Happy New Year


Casting of dog from the ashes of Pompeii

As 2019 draws to a close I want to thank you all for your interest in my scribblings and I hope I have brought you some joy.  My door remains open with a welcome on the mat for 2020.

You still have some time left to do this year one more thing to set the world aright.  Make an awkward phone call, make an overdue apology, do a thing you have put off for too long.  There’s still time.


Excerpt from “Year’s End” ; by Richard Wilbur
…………..And at Pompeii

the little dog lay curled and did not rise
but slept the deeper as the ashes rose
and found the people incomplete, and froze
the random hands, the loose unready eyes
of men expecting yet another sun
to do the shapely thing they had not done.

Alexander Mosaic


1st October is the day Alexander finally defeated Darius at the Battle of Gaugamela.  The Greeks and Persians had met at two previous large scale battles.  At Granicus Alexander defeated a combined army of Persians and Greek Mercenaries led by local Satraps (provincial governors).  At Issus Alexander met the king himself, Darius III, and roundly defeated him.  Finally at Gaugamela he smashed the Persian army.  Darius escaped the battle but was murdered by Bessus, one of his Satraps.

The Alexander mosaic above is taken from Pompeii.  Constructed in circa 100BC it was found in the “House of the Faun”.  The mosaic is an extraordinarily detailed piece of work.  It uses free form flowing lines of tesserae to suggest movement and to capture the organic nature of the scene.  The work would have cost a kings ransom and the client was clearly a very wealthy family.

The image itself is held to depict the battle of Issus, showing the moment when the charge of Alexander and his Companion Cavalry smashed into the centre of the Persian line.  Contemporary accounts of the battle are clear about the events that led to the flight of Darius.

I was in Naples in 1986 and made a special trip to see the original in the museum there.  It is now mounted on the wall rather than on the floor.  A reproduction has also been constructed for the original house in Pompeii.  I had just completed my degree in UCD in English and Greek & Roman Civilization.  We had a guest lecture from a classics professor who had devoted years to the study of this mosaic.  He was able to deconstruct contemporary accounts of the battle of Issus and explain to us the exact point of the battle depicted in the Mosaic.

He then went on to explore the mosaic piece by piece, scene by scene in minute detail.  It was a really interesting lecture and one that has stuck in my memory.  In particular I remember him pointing out the reflection of the face of the man lying under the chariot of Darius in the foreground.  He supports a shining shield which reflects the naked fear in his face as he cowers beneath the hooves of the charging horses.