Hellenistic Art: The Battle of Issus

Michael Lahanas

Hellenistische Kunst: Die Schlacht am Issus

Battle of Issus, a Roman mosaic (estimated 1 - 4 million pieces) from the first century BC based on a painting by Philoxenus of Eretria c. 310-300 BC. (Casa del Fauno, Pompeii, now Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale)

5.82 m x 3.13 m, discovered in 24 October 1831 in a house in Pompeii . The whole history is told by the expression of the faces of Alexander and Darius. Ironically one of the "immortal" guards of Darius trying to protect the king of Persia is killed with a spear.


Alexander, attacking Darius at Issus. A Cavalryman behind him, probably a senior officer wearing a Boetian helmet with a golden wreath.


Darius III leaves with horror the battlefield, almost surrounded by the Macedonians with their long spears. He cannot believe that his huge army cannot resist the small army of the young Alexander. An interesting comment by a Greek scholar is that the actual Hero of this painting is Darius who is shocked at the death of his guard. The viewer has some sympathy for the Persian king.

Wolfgang von Goethe comment, 10.3.1832: "This and the next generations will not be able to describe such a wonder of Art appropriately ...(Mitwelt und Nachwelt werden nicht hinreichen, solches Wunder der Kunst würdig zu commentieren..)"

1000 Greek Drachmae with the Issus Battle Mosaic

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