Sunday, August 6, 2006

Landmark II: Artemisium Zeus

This larger-than-life sculpture of Zeus (or possibly Poseidon) was made in bronze circa 460 - 450 B.C.E. It is 2.09 m (6' 10.5") high and 2.10 m (6' 10.75") fingertip to fingertip. It was found in the sea near Cape Artemisio. It is housed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece.

There is some debate whether or not this sculpture depicts Zeus or Poseidon, but I think the most important aspect of this work is that it depicts a god in purely human form. It was most likely carved by a master craftsman (possibly Kalamis) using an Olympian athlete as a model. The muscles, the beard, the genitalia are all perfectly masculine and human. The gods interacted with the Greeks with their petty jealousies and arrogances - that is, their human frailties - fully intact. It has been said that the Greeks' interest in the gods was really only as an exploration of the human - the human psyche, the human body, the human soul.

The name Zeus became Deus in Roman Latin and later Diós, or "God" in Spanish, giving us an explanation for words such as adiós: literally "to Zeus." We have the same sort of farewell in English with goodbye, a contracted form of "God be with you."

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