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QASR EL-LEBIA (“Olbia”) Libya.

Byzantine ruins 50 km SW of Cyrene, Libya, probably the remains of the small town of Olbia mentioned by Synesius (Ep. 76). The chief remains are two churches, one of which was rebuilt as an Italian fort. The second, excavated in 1957, has a nave and two aisles, with an apse at its W end. A remarkable mosaic (10.75 x 6.10 m) of 50 square panels framed with borders of guilloche pattern was found intact on the nave floor. Near its center an inscription records the laying of the mosaic by Bishop Makarios in A.D. 539. In the top line is a stylized picture of a town, Polis Nea Theodorias, indicating a refoundation in honor of the Empress Theodora. The most interesting panel shows a stepped tower, Pharos, entered over a bridge. This can scarcely be other than the Pharos of Alexandria, for a dark figure on top with radiate crown must be the bronze statue of Helios; behind is a second figure on a building, presumably on the mainland.

In the N aisle a well-preserved mosaic shows the familiar Nilotic theme of a crocodile swallowing a cow which a man is trying to drag away by its tail. This scene and the Pharos panel hint that the floors are the work of Alexandrian mosaicists. A third mosaic, with crosses and animals, lay by the altar.


R. G. Goodchild, ILN (14 December 1957) 1034-35; J. B. Ward Perkins, “A New Group of Sixth-Century Mosaics from Cyrenaica,” RACrist 34 (1958) 183-92.

A work by J. B. Ward Perkins and the late R. G. Goodchild on the churches of Cyrenaica, with a chapter on mosaics by E. Rosenbaum, is forthcoming.


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