Do you know how the Ancient Greeks dealt with death? Start by looking back to the Geometric period where there’s Hades’ Underworld, elaborate burial rituals, and detailed ancient Greek funerary vases like the terracotta krater!
Two forms becoming one is Hermaphrodite. With roots in ancient Greek mythology, the tale of Hermaphrodite relates to modern discussions of gender identity and, through sculptural depictions, this figure becomes a beautiful ambiguity everyone can experience.
You’ve probably heard the saying Love conquers all. This timeless saying goes all the way back to the Roman poet Virgil in his “Eclogues”. In Latin, he writes,
Not even War can beat Love! Sandro Botticellicelebrates Love’s triumph through depictions of Venus, the goddess of love! There’s his famous work The Birth of Venus(which you can see at the Uffizi). But, today, we’ll take about his painting, Venus and Mars.
This spectacular piece contains some humor, cool myths, classical references, and marriage themes! What’s not to love!?
“A young woman with nonhuman countenance, is carried on a conch shell, wafted to shore by playful zephyrs; and it seems that heaven rejoices in her birth.”
Who is this young woman Polizianois speaking of? It’s none other than Venus, the beautiful goddess of love! Venus, and other gods and goddesses, are central icons in some Renaissance works especially as scholars and artists alike looked towards the classics. Remember Bronzino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupidor even Titian’sBacchus and Ariadne? Those are just a few paintings we’ve touched on that focus on the myths!
I’d like to introduce you to another great painting featuring Venus: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus!This painting reimagines the very beginning of our favorite love goddess. For inspiration, Botticelli most likely looked towards his friend Poliziano and classical writers Homerand Virgil.
Why don’t we see what Botticelli’s painting has to say about Venus!?
“A half-blood of the eldest gods, Shall reach sixteen against all odds, And see the world in endless sleep, The hero’s soul, cursed blade shall reap, A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze.”
This epic prophecy guides the events of Rick Riordan’s beloved Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, fantasy adventure novels based in Greek mythology. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll remember how important prophecies are and they are central to classic Greek mythology. If you’ll let me play oracle for a moment, here is a prophecy for you as you read this THATMuse blog post:
A reader shall delve into the spirals of endless learning,
From one post a thirst for knowledge you are affirming,
Stories woven together from mouth, to paint, to text, to screen,
Heroes of centuries and years, in museums and novels beg to be seen,
Raise a glass to wedding guests and parents one in the same,
A beginning to a treasure hunt we do proclaim.
To begin your endless learning (after all, we learn something new every day, right?) I will be introducing you to the Sophilos Dinos, which illustrates a result of (yet another) prophecy about Zeus and Poseidon.
The depiction of Sophilos Dinos starts out as a wedding, and actually has a direct tie to the Percy Jackson series! Believed to have been created between the years 580BC and 570BC in the Attica region of Greece, this black-figured wine bowl was acquired by the British Museum in 1971. The dinos were painted by Sophilos, who specialized in the black-figure painting of complex,continuous narratives.
The story of Sophilos Dinos is essentially a wedding between two individuals known as Peleus and Thetis, which is also a Greek myth. The sea-nymph Thetis was adored by the king of the Gods, Zeus, and his brother, Poseidon, the God of the sea. However, their love turned sour when they learned of the prophecy that Thetis’ son was destined to be more powerful than his father. In order to prevent this from happening, Thetis was betrothed to the mortal hero Peleus and promised a wedding of grandeur.
In the top register of the dinos, Sophilos depicts the arrival of the gods at said magnificent event. The first arrivals include the God of wine Dionysos, who is followed by Hebe and the centaur Chiron. Then enter the chariot procession of the gods, led by Zeus and Hera, followed by Poseidon and Amphitrite, then Hermes and Apollo, Ares and Aphrodite, and Athena and Artemis. Between the chariots are Fates, Graces, and Muses. What a grand affair! And how nice of Sophilos to create a family portrait – as siblings, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, and in-laws make up the entirety of the wedding guests. This wedding began a string of events that triggered the Trojan War, but that is a story for another day!
How do Thetis and Peleus’ nuptials – and their prestigious guests – relate to our favorite demi-god Percy and his five-book (or two-movie, if that is more your thing) journey? Well, many of the guests captured in Sophilos’ detailed vase painting appear inRick Riordan’s story!
The hero, Percy Jackson, is the son of Poseidon, Thetis’ at-one-time admirer and wedding guest. Annabeth, Percy’s best friend (and — spoiler alert — girlfriend!) is the daughter of another wedding guest, Athena, the Goddess of wisdom.
Remember Camp Half-Blood (and the epic game of capture the flag?) well, the ever-eccentric director of camp, Mr. D, is the God Dionysus, who, in the Percy Jackson tales, was sentenced to one hundred years of “rehab” as camp director with an endless supply of Diet Coke replacing wine. In the Sophilos dinos, the centaur Chiron enters after Dionysus, and at Camp Half-Blood he is the beloved activities director (you might also remember him as Mr. Brunner when he posed as a teacher at Percy’s school in The Lightening Thief!).
Many of the rest of Thetis and Peleus’ wedding guests are important pieces of the Percy Jackson stories. All of the major gods and goddesses – such as Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Ares, and Aphrodite – all make appearances in the series, and many are the parents of the demigods (half-god, half-human) attend camp Half-Blood with Percy! One notable example is Hermes, who arrived on a chariot with Apollo to the wedding, was the estranged father of Luke Castellan, sometimes friend and oftentimes foe of Percy.
To Conclude on this epic adventure of comparison and history…
The crazy cast of characters that appears in both the Sophilos Dinos and the Percy Jackson books make for some interesting stories! If you’re interested in learning more about ancient Greek mythology, you can check out our other blog postshere or you can do a book hunt where you’ll have the opportunity to see important artifacts like the Sophilos Dinos up close! With that, your prophecy has come true! Book your THATMuse treasure hunt now as to not disobey the fates!