Tag: greek culture

Greek Mythology: Apollo and Marsyas

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Greek Mythology: Apollo and Marsyas

mythology art, greek mythology, greek culture, apollo and marsyas, pietro perugino, italian art, giclee prints, fine art posters, figurative art

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Venus in Roman and Greek Mythologies

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Venus in Roman and Greek Mythologies

Venusis the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity, victory, and desire. In Roman mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus becomes one of the most widely referenced deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.

Venus embodies sex, love, beauty, enticement, seduction, and persuasive female charm among the community of immortal gods; in Latin orthography, her name is indistinguishable from the Latin noun venus (“sexual love” and “sexual desire”), from which it derives. Venus has been described as perhaps “the most original creation of the Roman pantheon”, and “an ill-defined and assimilative” native goddess, combined “with a strange and exotic Aphrodite”.

Venus in Roman and Greek Mythologies

Her cults may represent the religiously legitimate charm and seduction of the divine by mortals, in contrast to the formal, contractual relations between most members of Rome’s official pantheon and the state, and the unofficial, illicit manipulation of divine forces through magic. The ambivalence of her function is suggested in the etymological relationship of the root *venes- with Latin venenum (poison), in the sense of “a charm, magic philtre”.

In myth, Venus-Aphrodite was born of sea-foam. Roman theology presents Venus as the yielding, watery female principle, essential to the generation and balance of life. Her male counterparts in the Roman pantheon, Vulcan and Mars, are active and fiery. Venus absorbs and tempers the male essence, uniting the opposites of male and female in mutual affection. She is essentially assimilative and benign, and embraces several otherwise quite disparate functions. She can give military victory, sexual success, good fortune and prosperity. In one context, she is a goddess of prostitutes; in another, she turns the hearts of men and women from sexual vice to virtue.

Images of Venus have been found in domestic murals, mosaics and household shrines (lararia). Petronius, in his Satyricon, places an image of Venus among the Lares (household gods) of the freedman Trimalchio’s lararium. Prospective brides offered Venus a gift “before the wedding”; the nature of the gift, and its timing, are unknown. Some Roman sources say that girls who come of age offer their toys to Venus; it is unclear where the offering is made, and others say this gift is to the Lares. In dice-games, a popular pastime among Romans of all classes, the luckiest, best possible roll was known as “Venus”.

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Mythology Art: The Birth of Venus by Adolphe Bouguereau

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Mythology Art: The Birth of Venus by Adolphe Bouguereau

The Birth of Venus (La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but the transportation of Venus in a shell (a visual metaphor for the vulva) from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus.

For Bouguereau, it was truly a tour de force. The canvas stands at just over 9’10” (3m) high, and 7’2″ (2.2m) wide. The subject matter, as well as the composition, resembles the rather more famous rendition of this subject, Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, as well as Raphael’s painting, The Triumph of Galatea.

The painting is in the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris but is currently on exhibit in the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco as part of the Birth Of Impressionism exhibition.

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Mythology Art: The Torture of Prometheus

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Mythology Art: The Torture of Prometheus

Prometheus is a Titan in Greek mythology, best known as the deity in Greek mythology who was the creator of mankind and its greatest benefactor, who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind.

Ancient myths and legends relate at least four versions of the narratives describing Prometheus, his exploits with Zeus, and his eternal punishment as also inflicted by Zeus. There is a single somewhat comprehensive version of the birth of Prometheus and several variant versions of his subjection to eternal suffering at the will of Zeus. The most significant narratives of his origin appear in the Theogony of Hesiod which relates Prometheus as being the son of the Titan Iapetus by Clymene, one of the Oceanids. Hesiod then presents Prometheus as subsequently being a lowly challenger to Zeus’s omnipotence.

In the trick at Mecone, Prometheus tricks Zeus into eternally claiming the inedible parts of cows and bulls for the sacrificial ceremonies of the gods, while conceding the nourishing parts to humans for the eternal benefit of humankind. The two remaining central episodes regarding Prometheus as written by Hesiod include his theft of fire from Olympus for the benefit of humanity against the will of Zeus, and the eternal punishment which Prometheus would endure for these acts as inflicted upon him by the judgment of Zeus.

For the greater part, the pre-Athenian ancient sources are selective in which of these narrative elements they chose by their own preferences to honor and support, and which ones they chose to exclude. The specific combinations of these relatively independent narrative elements by individual ancient authors (Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, Pythagoras), and specific exclusions among them, are often influenced by the particular needs and purposes of the larger myths and legends which they are depicting. Each individual ancient author selectively preferred certain crucial stories depicting Prometheus over others.

The intensive growth and expansion of Greek literature and philosophy in the classical fourth and fifth century Athenian period would greatly affect both the interpretation and influence which the myth of Prometheus would exert upon Athenian culture. This influence would extend beyond its dramatic and tragic form in the Athenian period, and influence large portions of the greater Western literary tradition which would follow it for over two millennia.

All three of the major Athenian tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, were affected by the myth of Prometheus. The surviving plays and fragments of Aeschylus regarding Prometheus retain a special place of prominence within modern scholarship for their having survived the ravages of time. The majority of plays written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides have been lost to literary antiquity, including many of their writings on Prometheus.

Both during and after the Renaissance, Prometheus would again emerge as a major inspiration for his literary and poetic significance as a symbol and archetype to inspire new generations of artists, sculptors, poets, musicians, novelists, playwrights, inventors, technologists, engineers, and film-makers. His literary and mythological personage remains prominently portrayed in contemporary sculpture, art and literary expression including Mary Shelley’s portrayal of Frankenstein as The Modern Prometheus. The influence of the myth of Prometheus extends well into the 20th and 21st century as well.

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Andromeda Tied to the Rock by the Nereids

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Andromeda Tied to the Rock by the Nereids

mythology art, greek mythology, andromeda, nereids, giclee prints, greek culture, world cultures, french art, figurative art, fine art posters

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Mythology Art: Venus and Adonis Art Print

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Mythology Art: Venus and Adonis Art Print

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Mythology Art: The Siren Giclee Print

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Mythology Art: The Siren Giclee Print

The Sirens in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were three dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on an island called Sirenum scopuli. In some later, rationalized traditions the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa, or Anthemusa, is fixed: sometimes on Cape Pelorum and at others in the islands known as the Sirenuse, near Paestum, or in Capreae. All such locations were surrounded by cliffs and rocks.

When the Sirens were given a parentage they were considered the daughters of the river god Achelous, fathered upon Terpsichore, Melpomene, Sterope, or Chthon (the Earth; in Euripides’ Helen 167, Helen in her anguish calls upon “Winged maidens, daughters of the Earth”). Although they lured mariners, for the Greeks the Sirens in their “meadow starred with flowers” were not sea deities. Roman writers linked the Sirens more closely to the sea, as daughters of Phorcys.

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