently excavated by a team from the University of Leicester in partnership with Historic England and in liaison with Rutland County Council. Geophysical survey of the site revealed several other buildings and structures associated with the elaborate villa complex. Signs of fire damage and breaks to the mosaic suggest that the site was reused at a later date, and human burials were found in the rubble on top of the mosaic, thought to date to the late Roman or early medieval period, after the occupation of this building had ended.

This discovery has been described as one of the most exciting Roman mosaics ever found in the UK, and the villa has now been protected as a Scheduled Monument. The site has been backfilled to protect it, but there are plans for further excavations in 2022.

Text: Amy Brunskill
Image: © Historic England Archive
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