They’re coming at me, all the ancients…

April 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm (Art, books, Italy, Music, Travel)

Souls of antiquity, artists and politicians, the  real and the mythical, are taking up residence in my brain:

shadowv In her absorbing history of Naples, In the Shadow of Vesuvius,  Jordan Lancaster tells us:

“Persephone’s childhood friends, the siren sisters, were the daughters of Melpomene, the muse of tragedy.They are often depicted as beautiful creatures, half-woman and half-bird….However, since the Middle Ages, the sirens have been portrayed as mermaids, half-woman and half-fish, representing a potential hazard to fisherman and sailors. The Ancients had a reverential fear of the sirens, who personified the perils of  the sea and its storms. Because the sirens had been cursed by Demeter for their failure to save her daughter [Persephone], their beautiful music always portended disaster. Their songs promise to reveal great secrets about life and the world, yet in truth they were only a ruse to lure hapless sailors to their island off the Amalfi Coast, to be seduced and devoured.

The very rocks on which those vessels foundered are, I understand, near the Isle of Capri. One can still see them – I will see them!


Ulysses and the Sirens, John William Waterhouse, 1891

Ulysses and the Sirens, John William Waterhouse, 1891


Sirènes, by Claude Debussy, Claudio Abbado conducting:

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