Monday, December 28, 2009

Antique(s) of the Week: The Temples at Paestum, formerly Poseidonia

Since last week we dealt with a statue that has been attributed as being either Zeus or Poseidon, I thought I might continue the theme of mis-attributions of the sea god with a look at the ancient Greek temples at Paestum, in Italy. Paestum began its life as a Greek colony called Poseidonis in about the 7th century BCE. On the left, we have the large structure identified as a temple to Hera. On the right, we have another temple, for years believed to be a temple to Poseidon. Makes sense, to have a temple to Poseidon, given the fact that the town was named Poseidonis, right?

Turns out, however, that this temple was yet another temple to Hera. What? Another temple? I mean, I know Hera was a very important Goddess, but she got two temples, right next to each other, and poor Poseidon gets none?

I find this very interesting, especially because there are many myths wherein Poseidon vies with another god for dominion over a particular place, and strangely, he always seems to lose. He famously competed with Athena to be the patron god of Athens (and lost), and he similarly alternately flooded or dried up Argos when they chose Hera as their patron deity over him.

The above, by the way, is a shot of the full moon taken by yours truly from the altar of the contested temple. Pretty cool, huh?

Finally, a sculptural representation of Poseidon himself, or rather his Roman counterpart Neptune, as sculpted by the great Baroque artist Giovanni Bernini. This image was sent in by reader R. Clancy, who photographed it himself at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the UK where this sculpture resides. Special thanks to Mr. Clancy for providing the inspiration for this installment of Antique of the Week.

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