Lion mosaic found at Roman theater in Konuralp

A mosaic of two lions has been discovered at the Roman theater in the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium in modern-day Konuralp on the northwest coast of Turkey. The iconography is unique in Turkey.

The mosaic was found in a room of the portico in the middle of the theater axis. The room was rectangular and the walls were covered with marble slabs attached with a thick layer of mortar. The mosaic covers the entire floor and is almost intact. The main length of it features a floral vault pattern. The foundation of a large platform is on the north side of the room. The borders of the mosaic embrace it in a U shape.

On the south half of the room is the central mosaic, an example of very fine local craftsmanship. It is made out of white, blue, yellow, green and brown tesserae arranged in alternating borders — concentric squares of white, guilloche, white, brown and black forming a frame. In the center of the frame, composed by smaller precision tesserae, is a scene of two lions standing on either side of a pine tree. Hanging from the tree are a tympanum (a drum or tamborine) on the left branch and a pan flute on the right branch.

Archaeologists believe this was a space dedicated to the cult of Dionysus. Dionysian parades often featured Silenus and maenads playing the tympanum and pan flute. The god is usually in a chariot drawn by large cats, such as panthers, lions and tigers. He is also shown riding a lion. Dionysus himself once turned into a lion to escape some pirates who tried to hold him for ransom.

The theater was elaborately decorated and over the past four years of excavations, archaeologists have uncovered many architectural fragments with carved reliefs of Actaeon being devoured by his hunting dogs, the gorgon Medusa, masks of comedy and tragedy, floral decorations, egg and dart ornaments and much more. In September of this year, a well-preserved 2nd century portrait head of Alexander the Great was discovered at the theater.