There’s more to Madaba’s mosaics than just the Madaba Map. I also got to see mosaics from as early as the 1st Century BCE and Byzantine-era mosaics depicting stories and goddesses from ancient Greece — don’t forget that while much of Western Europe had “forgotten” about ancient Greek scholarship, art and culture until the Renaissance, many other civilizations, like the Byzantine and Islamic Empires kept these traditions alive throughout the Middle Ages. The Dark Age was only “dark” in Western Europe, mainly due to the fact that the Catholic Church dominated the region and violently smothered anything that could have threatened their power, such as free thinking and borrowing from other cultures. Thankfully, there were leaders like Jan Hus who were not afraid to tell truth to power.
Anyway, back to Madaba:
Hippolytus Hall has a largely intact floor mosaic showing ancient figures from ancient Greek myths.
In the section of the mosaic above from Hippolytus Hall you can see characters from the tragic play Hippolytus by Euripides. The center section depicts the goddess Aphrodite, seated (and topless) on the right as well as other characters who all represent some form of love, which I learned from Professor Michael Fuller’s great page about this same mosaic (his pictures are much better than mine).
In the top left are three seated figures, which represent the cities of Rome, Gregoria and Madaba. In Byzantine mosaics, it is common for women to be used to symbolize cities. Apologies for cutting off Rome’s head in the picture above. There’s a better picture below.
Below are mosaics from the nave of a 6th Century church (remember, the 6th Century is the 700s). The nave of a church is the middle section — think about the word “navel”, which is another way to say “belly button”. Where’s your belly button? Essentially in the middle of your body. Ya tú sabes.
Unlike the mosaics from Rome and Ravenna, these ones haven’t been totally cleaned and refurbished, so they’re not as dazzling, but I like seeing things that are works in progress, like Michelangelo’s Slaves.