This paper offers an overview of pelta patterns and motifs on Roman mosaics in Greece.
Analysis of the repeat patterns shows that the mosaic artists always worked with a quadrilateral design. Not even the pelta rosette used a triangular scheme, unlike in Pompeii. One can assume that the pelta pattern was developed from the simple cruciform design, which has the same basic structure.
Many of the variations in Greece can already be found on pavements in Vesuvian towns. Patterns consisting of groups of four peltae and back-to-back pelta pairs appear during the 1st Century AD in Italy and later throughout the empire. In contrast, the Hellenistic rosette is limited to a fairly small time frame. Its characteristic pelta form, with long middle endings, is no longer in evidence on Roman mosaics in Greece.
Pelta forms with a heart-, cross- or V-shaped apex were not yet common in the Pompeii era. Creations dating from the middle years of the Roman empire were the four-leaved pelta rosette, the pelta-vortex and probably also the circular double pelta. Generally in Greece dark peltae were set against a light background. Less common are white on black or outline drawings. In repeat patterns peltae are granted a dominant position in relation to other geometric figures. Fields in the form of hearts, semi-circles, rectangles and triangles are regarded as a neutral background rather than something to be highlighted with elaborate decoration.
Analysis of pelta forms shows that over twenty types were known in Greece. In repeat patterns the simple form was usually preferred. More demanding forms, including those in which the mosaic artists developed their own styles, are found in filler motifs. Especially common were peltae with elaborate endings which decorated the corners of a diamond or circular composition. These pelta forms don’t demonstrate any connection to representations of the pelta as a defensive shield.