Back to Before the Earthquake – Gaziantep Journey

  In early February 2023, a strong earthquake occurred in the southeastern part of Turkey and the border area of ​​Syria. In particular, two strong earthquakes of nearly magnitude 8 occurred within 10 hours, which was unheard of in the history of earthquake disasters in modern times in the world. In the dawn of human civilization, the birthplace of civilization on the east coast of the Mediterranean formed a crescent-shaped arch: the west side went north along the coast from Israel and Lebanon, passing through the border with Syria. This side is called the “Levant region”; the east side extends southeast along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, which is the Mesopotamia Plain. The vault connecting the left and right feet of the arch is the birthplace of the two rivers, which gradually descend from the Anatolian plateau to the two river plains, which today belong to southeastern Turkey. This arched area is called the “Fertile Crescent”. The author has traveled throughout the entire area. This time, I will talk about the city closest to the epicenter-Gaziantep.
Collages at the Zeuma Museum

  Gaziantep, located just 34 kilometers from the quake’s epicenter, is Turkey’s sixth-largest city by population. There are many ancient cities in Turkey, and Gaziantep is not particularly old in comparison, especially compared with Shanliurfa, which is only 150 kilometers to the east. At the beginning of the 21st century, Zeuma, a small town near Gaziantep, conducted a rescue excavation of local cultural relics because of the construction of a reservoir. Unexpectedly, a large number of complete and exquisite mosaic ground collages from the Roman period were unearthed. Turkish archaeologists spent several years excavating and fighting against the reservoir dam, and finally restored most of the collages completely. At the same time, they designed and built a brand new museum for the preservation and display of these exquisite Roman Empire artworks. Zeuma Museum, when it was completed and opened in 2011, became the world’s largest mosaic museum, and is now the second largest museum of its kind.
  The founders of the place Zeuma were the ancient Greeks. In the 4th century BC, after the death of Alexander the Great of Macedon, his general Seleucus I Nicartel captured the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and established the Seleucid Dynasty. The city of Zeuma was founded by Seleucus I, and was later occupied by the emerging Rome. It used to be a hub city between the Anatolian plateau and the Syrian plain, and it flourished for a while. The most distinctive art form of the Romans is the mosaic collage, which uses small colored stones to mosaic various delicate and vivid pictures. Therefore, the larger the size of the ancient Roman mosaics excavated today, the smaller the mosaics that make up the size, the higher the artistic value. On the Italian peninsula, the mainland of Rome, the most famous collage is probably the “Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela” excavated from Pompeii and preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, but the collages unearthed in Pompeii are from the number It is far inferior to the other two: one is the Cathedral of Aquilia, a world heritage city near the Slovenian border, to the east of Venice; the other is the villas of Roman nobles or emperors in central Sicily. These two places are protected at the original site. There are huge mosaics all over the ground in the ancient Roman period. Among them, the emperor’s villa in Sicily has a set of ten pictures of women wearing bikinis in sports in the Roman period. It is very famous. The bikini was invented 2,000 years earlier.

Many rare artifacts are on display at the Zeuma Museum, the highlight of which is the magnificent and evocative mosaics found in the ancient city of Zeuma.

Mosaic painting “Gypsy Girl”.

Mosaic collage “Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela” preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

  More than half a century before the completion of the Zeuma and Antioch museums in Turkey, the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics and collages was held in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. On the outskirts of Tunisia is the former site of the ancient city of Carthage. After the fall of Carthage, Rome destroyed the whole city. Soon after, Caesar rebuilt Carthage and became the capital of the African province of the Roman Empire. So it is not surprising that a large number of Roman collages are preserved here. Turkey is the Asiatic province of the Roman Empire. The scale of the mosaics unearthed is larger than that of North Africa. In recent years, the Turkish government has invested heavily in the construction and reconstruction of museums in the capital cities of the eastern provinces. The Zeuma Museum was completed in 2011. The indoor area is 30,000 square meters; the famous Roman city of Antioch is 200 kilometers south of Gaziantep, today it is called Antakya, also known as Hatai, and its archaeological museum was renovated in 2015, with an indoor area of ​​35,000 square meters rice. As soon as these two new museums came into being, they both surpassed the Bardot Museum in Tunisia and firmly ranked the top two mosaic art museums in the world.
  I have been to Antioch and Gaziantep for the past two years to visit these two museums. The Zeuma Museum in Gaziantep is separated from the original Gaziantep Archaeological Museum, a new museum dedicated to displaying Roman mosaic collages, and its treasure is a “Gypsy Girl” face For the portrait, the museum specially opened a completely dark exhibition hall. The only light shines on this mosaic painting. The Mona Lisa of Roman times. This “Gypsy Girl” has become the city symbol of Gaziantep. Not only is she featured in the cultural works of the museum, but her head is even on the dinner plates of high-end restaurants in the city. Other huge Roman collages are also shocking, such as “Odysseus Recognizing Achilles” is based on Homer’s epic. The painting is more than 3 meters long, and the figures are full of dynamic postures and rich expressions.

On February 24, 2023 local time, in Hatay, Turkey, volunteers distributed game items to children in the earthquake-stricken areas to help them cope with various sequelae after trauma.