Typhon and mosaic tile floors

Typhon, a mythical giant human-snake hybrid, is described by the 6th c. poet Pindar as a monster with one hundred heads, fearful eyes, and terrible voices. Typhon lived in Tartaros, the great pit beneath the earth where the Titans were imprisoned.

Xanthos, a character in Demise of a Demagogue, is an enormously wealthy aristocrat who has a mosaic tile floor laid in the anteroom of his expansive villa. This mosaic floor tells the story of the battle between the monster Typhon and the gods and goddesses. In one myth, all the other gods and goddesses escape, transforming themselves into animals; only Zeus and Athena remain to vanquish Typhon. This is an important myth for Athens, because Athena is Athens’ patron goddess, but Xanthos has other reasons to align himself with the image of Typhon.

Mosaic tile floors were relatively rare in 5th century Athens, but archaeologists and historians don’t know for certain how many people might have had them because so few mosaics have emerged during archaeological digs. This on its own doesn’t mean there were no mosaic tiles, but they are fragile, and much of modern-day Athens has been built over ancient houses. So, we are left to speculate about Athens, but mosaic floors were popular in all parts of the Greek and Roman world, and many still exist today, thankfully. 

See here for more historical information about mosaic floors.

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