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mythology

March 21, 2016

Three classical myths to keep you awake

If you’re still trying to adjust to the start of Daylight Saving Time, we’d like to give you a little bit of advice: don’t let the mythological gods of Greece and Rome catch you napping. Seeing mortals sleeping seems to bring out the worst in them.

Here are three of the most notorious examples:

Endymion and Selene

Depending on whom you ask, Zeus either offered the beautiful shepherd Endymion a wish and Endymion chose to sleep and remain youthful forever, or the eternal sleep wasn’t a gift at all, but rather a punishment because Endymion had attempted to seduce Zeus’ wife, Hera.

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April 11, 2014

Here be dragons

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on April 23. I know this because as a child I was obsessed with the world of make-believe. While my sister was collecting books on the natural sciences, I had a whole shelf devoted to children’s versions of Greek mythology, fairy tales, and folklore. The stories I loved best involved magic and monsters. To this day my mother will buy me used books if they have a dragon on the cover. And this is where Saint George comes in.

In the 13th century, Jacobus de Voragine wrote in The Golden Legend that Saint George was a Christian knight who in his travels came across a city called Silene that was being plagued by a dragon that lived in its pond. Silene’s inhabitants were forced to appease the monster by sacrificing their children. The victims were selected through a lottery system, and one day it was the king’s own daughter who drew the last lot.

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April 21, 2012

On this day: The founding of Rome

She-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, 16th century | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. artres.com / artres.com

Twin brothers Romulus and Remus founded Rome on April 21, 753 B.C. on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants.

Roman | Ara Casali | Museo Pio-Clementino | Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.
artres.com / scalarchives.com | (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence / ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

According to the legend, the twins were the sons of Rhea Silvia and the war god Mars. Fearing that they would claim his throne, Rhea’s uncle Amulius ordered them drowned in the River Tiber. Thanks to help from the river deity Tiberinus, the twins were safely washed ashore at the foot of the Palatine hill, where they were suckled by a she-wolf. They were rescued by a shepherd, who raised them as his own. Once grown, the twins killed Amulus and went on to found a town on the site where they had been saved. After a disagreement on the exact location of the site, Romulus killed by his brother and became ruler of the settlement, which he named “Rome” after himself.

The image of the 16th century sculpture of the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus comes to us from Art, Archaeology and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives), the Casali Altarpiece from the 2nd century C.E. comes from Italian and other European Art (Scala Archives), and Nicholas Mignard’s 17th century painting comes from the Dallas Museum of Art Collection. Search for Remus and Romulus to find many more related images, including the series of prints by Giambattista Fontana from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Collection.

Nicholas Mignard | The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, 1654 | Dallas Museum of Art | Image and data from the Dallas Museum of Art

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