Exhibitions/ Art Object

Floor Mosaic Depicting the Cities of Memphis and Alexandria

ca. 540
Made in Jordan, excavated Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Gerasa
Limestone in ivory, dark ocher, beige, light gray, dark gray, and shades of red
156 x 240 in. (396.3 x 609.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Excavated by the Yale–British School Archaeological Expedition, 1928–29 (1932.1735)
Not on view
This mosaic from a church floor in the affluent city of Gerasa (modern Jerash) depicts two major Egyptian cities identified in Greek as Alexandria (left) and Memphis (right), sites on the trade routes that made the Byzantine Empire’s southern provinces wealthy. The inscription identifies the donor as "my bishop . . . Anastasios" and describes the church as "adorned . . . with silver and beautifully colored stones." The motifs—cityscapes, trees, vase with vines, and inscription—were popular throughout the Byzantine Empire and transitioned into the arts of the emerging Islamic world.
Inscription: In Greek, central tabula ansata: Certainly, my bishop brings beautiful marvels
to the people who inhabit this city and land, because he built a house [ of worship ] to Peter and Paul, the chiefs of the disciples ( for the Savior imparted the authority to them ), and adorned it with silver and beautifully colored stones; the renowned Anastasios who teaches the true precepts of God; [over cities, from left to right:] Pharos, Alexandria, Memphis
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.