A Soap Opera Myth and the Sculptures of the Archeological Museum of Naples

A closeup of the Farnese Bull sculpture at the Archeological Museum of Naples.

A closeup of the Farnese Bull sculpture at the Archeological Museum of Naples.

Dirce, the wife of King Lycus of Thebes, had been bad. She hated her niece Antiope who had succumbed to the charms of Zeus, ran away in embarrassment, and gave birth to the twins Amphion and Zethus. (When you couldn’t explain who the father was in early Greek mythology, you always blamed a god.)

Lycus went after Antiope and brought her back to Thebes, abandoning the twin boys along the way. Lycus then gave Antiope to his wife who treated the young woman cruelly. Meanwhile the twins were raised by shepherds, grew up, discovered who their mom was, and found out about Dirce’s bad behavior. This brings us to the Farnese Bull sculpture above where Amphion and Zethus are tying Dirce to the bull’s horns for punishment.

And here you thought soap operas have twisted plot lines. Believe me when I say there is much more to the story.

Several other sculptures found in the Archeological Museum of Naples also reflect early Greek myths and Roman interpretations. Atlas holds up the sky, a brooding Hercules shows off the skin of the Nemean Lion he was required to kill as the first of his 12 Labors, and Achilles carries the body of the young Troilus, a Prince of Troy he killed.

Atlas holds up the sky as a punishment form Zeus. This early sculpture would help define our concept of Atlas.

Atlas holds up the sky as a punishment from Zeus. This early sculpture would help define our concept of Atlas. The symbols on the globe are signs of the Zodiac.

Hercules shows off the pelt of the Nemean Lion he was required to kill as the first of his 12 Labors.

Hercules shows off the pelt of the Nemean Lion he was required to kill as the first of his 12 Labors.

Achilles shoulders the body of the dead boy Troilus he had killed in relation to the Trojan War.

Achilles shoulders the body of the dead boy Troilus he had killed in relation to the Trojan War.

Beyond these mythological sculptures, several others caught my attention including the bronzes found in Herculaneum, a humorous dog, a rather infamous satyr and goat, a powerful bas-relief and the River God Tiberinus.

This is a bronze statue that was recovered from the house of Julius Caesar's uncle in Herculaneum.

This is a bronze statue that was recovered from the house of Julius Caesar’s uncle in Herculaneum, which had been buried by the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD.

Proof that the Romans had a sense of humor.

Proof that the Romans had a sense of humor.

I found this bas-relief quite powerful but I will leave the interpretation up to you. For example, what about the spear intruding from the neck of the ghostly toga?

I found this bas-relief quite powerful but I will leave the interpretation up to you. For example, what about the spear extruding from the neck of the ghostly toga?

Satyr and goat have a tete-a-tete plus in this infamous sculpture found at the Archeological Museum of Naples.

Satyr and goat have a tete-a-tete plus in this infamous sculpture found at the Archeological Museum of Naples. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Since we will be traveling to Rome next on Traveling Through Time and Space, I thought I would conclude with the God of the Tiber River. Tiberinius.

Since we will be traveling to Rome next on Traveling Through Time and Space, I thought I would conclude with the God of the Tiber River, Tiberinus. That’s quite some cornucopia. I was also amused by his arm rest.

12 comments on “A Soap Opera Myth and the Sculptures of the Archeological Museum of Naples

      • In my art history studies, I specialized in the representation of animals in ancient art. There was such love in some of these artworks, and this was one of those cases!

      • I agree… there’s a sense of people liking the animals in the more realistic portrayals. And I am fascinated with your specialty. BTW… several members of the local deer herd have gone to sleeping on our back porch. Looked out this morning and one of the youngsters was curled up like a dog with its head resting on its feet.

      • Oh MY!!!! I’ve seen pictures of this kind of behavior… Why do you think they do it? Security? Food? Deer seem too skittish to me to want to go to homes to sleep.

        I wrote a lot about the depiction of animals in ancient art, especially Assyrian / Babylonian (that era). It really is fascinating to see a love for these creatures. Not much has changed. 🙂

      • Ah… the age when men and animals shared body parts. 🙂 As for the deer, we are part of their territory and they like to come by and see what Peggy is raising for them to eat. Also, we may be the only people in this neck of the woods who don’t have dogs. (We would love to have one but our wandering lifestyle doesn’t fit with having a pet.)

      • Ah, that makes sense! So they don’t smell a dog…. And as you say, it’s their land anyways! 🙂 And of course they feel safe there, that certainly helps.

  1. Ok loved the “cocky” dog (absolutely no pun intended) and as for “Satyr and goat have a tete-a-tete”.. well it seems that history may be coming full circle.. we are rather an odd society now..lol.. another great set of photos and love your commentary!!

  2. An assortment of maps distributed throughout help to put readers within penetration contexts.
    Also, universities are pushing their curriculum with the online learning.

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