From yesterday at #koumbara #beach. I had a wonderful time at #Polydoros with a great crowd of friends. As usual Poly did us proud - a steady stream of delicious dishes appeared on our table ….. I ate far too much. But it was good to chat with friends & know that Uli was with us & that he would’ve enjoyed the afternoon so much. I went home afterwards & managed to sleep. Must’ve slept about 14 hours off & on. Being near the #bluesea is so magical. Of course I woke up today & had a mini meltdown - I blame the full moon ….. Don’t know what I’m up to today, am waiting for some phonecalls & then I’ll decide #magicofios #ios_island #Greece #blueskies #lambisstory #tumblr #lambsios #iossummer #stillsummer #greeksummer #beautyofios #ios2015 #August2015 (at Koumbara Beach, Ios)

Daily Classics: The Lament Of The Murdered Polydoros

(No, not like some Shakespearean play or an opera where a character manages to reel off a thousand word soliloquy or aria before they die. Just his ghost come back to haunt people: much more realistic!

Euripides is having more fun with grammar in this than even his usual self, or it feels that way to me.)


I have come, departing from corpses’ graves and darkness’
gates where Haides has settled himself, away from the gods.
I, Polydoros! The son of Hekabe the daughter of Kisseus;
and Priam was my father. He sent me away, when Phrygia’s citadel
was threatening to fall to the Greek spear,
fearing that possibility. I was shipped covertly from the land of Troy
to the house of Polymestor the Thracian, joined to Priam by the bonds of hospitality.
Polymestor sows these most fertile plains of the Khersonese,
ruling with his spear a host that loves horses.
My father sent a great hoard of gold with me
in secret, so that, if the walls of Ilion were to fall,
there would be nothing in life that I would lack.
I was the youngest of Priam’s line, a fact that meant I was actually
sent away covertly because I could neither carry my armour
or my spear with my young arms.
So while my country’s defences still stood strong and
the towers of my Trojan land were unbroken and
my brother Hektor fared well with his spear in battle,
I grew up well, like a sapling, at the court of the Thracian man,
my father’s guest-friend, and ate his food - O wretched me!
But when Troy and Hektor both breathed their
last, and the hearth of my father’s line was dug up,
and he himself fell at the shrine to his household gods,
slaughtered at the hands of the bloodstained murderer, Akhilleus’ son:
then he killed poor me for our gold (some thanks for it!),
that guest-friend of my father. And when he laid his hands on it, he cast me
into the salty swells so he could keep the gold to himself in his house.

(Euripides, Hekabe 1-27; my translation)

Ἥκω νεκρῶν κευθμῶνα καὶ σκότου πύλας
λιπών, ἵν᾽ Ἅιδης χωρὶς ᾤκισται θεῶν,

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Thing You Never Knew You Wanted to Know: All About Sculpture and Sperlonga: A Fairytale

Once upon a time, there were three sculptors from Rhodes: Agesandros, Polydoros, and Athenodoros. When exactly they lived, when they came to Italy is uncertain; some stories say 50 BCE to 25 CE, some say a hundred, or two hundred years earlier, some say that their names were identical to that of an earlier trio of artists. They worked in marble, and their sculptures were highly praised. Perhaps they copied Greek bronzes from Pergamon from the second century BCE, perhaps their work was original.The details have been lost.

At some point, they created one of the most famous sculptures of the ancient world: the so-called Laocoön group, depicting Laocoön and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus. As the story goes, Laocoön was a priest who rightly mistrusted the Trojan Horse. He begged the people to burn it, and was blinded by Athena, for fear the ruse would be exposed. When even this would not keep him from insisting that the horse was a dangerous present, either Athena or Poseidon–or in some versions, Apollo–sent sea serpents to strangle him and his sons. The result–Laocoön’s blind marble face turned upward, mouth open–his sons fruitlessly attempting to push the coils of snakes from around their tiny bodies–has been called one of the most perfect sculptures ever wrought.

Several years later (though, perhaps it was a hundred years, perhaps they were not the same sculptors at all) Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, commissioned five statues for the grotto of his villa at Sperlonga. A beautiful rectangular pool reflected a set of craggy caves beside the sea, and around and upon this fountain were to be four scenes from the Iliad and Odyssey and one from Greek mythology. 

The first either depicts Odysseus rescuing the body of the slain Achilles or Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus. In a series of scenes depicting the Odysseus, the latter makes little sense, but statues identified as Menelaus and Patroclus, such as that in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, are identical to reconstructions of the Sperlonga group. It has been suggested that if the trio of sculptors are indeed copyists, that they borrowed their material from Pergamon; it is believed that the sculpture of Menelaus and Patroclus that stands in Florence is a Roman copy of a Greek bronze also from Pergamon. It’s possible that both artists were copyists, that they drew from the same original. In the context of the grotto, however, it makes most sense for the figures to adhere to the narrative of Odysseus. If it is indeed Odysseus and Achilles, he latter is naked, sprawled in Odysseus’ arms as he attempts to drag the body back to camp.

The second shows Odysseus and Diomedes stealing the palladium of Troy. According to Greek and Roman belief, the palladium of a city was an ancient artifact, usually a statue of a god or goddess, without which the city would crumble. The Greeks believed that in order to take Troy, they first had to take this artifact. Odysseus and Diomedes were sent to retrieve it–a statue of Athena–but on the way back, Odysseus, perhaps looking to claim all glory for himself, attempted to stab Diomedes in the back. Diomedes saw the glare of the moon on the blade, and turned in time to avoid the blow. Odysseus was bound and returned to camp, along with the palladium. It’s impossible to know exactly what the sculpture originally looked like. All  that remains today are the head of Diomedes, youthful and unbearded, and some great hand around the body of an Greek archaic-style statue of Athena. Which of  the hand belongs to is uncertain.

The third shows the sea monster Scylla attacking the ship of Odysseus. Tentacles have begun to drown both men and the animal sacrifices Odysseus attempted to use to placate the monster. As in one of the most famous scenes of the Odyssey, he attempted to navigate his ship between the twin dangers: Scylla, the many-tentacled sea monster with the body of the woman and four eyes, and the great whirlpool Charybdis. Six of his men were killed in the process. In the sculpture, Odysseus stands in the center, while chaos is wreaked around him and his helmsman presses himself to the prow. The sculpture would have originally sat at the middle of the pond, likely on a dais in the middle of the water.

The fourth statue, set back in the grotto, depicts Odysseus blinding the cyclops Polyphemus after being stranded on his island. Three soldiers accompany him, though one has been mostly destroyed.

The fifth statue is slightly mysterious. Among the others, it’s somewhat anomalous, and it has, by far, gotten the least attention. It depicts Ganymede’s and the eagle. As Homer tells the story, he was fated to be a hero of Troy, but was abducted and taken to Mount Olympia by Zeus in the form of an eagle in order to serve as divine cup bearer of the gods. There, he was granted immortality and eternal youth. Little is left of the sculpture: the vague shape of Ganymede, wings. Originally, it was likely situated in a niche in the rocks high above the grotto.

According to one story, the roof of Tiberius’ grotto collapsed, nearly killing the emperor, and likely destroying many of the statues. Tiberius moved to Capri with the general who supposedly saved his life, and the sculptures were left behind.

It’s uncertain as to whether the three sculptors ever created more works; only in recent years have they been credited with the sculptures in Tiberius’ grotto, and even then, their names only come to us from Pliny the Elder, and their existence at all is somewhat uncertain.

In 1506, the Laocoön group was discovered and the Pope Julius II immediately purchased it for the Vatican. The sculpture was badly damaged by time, and many pieces were missing. Julius held a competition, judged by the painter and architect Raphael, to recreate the broken parts of the statue. Michelangelo, who was present when the statue was uncovered, suggested that the right arm of Laocoön was originally bent back behind his head, but in the Renaissance reconstructions, his arms and those of his sons are all shown upraised.

Four hundred years later, in 1906, Ludwig Pollak discovered a marble arm in a builder’s yard, and believing it to be similar in style to the Laocoön group, donated it to the Vatican. For almost fifty years, it sat in storage until it was identified as the right arm of Laocoön. The Renaissance reconstructions were removed, and the sculpture, as it stands today, remains incomplete. As Michelangelo predicted, the arm is indeed bent behind the head of Laocoön.

Perhaps because of this, in 2005, Lynn Catterson argued that the sculpture was not Roman at all, but a fake produced by Michelangelo. The idea gained no popularity.

The fragments of the five statues from the grotto of Tiberius stand beside their reconstructions in the Sperlonga museum. Various reconfigurations of the statues have been suggested, but unless more marble body parts miraculously turn up, the remains are much too fragmented to produce any conclusive interpretations. As to the three sculptors who supposedly created them, they remain a mystery.

-Kit Haggard

Timeless Greece. On my walk to Koumbara beach for a swim before meeting up with friends at Polydoros. It’ll be a big group of us. Uli always used to enjoy these gatherings - & I do too #koumbara #ios_island #cyclades #Greece #lambisstory #lambsios #timelessgreece #blueskies #bluesea #blueholics #beautyofios #iossummer #ios2015 #cyclades_islands #ig_cyclades #magicofios #August2015 (at Koumbara Beach, Ios)