Mosaics first appeared in Greece around the sixth century B.C.E., and were created throughout the Greek and Roman empires.
One type of mosaic was the pebble mosaic, composed of small stones between one and three quarters of an inch. They usually depict figural or geometric images with two contrasting shades. This style was very popular in Macedonia, in Greece, during the fourth century B.C.E.
The tessellated mosaic is another form of mosaic. In this style, small terra-cotta, stone, or glass squares from one to three quarters of an inch are arranged and set in a bed of cement. Tesserae were available in many colors, therefore tessellated mosaics were more like paintings, but much longer lasting. An example of a tessellated mosaic is one depicting Dionysus, Bakkha, and Nike.
Greek and Roman mosaics could be found in and around many public buildings, palaces, and private homes. Tessellated mosaics were often quite complex, and frequently portrayed mythological themes. In the Baths of Neptune at Ostia, a black and white mosaic created circa the second century B.C.E., illustrated Neptune driving his chariot.
The Roman Empire, as it conquered many different areas and countries, allowed for the diffusion of Roman art and mythology. Therefore many examples of Roman mosaics can be found throughout the former empire. Roman mosaics often depicted scenes from mythology, as well as some more secular themes such as nature and hunting parties.
Dionysus, for example, was commonly shown in Roman mosaics. The god of wine and pleasure, he is illustrated sometimes surrounded by young boys or women in lavish celebration. The techniques and styles used by the Romans, although their own civilization fell towards the end of the 4 th century A.D., Early Christians kept the art alive, and it was used later in the Byzantine Empire as well.