The single pelta as filler motif

A pelta with a broad apex and spiral-shaped, inward-turning endings appears within a diamond-shaped field on a mosaic from Kos. The diamond presumably serves as a frame for the surrounding images in which birds and fish are depicted.

In Olympia and Didymoteicho single peltae decorate the fields of a repeat pattern. The design of the mosaic in Olympia consists of circles joined by broad bands, forming octagons with four concave sides. Solomon’s knots can be found in the four central circles, while composite or eight-leaved rosettes are depicted in the concave octagons. In the external semi- and quarter-circles parts of rosettes or single peltae appear. The pelta colours are less emphasised than the other filler motifs, which attain a special luminosity by means of yellow and red tones on a black background. Their white inner surface is surrounded by a row of small grey and pink stones. They possess the usual shape with pointed endings. Amazingly, they aren’t arranged parallel to the edges of the semi-circles, but instead touch the upper arc of the latter with their tips.

On the mosaic from Didymoteicho a pattern of octagons and rectangles surrounds a black image field. The octagons are embellished with decorative motifs. Fine astragal bands, diamonds, toothed semi-circles, volutes and small “arrows” cover the surface like a net. The motifs are either black or appear as an outline drawing. A Solomon’s knot or cruciform is situated in the rectangles. Triangles appear in the external borders. The trapeze-shaped areas that surround the central image field (“emblema”) are decorated with single, blank white peltae. Their forms are quite typical. The tips point inwards towards the figurative depictions.

On four other mosaics individual peltae appear in small gaps at the edges of the repeat pattern, while in larger spaces they are doubled.

There’s a large black-and-white mosaic from Kastelli Kissamou that’s divided into four square and five rectangular patterns. In the corners are squares containing diamond stars. In two cases a star made up of eight diamonds is surrounded by four peltae and cruciforms. The black peltae have a decorative form with a slim body and pointed endings.

The peltae on a mosaic from Thasos create a much more powerful impression. As on the Late Antique pavements from Argos and Thessaloniki, the mosaic artist expanded the usual semi-circular form so that the the peltae take up almost three quarters of a circle. The thick bodies possess short endings. On the mosaic from Thasos six peltae frame a so-called shield composition made up of concentric circles with equilateral triangles at their edges. On two sides of the shield are three peltae, arranged side-by-side without touching each other. The middle pelta lies with its tips pointing towards the shield and is framed by two standing, outwardly facing peltae.

Peltae in combination with circular compositions also appear on a mosaic floor in Dion. In a thermal bath’s large “recreation room” at least three different kinds of shield designs were discovered. In the corners, between the circle and the square frame, are peltae or plant motifs. Emphasis was placed on variation. In one case brown peltae appear on a white background. They have stretched, non-pointed endings. On another composition a black pelta with a heart-shaped apex and turned-in endings decorates a brown corner. The corner motif of the third circle composition is highly original. Here two black peltae with triangular points flank a double-headed axe.

Peltae can also be found in the triangular corners of diamond compositions. On a mosaic (probably from Kos) in the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, four black peltae with heart-shaped endings frame a diamond containing a polychrome shield. The peltae face each other in a rigid symmetrical pattern. They attain a particular gravity through the absence of other decorative motifs and the dominance of the white background.

The composition on a mosaic from Patras makes a less static impression. The courtyard mosaic is divided into nine sections with various geometric patterns. Directly bordering the north east corner is a square field containing a diagonally positioned rectangle. Peltae with an apex in the form of a volute decorate the corners. They have black borders and are filled with a light colour (probably red).

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