Thursday, August 7, 2008

David’s Shield in Italy and elsewhere

It is obvious that the interior decoration of the overwhelming number of houses in Pompeii has been done in the trace of the traditional Greco-Roman mythological style in its four Pompeian formations. But there is one house which shows the new Judeo-Christian abstract-geometric style of its Mosaic Floors in profusion. This house is the Casa di Trittolemo which has the symbolic signs of David’s Star, while other houses have some earlier signs of Jewish origin (see: below), but not yet the Star of David.
1. David’s Shield in the Casa di Trittolomo, Pompeii

25. The entrance Mosaic of David’s Shield in the Casa di Trittolemo: from M.E. Blake,’ The pavements of the Roman buildings of the Republic and the Early Empire’, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. VIII, 1930, pl. 39,3, VII, VII, 5


It is the earliest appearance of the Davidic Star in the Casa di Trittolemo as shown in (Pl. 25).

It has the purest design of a single much-enlarged star without, or almost without additional ornamentation. Its design is wholly composed of three parallel lines, while the slight additional ornamentation is formed only by a six-petalled Shoshan in the hexagonal center of the Star, surrounded by a frame of an infinite Zig-Zag line.

The Star itself is inscribed in a circumference, which is framed, in addition, by a square frame, all in the tripartite lineament. The six outer points of the Star are connected by the same tripartite line.

A second entrance Mosaic Floor of the Casa di Trittolomo shows the Davidic Star not in single appearance like our first Floor (see above), than in multiple arrangement, Pl. 26.

26. Entrance Mosaic Floor of the Casa di Trittolemo in multiple arrangement of the Davidic Star. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. Pl. 39, 2.VIII, V, 16 and 38.


Three vertical rows of David Stars are inscribed in a circumference of a double fillet, which is encased in a large square, which is composed by an infinite row of arrow-like triangles pointing outside. The four corners between circumference and square are filled with two versions of the Lily ornament, one a 2-petalled one, the other a 6-petalled one.

All the Stars of the Floor are turned around by an angle of 45 degrees. They are conforming to the round shape of the circumference by their changing numbers: 2-3-2. They are touching each other always by two outer points, creating by that an infinite contact of the whole ensemble.

A third entrance Floor of the Casa di Trittolemo, however, is not composed by David Stars than by the "Combined six-petalled and tri-petalled Lily signs".

This entrance Floor, then, belongs to the group of Floors of the houses, which are composed by a combination of a six-partite Shoshan with tri-petalled ones. We are dealing with them later (see p. 32). Here we are bringing this Floor already, because it is the only case, where it appears side by side with the Davidic Sign. All the other Lily-sign Floors have no Davidic sign beside them, what places them, chronically, before the appearance of the Davidic Star. This entrance Floor at the Casa di Trittolemo is the earliest one there, while the two other entrance Floors, which have the Davidic Sign, must be later, but are still belonging to the 1st century C.E. This Floor is accompanied by a small rectangular carpet Floor, which is composed by 4.5 vertical four-partite Lily signs – a kind of threshold leading inside.

2. The interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolomo, loose arrangement


27. interior Magen David Mosaic Floors in the Casa de Trittolomo in loose multiple arrangement. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl. 33, 4, Pompeii VI, VIII, 20


Interior Mosaic Floor. Casa di Trittolemo, tough arrangement

28. Second interior Magen David Floor in the Casa di Trittolemo in tough multiple arrangement. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl 38, 3. Pompeii VI, XVI, 7

The interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolemo are differentiated by two peculiar concepts:

a) Floors with loose but even distribution of single, emblematic units of David Stars, each one strongly framed by a running spiral ornament, contained in an outer and two inner black lines. (Pl. 27). These units are contacted in the middle of their six outer sides by a small unit of the six-partite Shoshan in black colour on a white background. Also the hexagonal center of David’s Star is filled by a six-petalled Shoshan, this time in white on the black background of the Star itself.

The addition of the small six-partite Lilies to the units of the Davidic Star has the task of guaranteeing the even cohesion of the whole Floor.

b). The second concept of the interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolemo is the tight rapport of the relative small Davidic Signs in their hexagonal frames, leaving none empty space between them (Pl. 28).

All the Davidic Signs in this Floor are arranged in oblique parallel rows, covering the ground floor in closed and tough context. The Stars are designed in black color on white background, while the six-partite Shoshanim in their hexagonal center are in white color on the black background, of the Stars themselves. The color arrangement in both cases is the same.

3. Thresholds of the interior Floors of the Casa di Trittolomo


To these interior Mosaic-Floors has to be added a number of Thresholds of the rooms showing horizontal rows of David’s Star (or some other additional signs of the new faith, like the Pelta (Pls. 29-31). They are highly characteristic for the socio-religious situation of the new congregation, whose members had to meet secretly in private homes, as they were in constant danger of persecution by traditional Jews and the Roman government itself. And so it comes, that the Davidic Star became, beside its religious significance, a guiding sign for the members of the Congregation, as no written information could be given outside as well as inside the houses.


29. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo with row of David Shields. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl 33, I. Pompeii VIII, V, 16 and 38


30. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo with row of Double Peltae, juxtaposed, From: M.E. Blake, ibid. Pl. 33, IX. VIII, 6

Other Threshold signs are the Peltae in double arrangement, back against back (Pl ), or an infinite arrangemen of scales (Pl. ).


31. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo four rows of scales, each half black, half white. From: M.E. Blake, ibid, pl. 33, 4. VI, III, 20


The early appearance of the Star of David in Italy is difficult to explain. May be that Peter, who is believed to have been working in Rome for some 20 years and is thought to be the founder of the Christian Church altogether, or even Paul, who was active in Rome for two years had a hand in its creation. Yet, as we have no proof for it, we have to accept the historical fact as such.