Conjecture or Fact? The Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great. Image on the left: wikimediacommons. Image on the right: Jim Haberman

The headline “Mosaic of Alexander the Great Meeting a Jewish priest,” recently caught my attention. I have been to Greece twice, once on an archaeological excavation, and I teach ninth grade world history. This is just the kind of headline to get my students excited about ancient Greece. It reminds me of the excitement surrounding the discovery of a second Mona Lisa back in 2012. Is this an open and shut case? Could this really be another image of Alexander? So far the circumstantial evidence indicates that this newly discovered mosaic is the famous general, king and warrior. The Daily Mail describes a legend in which Alexander meets with a Jewish priest, and the new mosaic discovered in Israel could be the long-awaited confirmation of that myth.

An archaeological team led by Professor Jodi Magness from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) discovered the mosaic and many others in an Israeli synagogue. The presence of elephants in battle dress, the absence of elephants in Jewish legend, and the purple cape (worn by royalty) all indicate that this is a new depiction of Alexander the Great.  The mosaics have been removed, and are being conserved and analyzed by experts.

Next summer’s excavations may uncover more of the mystery. I would love to be a part of that team! Who wouldn’t?

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Originally published on Jaunting Jen, republished with permission.

Filed under: Culture


Jen is an army veteran, archaeologist, photographer, historian, history teacher, yogi, elephant lover, cat lover, and more. She created the Jaunting Jen blog to share her love of history, archaeology, and travel. Jen holds a BA in history, and isn't far from finishing her MA in ancient & classical history.