Sewerage diggers in Cypriot town come upon mosaic depicting Hercules

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Workers digging an extension of a sewerage system in the Cypriot city of Larnaca have come upon a gigantic mosaic depicting the Greek mythical hero Hercules, an antiquity department official said on Wednesday.

Giorgos Philotheou, who is overseeing the digging, said the workers came upon the mosaic when they were opening ducts to place sewerage pipes about a month ago.

Archaeologists took over to prevent damage to the mosaic, believed to be dated to the Hellenistic or Roman eras.

Philotheou said the archaeologists were impressed by the size of the mosaic, which they believe formed the floor of a large public building in an area which was known to be the classical Greek city of Kition.

The floor was several feet under the surface of the road where the digging was done.

So far, excavation has partially revealed a mosaic which is about 17 meters long by 7 meters wide. Part of the mosaic floor of the unearthed building extends under the yards of a nearby block of flats and a house.

Philotheou said the mosaic, which is remarkably well-preserved, is a series of squares containing scenes of Herucles' feats or labors.

In Greek mythology, Herucles was seen as powerful enough to lift the weight of the heavens, but who was driven mad by goddess Hera and killed his wife, son and daughter. After recovering sanity, he went to the Oracle of Delphi to inquire as to how he could atone for his deeds.

The myth goes that the Oracle told him to serve his cousin, King Eurystheus of Tyrins, for 12 years. He ordered him to carry out 12 feats. These included killing Hydra, a multi-headed serpentine, stealing the three-headed dog Cerberus who guarded the underworld, killing a man-eating bull, and stealing golden apples from a mythical orchard no one knew how to find, and which was guarded by a fierce dragon.

The finding delighted architects but, as the mosaic takes the entire width of a busy road of downtown Larnaca, the municipality has to build a road by-passing it.

"This finding is too important and precious to cover over, or to remove and set up again in another place," said Larnaca Deputy Mayor Petros Christodoulou.

He said the Town Council would probably decide to construct an alternative section of the road and turn the mosaic into an open air museum.

"This is a priceless piece of cultural heritage...It does not belong only to Larnaca but to all of Cyprus and to the thousands of foreign visitors who would like to enjoy the sight," said Christodoulou.

He said the mosaic was more beautiful than the colorful Roman era mosaics in the city of Paphos, visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year. Endit

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