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Alexander, Piece by Piece Volume 59 Number 1, January/February 2006
By Marco Merola

[image] A panel with the face of one of the horses, some of the most complicated and time-consuming parts of the Alexander mosaic to re-create (Pasquale Sorrentino) [LARGER IMAGE]

In 2003, a team of artists from the International Center for the Study and Teaching of Mosaic (CISIM) in Ravenna, Italy, made an ambitious proposal to the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii: create an exact copy of the Alexander Mosaic and install it in its original home. More than two years, 16,000 hours of work, and $216,000 later, the most famous mosaic to survive from the ancient Roman world once again adorns Pompeii's House of the Faun.

One of the iconic images of the great Macedonian leader, the mosaic depicts a confrontation between Alexander and the Persian king Darius in the fourth century B.C. Since 1843, the mosaic has hung on the wall of the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, safe from the feet of Pompeii's two million plus yearly visitors, as well as from the rain and sun that have damaged the whole site. So why bring Alexander back to Pompeii? The House of the Faun was once Pompeii's biggest and most impressive urban villa, filled with simple but elegant decorations designed to demonstrate the vast wealth of the house's owners. But today, although the sheer size of the house is still clear, the brightly colored paintings and mosaics, the gleaming marble and bronze statues, the fountains, and the hustle and bustle of a palatial villa are gone. Superintendent Pietro Giovanni Guzzo wants to change that. "I want visitors to have the impression that they are entering the same luxurious house in which the ancient Pompeian owners lived before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79."

Marco Merola is a Naples-based science reporter.

* See also www.pompeiisites.org.

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© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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