The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mosaic Floor with Achilles and Briseis

Object Details


Mosaic Floor with Achilles and Briseis






possibly Antioch, Syria (present-day Antakya, Turkey) (Place Created)


A.D. 100–300


Stone mosaic and glass tesserae

Object Number:



231.1 × 240 × 5.4 cm (91 × 94 1/2 × 2 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

Although quite fragmentary, enough remains of the scene depicted in this floor mosaic to identify it as one of the earliest episodes from Homer’s Iliad (Book 1, lines 409-415): the moment when Briseis, the enslaved concubine of the hero Achilles, is taken from him to be given instead to Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. This contest between two great Greek warriors set in motion the rest of Homer's epic poem. The mosaic shows Briseis being led away by two heralds on the right, Talthybios and Eurybates, who wear traveler’s hats and carry staffs. Only her face remains intact. Achilles, holding a lyre and seated next to his companion Patroclus, watches morosely from the far left. The older, bearded man may be Achilles’s tutor, Phoenix. The scene takes place in a tent; in the background are two shields holding up a curtain. The same subject is depicted in additional mosaics, as well as wall paintings and other media, attesting to its popularity in Roman art.

The Romans used mosaics made from tesserae (tiny cubes of stone or glass set into a bed of mortar) to cover the floors in wealthy private homes and public buildings. Roman mosaics show strong regional differences. Based on stylistic comparisons, this example appears to have originated near the city of Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) where two similar mosaics were discovered.

by 1966 - 1968

Spink & Son, Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1968.

4000 Years of Art (November 16 to December 9, 1966)
  • Spink & Son, Ltd. (London), November 16 to December 9, 1966

Spink & Son, Ltd. Octagon 3, no. 4 (Winter 1966), p. 7, ill.

"Pieces for Collectors." The Illustrated London News [London] (November 26, 1966), p. 47.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), p. 51, no. 110, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), pp. 21, 51.

Gonzenbach, von V.,"Ein neues Briseismosaik", La Mosaique Greco-Romaine II, II Colloque International pour l' Etude de la Mosaique Antique Vienne 30 Aout- 4 Septembre 1971. Paris 1975. pp. 401-408, pl. CXCIV, pp. 401-8, pl. cxciv.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 59.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 41.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Appointment Calendar (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1981), week of November 23.

Balty, Janine. "La mosaique antique au Proche-Orient. 6. Epoque d'Hadrien: la mosaique de Malibu (Californie)," Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt 2.12.2. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1981, p. 365; pl. IX.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese. "Briseis." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae III, pt. 1 (Zurich: Artemis-Verlag, 1986), pp. 158-159, no. 6.

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 114, fig. 189.

Heslin, Peter. The Museum of Augustus: The Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, the Portico of Philippus in Rome, and Latin Poetry (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), pp. 158-160, ill., cover ill.

Belis, Alexis. Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), no. 6, entry by Alexis Belis.