Who can best reveal secrets of Pompeii’s
Buried House of Oceanus, archaeologists
Or classicists? Accounts by each required,
Unearthing and examining, deciphering tiled
Images on ancient mosaic walls, excavation
In discerning daylight by trowels and brushes,
Opening lover’s adoring eyes anew, goddess’s
Affections, legend of Morys Stavros, artisan
Visiting from Ægean Greece.
Except for love, all things human are transi-
Tory, so said graffiti etched indelibly in House
Of Oceanus walls, for in Pompeii, love of
Various forms flourished, platonic and sexual,
Plebian and patrician, slaves and servants.
Whilst fiery ash of Vesuvius reduced flesh to
Brittle bone, it failed to obliterate mosaics
Of love-making, including gods and mortals,
Forbidden fruits, savoring flesh divine.
Orchards and sunlit meadows, foothills of
Vesuvius, breadth of verdant countryside
Above azure seas inspired Morys, mosaics
On walls and floors, in private bathing pools,
Each tessara tile cut to size, shape and color,
Defining shadowed detail, lifelike images
Crafted by steady artisan’s hands, assemblages
For vacant House of Oceanus, noble family
Sailed to Rome, merchant ships a-sailing.
With tools and tiles in baskets, Morys began
His work, discovering a young woman, shim-
Mering radiance, in the private bath, she paid
Him no heed. For Actæon moments, the artisan
Observed admiringly as she bathed, until she
Spoke to him, “Morys come taste my pale flesh,
Permit my body to guide your hands, upon these
Barren walls mosaics we shall make worthy of
My Lord, King Oceanus.
Wine, cheese, and honeyed cakes, Morys and his
Sea-companion were given to fiery flames, intoxi-
Cating trance of poppy, they worked by morning
Light, bathed into the night, mosaic scenes of holy
Sacrifice, tiled images of young maidens in solemn
Ceremony, offerings of grapes and figs, in flowing
Breast-revealing gowns, they kneeled at feet of
Towering Oceanus, shades of blue and sea green,
Reflected light dancing from the pool.
Three walls they adored with ocean scenes, tiles
Cut and shaped, triremes, sails billowing on
Cresting white-capped waves, sea-serpents and
Sirens beneath scudding sunlit clouds, images
Created whilst lost to drink and sexual pleasures.
Next morning, when noble family returned, young
Morys’ nude body lay splayed across poolside marble
Foors, he remembered nothing except his hands
Were rough-worn from labours upon the walls.
That evening Morys slipped into coma, drew his
Final breath, according to legend he had worked
Himself to death. Some say his final mosaic had
Broken his youthful heart, such beauty it portrayed
Of archaic sea-goddess Tethys, mother of great
Rivers, each tessara laid in minute precision, her
Face and ocean-eyes glorious perfection. Thus
Was Morys’ death, artisan visiting from Greece,
He loved goddess Tethys, his life given to her face.
For more complete view of the Tethys mosaic, see this link: