What is this? Who is that burly guy and why is he carrying an old man?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini_cat01.jpg–photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The burly guy is Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome; and he’s caring his dad, Anchises. They are getting out of Troy, their home, as fast as they can because the city is on fire.
The little boy is Aeneas’ son, Ascanius.
What’s the old man carrying?
Those are the penates, the home-gods that watch over you. Every household had some in a niche in the hall. They were what you grabbed to take with you when you could take only one thing. They would protect you and your family.
Who made the statue?
Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He carved it in 1619, when he was only twenty. It is in the Galleria Borghese, Rome.
But what is the story?
It is a side-story in the Trojan War legend, the subject of the Illiad, Homer’s great epic poem. The Greeks all knew this and many other stories from that idealized history of their country. The Greek version of this one ended with the flight of Aeneas, a prince of Troy, and his family.
Aeneas and his father as depicted on a Greek vase
When Rome was inventing its own history years later and looking for a founder, it took up this Aeneas thread. Roman historians thought they couldn’t do better than the old Greek legends. Monkeying the story of Ulysses, who after the Trojan War was kept wandering around the world because of the curse of an angry god, they said Aeneas and his family were made to wander around the Mediterranean after leaving Troy because of the curse of an angry goddess. The hero was not able to settle down until, after years, he reached Latium, the place that would become Rome. Anchises died along the way. Aeneas’s wife did too. Eventually Aeneas became king of the Latins and married a local princess.
Aeneas’ flight from Troy with his father on his shoulders was always a hard one to depict with grace.
Here is a version by Carle Van Loo:
Aeneas is carrying the old man and really struggling with the weight.
Barocci’s painting is wonderful illustration of the whole scene:
Mmmm the history of Rome
Christopher Matthew Burt: Thanks for your comment. All the interest ended when classical studies were dropped at the end of the nineteenth century.
giveitasecondlook: Thanks. Be kind to your friends, though, and don’t lord it over.
ashleythinks: Thanks. I hope I can interest you in Spanish history too. And maybe even art history. Check out my other blog:
Thanks. I hope you’ll be back with more flowers like that.
djaka rubijanto: Thank you. The clothes and armor Aeneas is wearing in the vase painting, and the others in old Greek vase paintings, are the best models, though the vases were made hundreds of years after the taking of Troy and might also be anachronisms. Barocci’s outfit looks more Roman than Greek, doesn’t it?
derekpiotr: Thanks. Sometimes “new” art does get tiring.
boyerwrites: Thanks. I enjoyed my visit at your blog. Good luck.
ritj: You should still think so. As I said in a comment here, Romulus and Remus were the legendary founders of the city of Rome. Aeneas was the founder of the project of Rome, the father (progenitor) of the Roman people. I’m sorry if the title misleads.
cantueso: Thanks a lot for reading my posts in both blogs, and for such applause.
sellphone: The Roman poet Virgil wrote a long epic poem about Aeneas (the Aeneid), enlarging on, beautifying the myth. Generations up to the time of our grandparents used to study it at school. “Arma virumque cano…”, they would quote for you: “I sing a man (Aeneas) and arms (weapons)”.
i like this!! i always loved ancient story of Greece, Egypt and Rome! it is wonderful, my friends!
That really blew my socks off! The one thing I knew about Rome was the Remus and Romulus story. My aunt had a little bronze statue of the two kids drinking from the udder of a wolf!
And so this is just a myth? I guess if you study history long enough you’ll find that everything is just a myth.
Do you know you have been listed as one of 10 best posts at WordPress.com?
Look up http://wordpress.com/
and poke the Freshly pressed tab.
It is a great blog, but your other blog, the one about art, is even better.
And, by the way, your avatar and your user name also deserve praise.
Until your article I always thought that Rome was about the legend of brothers Remus and Romulus.
I enjoy your writing on history. This is my first blog to another site because I am fairly new to Word Press. My most recent writing was “Murder at the Kiev Opera” which gives a historical account of Russian politics and a slide presentation of my photography of Ukraine. Best wishes N.Boyer
Hope you will view it.
Warrant One Girl-asil: Maybe you would be interested in seeing my other post on art:
Very interesting and a great read.
Tell us the artists for which these sculptures and paintings can be attributed to.
Two of my favorites are Michaelangelo and Leonardo.
nice this morning to have some light shed on beautiful old art. thanks for this
Once my teacher read us story of a Greek history. Since then I like Roman and Greek history very much. But there is a different costume weared by Aeneas and the old man on the Barocci and Raphael’s painting. Which one is more factual?
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Splendid post, glad I found your blog. Bookmarked. The Greeks & Romans – founders of western civilisation, and with what style!
Is this history out of an art or art that depicts history? Whatever, it is it is I found an interesting story unfold from a picture that I had failed to notice.
I am currently reading both the Iliad and the Aeneid in my Greek Gender and Sexuality in Classical Antiquity class. It was beautiful to see this very emotional scene carried out through several mediums. I was not aware of more modern, granted they are still very old, artists’ rendering of this scene. It’s amazing.
charkeyjk4: “According to the mythology outlined by Virgil in the Aeneid, Romulus and Remus were both descendants of Aeneas through their mother Rhea Silvia, making Aeneas progenitor of the Roman people [in that sense, the founder of the Romans]. Some early sources call him their father or grandfather, but considering the commonly accepted dates of the fall of Troy (1184 BC) and the founding of Rome (753 BC), this seems unlikely.” (Wikipedia)
Romulus and Remus were founders of the city of Rome. Two different legends knitted together.
I feel smarter! Thanks for the great post.
I love Roman history (as do many I realize), but great blog.
Emm…Excuse me.What about Remus and Romulus?.
Thank you for the Roman history review. I’m going to enjoy exploring your blog. I’ll pass it on to a history-loving friend or two. Gloris
You might like this post of mine on Mesopotamia:
Art and cultural history combined. Thank you. Funny how every dominant power group incorporates legends and beliefs from the previous dominant group, the better to legitimize their own regime.
LOVE this. I like the way you showed us pics along with your historical stories. Fun reading! :)
An interesting look at art history