Giant questions: dining with Polyphemus at Sperlonga and Baiae.
If, to pursue Sir John Boardman's analogy, you generously line a Roman Imperial dining room with sumptuous polychrome decoration; desiccate representations of Polyphemus, the drunken Cyclops, and scatter freely; season with literary references, according to taste; and serve with an accompaniment of other sculptural subjects, what have you got? One might have whetted one's appetite for an exciting entree into the hermeneutic interpretation of art, the semantics of viewing and the flirtatious interplay between sculpture and dining contexts ...
But the analysis of two dining-room grottoes--one at Sperlonga (Figs. 1-4), now, as seemingly in antiquity, a seaside resort near Terracina on the coastal highway between Rome and Naples, and the other at Baiae (Figs. 5-6, 12-14), formerly a favourite Neapolitan retreat for Rome's rich and famous--has conventionally served up a less palatable dish. (2) In both cases, the focus has been on the taxonomic classifications that have been so integral to classical art history: in true Cyclopian style, a blind eye has been turned to more interdisciplinary recipes. So when discussing the epic-themed sculptures at Sperlonga--among them, in addition to the Polyphemus group, the so-called Scylla (Fig. 10), Theft of the Palladium and Pasquino groups, as well as a hotchpotch of other subjects that have received less attention (3)--it has been Kopienkritik and the search for date, artistic school and type that have been the customary plat du jour. In particular, interpretation has conventionally been bogged down in comparing the Sperlonga material with the Laocoon group (Fig. 11). (4) In his Natural History (Book VI, Chapter 37), Pliny famously named the Rhodian sculptors of the Laocoon as Hagesander, Athanadorus and Polydorus; for some, this has constituted proof that we are dealing with the same artists at Sperlonga, where an inscription proudly emblazoned on one of the sculptural groups reads: 'Athanadoros, son of Agesandros, Agesandros, son of Paionios, and Polydoros son of Polydoros, all from Rhodes, have made this'. (5) Moreover, when comparing the Polyphemus sculptures at Baiae with those from Sperlonga, most scholars have eschewed individual Imperial contexts for a hotchpotch investigation of all Imperial Polyphemus representations: the different Polyphemus groups have been blurred into a single story and reading.
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But much more is at stake in cooking up new interpretations of Sperlonga and Baiae's visual culture than our understanding of the two sets of sculptures alone. The hidden assumptions behind conventional approaches pertain to the very pervasive notion of the unoriginality of Roman art--a notion that until fairly recently remained unchallenged. (7) Two recurrent phrases best encapsulate the traditional approach: 'Greek prototypes' and 'Roman copies'. (8) Blind classification and stylistic
description, allied to the nineteenth-century notion that Roman copies were in a sense hand-made ancient equivalents of Victorian plaster-casts, have prescribed interpretations of the groups, while the question of how sets of sculptures (whether indeed 'originals' or 'copies') functioned within specific contexts is lost in the thick soup of scholarly interpretation. It is a methodology that prefers to pine over works that have been lost (and which nearly always stem from the 'glory that was Greece' rather than 'the grandeur that was Rome') instead of analysing artworks which actually survive; and it is a phenomenon that is more or less unique to classical archaeology.
Take the art historical analysis of Michelangelo's Drunkenness of Noah on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (Fig. 7). Among historians of renaissance art, this scene is of concern not only in its own right, but also--among many other things--as an artistic interpretation of a biblical text, as part of the larger context of the Sistine Chapel, and as a key manifestation of renaissance Rome's theological and artistic Zeitgeist. (9) However, when Martin Robertson, an eminent historian of classical art, approached the scene in his encyclopaedic analysis of the history of Greek art, his 'prototype' mindset instantly sprang into action: the painting is used to argue for the availability of a now lost, ancient Polyphemus group, from which Michelangelo must have 'borrowed' Noah's pose. (10) In renaissance art history, as opposed to classical archaeology, the notion of a 'prototype' is only one avenue for exploration, not the sole means of interpretation: after all, few today would endorse Robertson's search for a Greek prototype as constituting the most productive approach to analysing this sixteenth-century scene. And yet, in the case of the Sperlonga and Baiae groups, virtually all attention has been directed back to the question of lost Greek 'originals', largely denying the groups the right to exist within a Roman sphere. (11) As Brunilde Ridgway perceptively observed in 1984: 'it is only in the realm of Roman sculpture that we insist on seeing slavish duplication of Greek prototypes, while all later periods and manifestations are credited with having recast the received inspiration into different moulds and meanings.' (12)
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So given contemporary movements to analyse 'copies' as 'recontextualisations' and Roman art as Roman art, it seems appropriate to serve up some new ways of viewing the visual material of Sperlonga and Baiae. This article sets out to review the Sperlonga and Baiae Polyphemus groups according to the Roman concept of decorum; to explore the ways in which context affected sculptural interpretation; and in particular to consider how the sculptures fed into their dining contexts. At the same time, rather than describing a 'tradition of adventures in the Imperial grotto', (13) our concern is with how very differently similar groups might have been viewed in different contexts. Such sculptures were not naturally iconic, but were read according to cultural and physical setting, while in themselves defining and playing with the space they inhabited in a two-way discourse. Polyphemus groups, as I hope to show, are true to their name: they are literally 'much-speaking'. What follows is just a taster.
Before proceeding, some mention should be made of literary testimonies concerning the functions of Roman art: all the available evidence suggests that Roman sculptures cannot satisfactorily be approached without due consideration of their cultural and social environments. Cicero's letters to Atticus make continual reference to Roman 'ratio decoris' (14)--the aesthetic of selecting sculpture according to the appropriateness of physical setting. (15) In his race for artistic kudos, Cicero does not commission purchases on the basis of artist, age, scale--nor even 'prototype'. Instead, his concern is with location, ethos of physical environment and overall appropriateness to context. (16) No wonder, then, that on one occasion he loses his cool with Gallus, expostulating along the lines of 'mehercule ... whoever heard of Bacchants in a library?' (17) Despite the verbal derivation, such decor is not superfluous decoration, but integral to the definition and demarcation of the space, just as that space is integral to the definition and interpretation of the decor.
The Sperlonga grotto, discovered in 1957, yielded a number of very fragmentary sculptures, of which the Polyphemus group is just one. (18) All were displayed in a single grotto, which was connected to an adjoining dining-room (triclinium) by an elaborate series of pools and miniature lakes (Fig. 4); further investigation revealed traces of elaborate polychrome floor and wall mosaics. (19) The grotto's archaeological history has been much debated, although a general consensus would now date its renovation, and the installation of this Homericising sculptural programme, to the late first century BCE or early first century AD. (20) For many, this nicely coincides with two literary testimonies--by Tacitus and Suetonius no less--to a certain Spelunca that belonged to the Emperor Tiberius (42BCE-AD37) and which famously collapsed, almost killing the emperor, in 26AD. (21)
The Sperlonga sculptures took more or less Homeric, or otherwise epic, themes as their subjects, a phenomenon that has been associated with a number of sources. (22) Some have connected this to Vitruvius's reference to the contemporary fashion for Homeric subjects in wall painting; (23) others to the geographical setting of Campania, widely thought in antiquity to have been the scene for a number of Odysseus's most dramatic adventures; (24) and others still to the Roman appreciation of Odysseus, particularly as a Stoic hero. (25) But in terms of explaining the choice of subject-matter, by far the most widespread approach has been to regard the Tacitean and Suetonian characterisations of Tiberius as the 'key to unlock[ing] the mystery of their meaning and purpose'. (26) Thus Andrew Stewart has examined the groups in terms of autobiographical accounts of Tiberius's personality (at least as refracted through the later literary lens of Roman history and biography), noting both the evidence for his elaborate dinner parties and his supposed penchant for Rhodian culture, Homeric philology and late Hellenistic literature. (27) Often that approach has swallowed the Suetonian and Tacititean historiographical construction of 'Tiberiusthe-man' rather too literally: as for the snaky Scylla group (Fig. 10)--to cite an extreme example--well, that must have been associated with Tiberius's pet snake! (28)
But questions of decorum largely transcend the scholarly appetite for these sorts of--often conspicuously spurious--answers. The one thing about which we can be certain is that these sculptural spectacles were set up as visual feasts to be consumed within a dining context. As such, there is, of course, an element of social muscle-flexing in their display; (29) as analyses of the Roman dinner suggest, 'the cena has to be understood as an aspect of the competition for public recognition and increase in fama ...'. (30) But most striking about the setting of the Polyphemus group in a dining context is the ironic and threatening juxtaposition of the real civilising ritual of the triclinium against the artistic representation of the horrendously uncivilised cannibalism of Polyphemus. As Mrs Humphreys, true to the Graeco-Roman tradition, reminded the Victorian gentleman, 'dinner stands alone as an institution sacred to the highest rites of hospitality'; (31) and yet, as anthropological studies inform us, Polyphemus has long stood as the prototype for the ultimate topsy-turvy dinner party. (32) After all, in Book IX of the Odyssey, the Homeric Polyphemus not only fails to welcome Odysseus and his crew in the proper manner, but actually consumes them raw and at whim: as such, we are told, the brutal Polyphemus 'is unlike a civilised [literally "bread-eating"] man' and 'he does not know what is right and proper'. (33)
But the Homeric flavouring of the Sperlonga groups does not end there. While the drunken Homeric monster slumbers, the viewer is himself framed by the 'wine-dark sea' that surrounds both the sculptures and the al fresco-style triclinium. (34) Viewing these Homeric exploits, it is as though the viewers were themselves masquerading as an audience for an epic recitation--perhaps even Odysseus's own recitation of his adventures to the Phaeacians in Books IX-XII of the Odyssey.
Indeed such role-playing, combined with the overall 'Disney Homerland' theatricality of the setting and sculptures, seems to have constituted an important aspect in the choice of these sculptures within a dining context. As Christopher Jones has demonstrated, 'dinner theatre' was standard course in the triclinium; (35) and, as Petronius so effectively satirises in his account of Trimalchio's dinner, Homeric recitals and mimes were the bread and butter of the cena. (36) The spatial layout of Sperlonga was even more theatrical, with 'the disposition of the podium, the location of its spectators and its lighting effects ... [resemble] a theatre'. (37) This, however, is no ordinary theatre: the viewers' theatrical expectations have been turned into stone in just one of the natural grotto's many artful plays upon the distinctions between nature, reality and artifice. (38) Such plays on nature and art at the dinner table, again grossly distorted to a nauseous level in Trimalchio's dinner, were themselves standard fare in Imperial Rome.
The ways in which poetic subject-matter has been cooked up into visual form is integral to the Sperlonga groups. At Sperlonga, it is the very process of artistic cooking with literary ingredients that is played upon. For is this Polyphemus the poor bucolic figure of Theocritus's Idylls w and XI (and subsequently Vergil's ninth Eclogue and Ovid's thirteenth book of the Metamorphoses), innocently drunk but cruelly misinterpreted by the likes of Odysseus? (39) Or is he a fearsome enemy and a threat to civilisation? On the one hand, the tilted head, drooping genitals and certainly the surviving schema of the legs, recall the flavour of that appealingly restful rustic, the Barberini faun (Fig. 8). (40) On the other, this Polyphemus, just like other Giants such as the Dying giant (Fig. 9) in Naples and those on the Pergamon Altar, being 'as near the beast as one could conceive', (41) is set to turn our stomachs. (42) Thus, Polyphemus's schema simultaneously catered for different responses, evoking very different sculptures and quoting divergent literary traditions. (43) The sculpture questions its own setting, its literary origins and ultimately the viewer--certainly a fitting hors-d'oeuvre, then, for the cena as an occasion which 'encourages discussion between all the participants'. (44)
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These initial interpretations are by no means the only possible readings, nor are they temporarily static. If this grotto did correspond to Tiberius's collapsed Spelunca, later material culture from the cave secures the hypothesis that the grotto was soon restored after its implosion. How would an awareness of former structural collapse have affected narrative reading (not forgetting that the Homeric Polyphemus himself ironically threw stones at Odysseus in revenge ...)? (45) How did the other sculptures interact with the Polyphemus group, and how did that change as statues were added and taken away? And what drove later iconoclasts to destroy the sculptures so thoroughly and purposefully dump the fragments into the grotto's pools? Clearly, then, there is ample room for a second helping.
The later history of the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio at Baiae, just West of Naples, is even more deliciously intriguing. Giant questions become even more acutely gigantic when Polyphemus has more or less disappeared without trace, (46) leaving only the mussel-devoured remnants of Odysseus (Fig 12) and a companion (Fig. 13). The Polyphemus group, now the central exhibit in the Castello di Baia Museum (Fig. 14), was once part of an elaborate complex that was excavated with pioneering underwater archaeology techniques in 1981-82 (the nymphaeum was first discovered in 1959, and briefly explored again in 1969). (47) The original room, conventionally dated to the mid-40s AD, had one back entrance, four niches on each side and an apsidal exedra that contained the Polyphemus group. (48) Once again, it has been Kopienkritik that has dominated interpretation: (49) in the case of Baiae, it is usually assumed that it is Sperlonga's precedent of having a Polyphemus group in a dining-room setting that was being imitated--if not physically, certainly in conception. (50)
As for the semantic readings of the Nymphaeum, it has consistently been explained in terms of the ideology and imperial legitimation of the Emperor Claudius (10) BCE-AD 54). In fact, the only non-stylistic argument for such a Claudian attribution is based on Claudius's supposed predilection for Odyssean themes, itself deduced from a Homeric quotation in Seneca's 'Pumkinification' of the Divine Claudius. (51) The argument runs that Claudius is here exploiting the new Augustan connotations of Greek classicism in order to present himself in true Julio-Claudian mode, (52) and that this decision is related to the historical problems of his Imperial inheritance. (53) Thus, scholars combine the dual allusion to the 'Tiberian' Sperlonga Polyphemus group with the supposed identification of the subjects and stylistic presentation of the Nymphaeum's other statuary, to bake up a conclusion concerning what one commentator has termed 'its undeniable legal endorsement'. (54) A female draped figure is accordingly identified as Antonia Minor, Augustus's niece and Claudius's mother, on the grounds of her classicising garb and pose (seemingly modelled on the Venus Genetrix type), (55) But having exposed the tenacity, of such Imperial attributions, and argued the importance of decorum for semantic interpretation, we cannot settle for such external literary readings of the Nymphaeum's visual culture.
Tine dominant flavour of this Nymphaeum is in fact its reversal of Sperlonga's recipe of making art from a natural setting. Here, state-of-the-art techniques (from sea shells to 'false rock' and limestone) have been concocted to make a highly artificial and man-made space, hewn out from solid rock, appear natural: (57) even Odysseus and his companion have been transformed into a fountain. (58) The 'grotto' has become a self-conscious, engineered construction; the Polyphemus group is literally 'self-reflexive' in its reflecting pool.
But arguably the most conspicuous thing about the Baiae Polyphemus group and its surrounding sculpture is its context within a wider frame of death and commemoration. Here, a particular kind of dinner is being visually and playfully feasted upon: the funerary dinner, or silicernium. (59) The Polyphemus group has been assimilated to the actual space of feasting, so that the human and mythological worlds are no longer separated as they were at Sperlonga." (60) Wine (or at least coloured water) literally flowed from the Polyphemus group fountain, and it is this shared Dionysiac drinking aspect that provided a semantic link between the group and the Nymphaeum's other statuary, no less than the drinking viewers themselves. (61)
'Faced by a set of images in one room,' Mary Beard and John Henderson remind us, 'viewers are always challenged to explore ways of reading them together--to devise links, to follow up contrasts, to see what makes (or not) a rewarding story.' (62) First, then, let us note the two statues of Dionysus that occupied two niches on the east and west sides of the room (Figs. 15-16). (63) Secondly, the opus sectile polychrome figures on the walls, later covered with marble slabs, seem to have represented Dionysiac objects like theatre masks, actors and dancers. (64) These Dionysiac themes must partly direct our interpretation of two other statues, in immortalising pose, in the Nymphaeum: a funerary type of a young girl (as Pysche?) holding a butterfly in her right hand; (65) and a woman (posing as Venus Genetrix?) with a small cross-legged figure resting on her shoulder who, at the very; least, recalls representations of Thanatos, the Greek personification of Death. (66)
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So one way of viewing this latter Polyphemus group seems to have been flavoured by the Nymphaeum's conceptual links between drinking, Dionysus, death and eschatology. In this context, it is no mere interpretative garnish that the Nymphaeum was subsequently used as a place of burial. In the subsequent stages of the Nymphaeum's history, a late Imperial cylindrical amphora containing an infant burial was placed on the highest point of the exedra--where Polyphemus had previously stood: (67) an eschatological hope linked to the afterlife, then, within the afterlife of a room initially designed in the first century AD, whose Polyphemus group in a grotto setting was itself an afterlife, albeit a creative one, of a Sperlonga topos.
We have digested, cogitated and deliberated. Through kneading our interpretation of the Sperlonga and Baiae Polyphemus groups within the context of Roman ideas about decorative decorum, we have begun to sample the material in its own right rather than as a mere reflection of Greek 'prototypes' or Imperial characterisations. And we have had a taste of how very differently similar forms and subjects might be read according to their physical settings. The blinkered tendency to derive all-encompassing, universal answers has dumbed down semantic questions, eclipsed interpretative discussion and blinded scholarship to the ways in which context could cook up hermeneutic content. That Polyphemus only had one eye is no cause for applying such monocular vision to the study of his artistic representations. And when it comes to such giant methodological questions, 'nutritional satisfaction' must surely entail much more than conventional scholarly 'meat and two veg.' answers.
As for Roman Imperial representations of Polyphemus, we might end by noting that various subsequent Roman Imperial settings continued to diversify the ways in which depictions of the myth seen to have been interpreted later in the first century AD, and beyond. Take, for example, the Polyphemus mosaic in the Domus Aurea, the mega-palace of the mega-emperor Nero (Fig. 17). (68) As ever, scholars have been bound to ask: is this a mosaic 'copy' of an 'original' bronze Polyphemus group? (69) Yet the most conspicuous thing about this image and its context is how it further played upon the artifice of the Baiae Nymphaeum. Pumice stalactites are employed to assimilate the room to a cave. This, of course, corresponds to the artificiality of the Domus Aurea as a whole, which is extreme in its seemingly conscious introduction of countryside landscapes into an urban environment. (70) The motif is used within a programme that seems to have engendered a new and giddy sense that reality and illusion have merged: this in a palace, after all, where gardens became the literal stuff of fictive wall paintings, and artificial triclinium and corridor still-life wall paintings depicted real-life food. In this topsy-turvy world, the new Giant, the colossal Nero, has taken the art/nature debates played upon through the representation of Polyphemus in a grotto to an entirely new--and Gigantic--extreme.
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This article stems from the research that formed part of my MPhil degree at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge, and a paper (entitled 'Sculpting Art from Nature and Nature from Art: Reviewing Polyphemus in the Imperial Grotto') presented at a conference on 'Art and Artifice in the Roman World', held at Harvard University, 15-16 March 2002, organised by Madeleine Goh, Leah Kronenberg and Timothy O'Sullivan. I am particularly grateful to Robin Osborne for overseeing the project; and to Mary Beard, Sorcha Carey, Henry Hurst, Gloria Pinney, Nigel Spivey and Christopher Whitton for their comments. Needless to say, all errors remain my own.
(1) J. Boardman, 'One hundred years of Classical Archaeology at Oxford', in D. Kurtz (ed.) Beazley and Oxford, Oxford, 1985, pp. 52-53.
(2) The Sperlonga material is published in B. Conticello and B. Andreae, 'Die Skulpturen von Sperlonga', Antike Plastik, vol. XIV, Berlin, 1974; the groups have attracted an unprecedented bibliography, most recently collected and discussed in N. de Grummond and B. Ridgway (eds.), From Pergamon to Sperlonga: Sculpture and Context, Berkeley, 2000. For an excellent introduction to the material, and recent debates, see H. Lavagne, Operosa Antra: Recherches sur la Grotte a Rome de Sylla a Hadrien, Paris, 1988, pp. 515-58. On the Baiae sculptures, see generally B. Andreae, 'Il ninfeo di Punta dell' Epitaffio a Baia', Studi Miscellanei, vol. XXVIII, 1984, pp. 237-65; Lavagne, op. cit., pp. 573-77. A recent overview of collected essays and colour illustrations of the sculptures in the Nymphaeum at Baiae is included in P. Miniero (ed.), The Archaeological Museum of the Phlegrean Fields in the Castle of Baia, Naples, 2000.
(3) On the later material culture from Sperlonga, see H. Riemann, 'Sperlongaprobleme', in F. Krinzinger, B. Otto and E. Walde-Psenner (eds.), Forschungen und Funde: Festschrift Bernard Neutsche, Innsbruck, 1980, pp. 372-74.
(4) For example, P. Blanckenhagen, 'Laocoon, Sperlonga und Vergil', Archaologischer Anzeiger, vol. LXXXIV, 1969, pp. 256-75; J.J. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 120-26; C. Kunze, 'Zur Datierung des Laocoon und der Skyllagruppe aus Sperlonga', Bonner Jahrbucher, vol. CXI, 1996, pp. 149-223; A. Weis, 'Sperlonga and Hellenistic Sculpture', Journal of Roman Archaeology, vol. XI, 1998, pp. 412-20.
(5) Note, however, that in addition to differing from Pliny's Laocoon artists in one artist ('Haegesander'), the patronymics in the Scylla group inscription suggest that these names were not unique to a single generation. But so endemic is the shadow of the Laocoon over Sperlonga visual culture that it was once thought that the Scylla group itself was another Laocoon 'copy': see J. Iacopi, L'Antro di Tiberio a Sperlonga, Rome, 1963, p. 26. On the 'fabrication' of a Hellenistic Rhodian school of sculpture, see J. Isager, 'The lack of evidence for a Rhodian school', Mitteilungen des deutschen archaologischen Instituts, vol. CII, 1996, pp. 115-31; J.J. Pollitt, 'The phantom of a Rhodian School of sculpture', in de Grummond and Ridgway, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 92-110.
(6) For example B. Andreae and C. Parisi Presicce (eds.), Ulisse: Il Mito e la Memoria, Rome, 1996; B. Andreae, Odysseus: Mythos und Erinnerung, Munich, 1999, pp. 107-319. For a historiographical overview of such catalogues, see D. Buitron, B. Cohen, N. Austin, G. Dimock, T. Gould, W. Mullen, B. Powell and M. Simpson (eds.), The Odyssey and Ancient Art: An Epic in Word and Image, New York, 1992, pp. 14-23.
(7) Examples of revisionist approaches include: B. Ridgway, Roman Copies of Greek Sculpture: The Problem of the Originals, Ann Arbor, MI, 1984; E. Gazda, 'Roman Sculpture and the ethos of emulation', Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. XCVII, 1995, pp. 121-56; C. Hallett, 'Kopienkritik and the works of Polykleitos', in W. Moon (ed.), Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition, Madison, WI 1995, pp. 121-60; M. Marvin, 'Roman sculptural reproductions; or Polycleitos: The sequel', in K. Hughes and E. Ranfft (eds.), Sculpture and its Reproductions, London, 1997, pp. 7-28; B. Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture II: The Styles of c. 200- 100 BC, Madison, WI, 2000, pp. 268-70, 288, note 1; M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art: From Greece to Rome, Oxford, 2001; P. Stewart, Statues in Roman Society: Representation and Response, Oxford, forthcoming October 2003.
(8) In the case of the Sperlonga groups, the dating arguments are best summarised in B. Ridgway, 'The Sperlonga sculptures: The current state of research', in de Grummond and Ridgway, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 78-91. B. Andreae, Praetorium Speluncae: Tiberius und Ovid in Sperlonga, Mainz, 1994, argues that they are marble copies of second-century BCE bronze originals; whereas N. Himmelmann, Die homerischen Gruppen und ihre Bildquellen, Opladen, 1996, argues that they are first-century BCE monumentalisations of images in the minor arts.
(9) Compare, for example, C. de Tolnay, The Sistine Ceiling, Princeton, 1959, p. 25; L. Murray, The High Renaissance and Mannerism: Italy, The North and Spain, London, 1967, pp. 49-57; M. Hirst, Michelangelo and his Drawings, 3rd edition, London, 1996, p. 45.
(10) M. Robertson, A History of Greek Art, Cambridge, 1975, p. 543. It is worth underlining the shared theme of drunkenness in both subjects.
(11) The Sperlonga sculptures recur in catalogues of Greek art: for example, A. Stewart, Greek Sculpture: An Exploration, London, 1990, pp. 96-99; R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Sculpture, London, 1991, pp. 110-11; N. Spivey, Greek Art, London, 1997, p. 223. What is more, they are conspicuously absent in most manuals on Roman art and identity, such as D. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, Yale, 1992; E. d'Ambra, Art and Identity in the Roman World, London, 1998.
(12) Ridgway, op. cit in n. 7 above, p. 81. In fact a fitting comparison might be made to Etruscan art, conventionally regarded as passively imitating of Greek models.
(13) S. Carey, 'A tradition of adventures in the Imperial grotto', Greece and Rome, vol. XLIX, 2002, pp. 44-61, especially p. 45, 'instead of seeking to uncover specific symbolic meanings for the Odyssean stories in their individual imperial contexts, I wish to explore how the repeated display of Odyssean sculptures in imperial grottoes testifies to a sustained imperial tradition of commissioning and display, and to consider how the blinding of Polyphemus and the encounter with the Scylla not only became canonical for display in imperial grottoes, but helped to define and articulate a particular kind of imperial space.'
(14) The phrase comes from Vitruvius, On Architecture, Book VII, Chapter 5, line 4.
(15) The passages are collected in J.J. Pollitt, The Art of Rome, 753 BC to AD 337: Sources and Documents, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1983, pp. 74-81; for insightful commentary, see A. Leen, 'Cicero and the rhetoric of art', American Journal of Archaeology, vol. CXII, 1991, pp. 29-45; M. Marvin, 'Copying in Roman sculpture: The replica series', in E. d'Ambra (ed.), Roman Art in Context: An Anthology, Princeton, 1993, pp. 161-88.
(16) On the phenomenon, see E. Bartman, 'Sculptural collecting and display in the private realm', in E. Gazda (ed.), Roman Art in the Private Sphere: New Perspectives on the Architecture and Decor of the Domus, Villa and Insula, Ann Arbor, MI, 1991, pp. 71-88.
(17) Cicero, Letters to his Family, Book WI, Letter 32, lines 1-3. See Marvin, op. cit. in n. 15 above, pp. 165-66.
(18) For the excavation history, see B. Andreae, 'Skylla und Charybdis: Zur Skylla-Gruppe von Sperlonga', Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, vol. XIV, 1987, pp. 5-15. On arrangement and viewpoints, see Conticello and Andreae, op. cit., p. 51.
(19) On the Sperlonga mosaics, see F. Sear, Roman Wall and Vault Mosaics, Heidelberg, 1977, pp. 64-65; K. Dunbabin, Mosaics of' the Greek and Roman World, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 239-40.
(20) The villa itself is considerably older, and the transformation of the cavern into a triclinium-complex seems to have coincided with a number of other redevelopments: for the best synopsis, see N. Cassieri 'Il complesso archeologico della villa di Tiberio a Sperlonga', in Andreae and Parisi Presicce, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 270-79; and Riemann, op. cit, pp. 371-83.
(21) Tacitus, Annals, Book IV, Chapter 59; Suetonius, Life of Tiberius, Chapter 39.
(22) For an explicitly Homeric reading of the group, see Himmelmann, op. cit. For an Ovidian interpretation of the sculptures, relating the sculptures to Ulysses's adventures in the Metamorphoses, see Andreae, op. cit. in n. 8 above. For a Vergilian reading, see G. Bendz, 'Virgil in Sperlonga', Opuscula Romana, vol. VII, 1969, pp. 53-63; R. Hampe, Sperlonga und Vergil, Mainz, 1972; A. Weis, 'The Pasquino Group and Sperlonga: Menelaos and Patroclus or Aeneas with the body of Lausus?', in K. Hartswick and M. Sturgeon (eds.), Stephanos: Studies in Honor of Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, PA, 1998, pp. 255-86 (primarily on the Pasquino Group); A. Weis, 'Odysseus at Sperlonga: Hellenistic hero or Roman heroic foil?', in de Grummond and Ridgway, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 111-65.
(23) Vitruvius, On Architecture, Book vii, Chapter 5, line 20: see Himmelmann, op. cit., pp. 16-17.
(24) On the Odyssey's associations with Campania, see E. Phillips, 'Odysseus in Italy', Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. LXXIII, 1953, pp. 53-67.
(25) See P. Boitani, The Shadow of Ulysses: Figures of* a Myth, translated by A. Weston, Oxford, 1994, p. 19. On the Stoic Ulysses, see W. Stanford, The Ulysses Theme: A Study in the Adaptability of a Traditional Hero, Oxford, 1954, pp. 138-45. On Roman moral and political interpretations of the Odyssey, see P. Deneen, The Odyssey of Political Theory: The Politics of Departure and Return, Oxford, 2000, pp. 27-80.
(26) See A. Stewart, 'To entertain an emperor: Sperlonga, Laocoon and Tiberius at the dinner table', Journal of Roman Studies, vol. LXVII, 1977, pp. 76-90, especially p. 78. For discussions of the direct association between the emperor and sculptural choice, see Lavagne, op. cit., pp. 551-55; Himmelmann, op. cit., pp. 54-55. Note, however, that if Sperlonga is the Spelunca of Tacitus and Suetonius's accounts, archaeological evidence has nevertheless been interpreted to suggest that the statues were installed before Tiberius was even born--plausibly implying that Tiberius might only have inherited, rather than commissioned, the sculpture: see Kunze, op. cit., pp. 222-23.
(27) On Tiberius's historiographical treatment, see R. Syme, 'History or biography: The case of Tiberius Caesar', Historia, vol. XXIII, 1974, pp. 481-96.
(28) Stewart, op. cit. in n. 26 above, pp. 83-86; On 'Tiberian' art, see G. Becatti, 'Opera d'arte greca nella Roma di Tiberio', Archeologia Classica, vol. XXV, 1973, pp. 18-53; on its relevance to Sperlonga, see B. Andreae, Odysseus: Archaologie des Europaischen Menschenbildes, Frankfurt, 1982, pp. 177-88.
(29) On this aspect of Roman art, see J.J. Pollitt, 'The impact of Greek art on Rome', Transactions of the American Philological Association, vol. CVIII, 1978, pp. 155-74.
(30) K. Bradley, 'The Roman Family at Dinner', in I. Nielson and S. Nielson (eds.), Meals in a Social Context: Aspects of the Communal Meal in the Hellenistic and Roman World, Oxford, 1998, p. 50. See L. Bek, 'Quaestiones conviviales: The idea of the triclinium and the staging of convivial ceremony from Rome to Byzantium', Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, vol. XII, 1972, pp. 81-107; P. Garnsey, Food and Society in Classical Antiquity, Cambridge, 1999, p. 136.
(31) Mrs Humphreys, Manners for Men, London, 1897, p. 56.
(32) See. M. Visser, The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners, New York, 1991, pp. 3-6; P. Vidal-Naquet, 'Land and sacrifice in the Odyssey: A study of religious and mythical meanings', in R. Gordon (ed.), Myth, Religion and Society, Cambridge, 1981, pp. 80-94; E. Gowers, The Loaded Table: Representations of Food in Roman Literature, Oxford, 1993, p. 56; Garnsey, op. cit., pp. 62-81.
(33) Homer, Odyssey, Book IX, lines 190-91, and line 215.
(34) Compare recent French anthropological analysis of sixth- and fifth-century Attic vase iconography, where 'wine becomes sea, and metaphor becomes reality; before the eyes of the guests, the joint action of the wine and the painting transforms a Homeric formula into a lifelike vision' (F. Lissarague, The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet: Images of Wine and Ritual, translated by A. Szegedy-Maszac, Princeton, 1990, p. 113).
(35) C. Jones, 'Dinner theater', in W. Slater (ed.), Dining in a Classical Context, Ann Arbor, MI, 1992, pp. 185-98. See also K. Dunbabin, 'Convivial spaces: Dining and entertainment in the Roman villa', Journal of Roman Archaeology, vol. IX, 1996, pp. 66-67. Compare also how theatrical motifs in late Second Style Vesuvian wall paintings remained appropriate for the Roman triclinium: E. Leach, 'Patrons, painters and patterns: The anonymity of Romano-Campanian Painting and the triclinium from the second to the third style', in d'Ambra, (ed.), op. cit. in n. 15 above, pp. 147-49.
(36) See M. Smith, Petronii Arbitri Cena Trimalchionis, Oxford, 1975, pp 164-66, on Petronius, Satyricon, Chapter 59; Jones, op. cit., pp. 186-90.
(37) 'La disposition du podium, l'emplacement des spectateurs, les effets d'eclairage ... [ressemblent a] un theatre'. Lavagne, op. cit., pp. 549-50.
(38) In the third century, a ten-line, hexameter inscription set up in the grotto (which contrasted the sculptural programme with Vergilian accounts of Odysseus's adventures) developed this theme: it claimed that 'only the artifice of Nature surpasses the hand [that crafted the cave]' (line 9). For the publication of the inscription, see W. Buchwald, 'Das Faustinus Epigramm von Sperlonga', Philologos, vol. CX, 1966, pp. 287-92; for discussion, see E. Courtney, Musa Lapidaria: A Selection of Latin Verse Inscriptions, Atlanta, 1995, pp. 270-93.
(39) On Theocritus, Idylls, no. 11, see A. Gow, Theocritus, vol. n, Cambridge, 1950, p. 209, 'Polyphemus differs little from one of Theocritus' ordinary rustics ...'; N. Hopkinson, A Hellenistic Anthology, Cambridge, 1988, pp. 148-50; R. Hunter, Theocritus: A Selection, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 215-23.
(40) Smith, op. cit. in n. 11 above, p. 135: 'the pose has distinct echoes in the Sperlonga Polyphemus'. On the (erotically) sympathetic presentation of the Barberini Faun, see Stewart, op. cit. in n. 11 above, p. 207; Pollitt, op. cit. in n. 4 above, p. 134; J. Pedley, Greek Art and Architecture, London, 1993, p. 334. Note the Barberini Faun's own restorations, with bibliographical references collected in B. Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture I: The Styles of c. 331- 200 BC, Madison, WI, 1990, pp. 340-41, note 1.
(41) J. Charbonneaux, R. Martin and F. Villard, Hellenistic Art, 350-50 BC, London, 1973, p. 264.
(42) On this Dying Giant, see Smith, op. cit. in n. 11 above, pp. 102-104; Ridgway, op. cit. in n. 40 above, pp. 290-91.
(43) Compare the Boscotrecase Polyphemus wall painting, where sympathetic and bestialising literary treatments are literally juxtaposed; for which, see R. Ling, Roman Painting, Cambridge, 1991, pp. 114-15; Beard and Henderson, op. cit., pp. 48-53.
(44) On this aspect of the cena, see K. Dunbabin, 'Ut graeco more biberetur: Greeks and Romans on the dining couch', in Nielson and Nielson, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 81-101, especially p. 89. "s Homer, Odyssey, Book IX, lines 480-542.
(46) There purportedly survive two fragments of Polyphemus' hair, but even that identification is tentative: see Andreae and Parisi Presicce, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 368-69.
(47) Bradyseism (literally a 'slow earthquake', referring to the gradual fall and rise of the earth's crust as it floats on flowing magma) caused the gradual flooding of the site from the fourth century onwards. On the history, excavation and underwater topography of the site, see A. de Francis, 'Underwater discoveries around the Bay of Naples', Archaeology, vol. XX, 1967, pp. 209-16; F. Zevi and B. Andreae, 'Gli scavi sottomarini di Baia', Parola del Passato, vol. XXXVI, 1982, pp. 114-56; E. Scognamiglio, 'Il rilievo di Baia sommersa: note techniche e osservazioni', Archeologia Subacquea: Studi, Richerchi e Documenti, vol. I, 1993, pp. 65-70; E. Scognamiglio, 'Aggiornamenti per la topografia di Baia sommersa', Archeologia Subacquea: Studi, Richerchi e Documenti, vol. n, Rome, 1997, pp. 35-45.
(48) The best discussion of the layout is Andreae, op. cit. in n. 6 above, pp. 225-32.
(49) In the case of Baiae, scholars have recourse to the evidence of a local 'copying workshop' as testimony to the practice of reproducing Greek prototypes: see P. Gasparri, 'The plaster casts of Baia: The exceptional evidence for an ancient sculptor's workshop', in Miniero, op. cit., pp. 33-44.
(50) For example Zevi and Andreae, op. cit., p. 155. The Baiae Polyphemus group is nearly always reconstructed on the basis of other sculptural groups rather than examined in terms of its context: for example Andreae, op. cit. in n. 2 above, pp. 241-42; B. Andreae, 'Zur Einheitlichkeit der Statuenausstattung im Nymphaum des Kaisers Claudius bei Baiae', in V.M. Strocka (ed.) Die Regierungszeit des Kaisers Claudius 41-54 n. Chr. Umbruch oder Episode? Internationales interdisziplinares Symposion. Freiburg 16-18. Februar 1991, Mainz, 1994, pp. 225-26.
(51) Seneca, 'Pumpkinification' of the Divine Claudius, Chapter 5, line 3: see Lavagne, op. cit. in n. 2 above, p. 576.
(52) Andreae, op. cit. in n. 2 above, p. 246, goes as far as to suggest that Claudius even depicted Augustus in one of these niche statues.
(53) On those problems of imperial inheritance, see A. Bowman, E. Champlin, A. Lintott (eds.), Cambridge Ancient History, vol. X, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 229-41.
(54) 'La sua indubitabile leggitimazione giuridica'. Andreae, op. cit. in n. 2 above, p. 253.
(55) Ibid, pp. 248-49.
(56) Zevi and Andreae, op. cit., pp. 143-48; M. Gigante, 'Thanatos non Eros a Baiae?', Parola del Passato, vol. XXXIX, 1984, pp. 236-38.
(57) Lavagne, op. cit., p. 573; Dunbabin, op. cit. in n. 35 above, p. 72.
(58) P. Gianfrotta, 'The underwater excavation of the Nymphaeum', in Miniero, (ed.), op. cit., p. 84.
(59) The best discussion of the silicernium is H. Lindsay, 'Eating with the dead: The Roman funerary banquet', in Nielson and Nielson, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 67-80. Representations of the Polyphemus myth often seem to have appeared in funerary contexts, in both Greece and Italy, from the Archaic period onwards.
(60) See Himmelmann, op. cit., pp. 20-21; Weis, op. cit. in n. 4 above, p. 415.
(61) On this interpretation of the Nymphaeum as a sort of 'Bacchic cave', see A. Viscogliosi, 'Antra Cyclopis: osservazioni su una tipologia di coenatio', in Andreae and Parisi Presicce, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 252-56. On the Roman eschatological role of Dionysus, see S. Cole, 'Voices from beyond the grave: Dionysos and the dead', in T. Carpenter and C. Faraone (eds.), Masks of Dionysos, Ithaca and London, 1993, pp. 286-88.
(62) Beard and Henderson, op. cit., p. 45.
(63) For discussion and guided bibliography on these sculptures, see Andreae, op. cit. in n. 2 above, pp. 256-58.
(64) The Nymphaeum's floor and wall decoration is discussed in Zevi and Andreae, op. cit., pp. 131-33; P. Gianfrotta, op. cit., pp. 87-89; K. Dunbabin, op. cit in n. 19 above, p. 263.
(65) On this sculpture, see Zevi and Andreae, op. cit., pp. 149-54; F. Zevi, 'The sculptures of the Nymphaeum', in Miniero, (ed.), op. cit., pp. 90-102, especially pp. 98-99; Andreae, op. cit in n. 2, pp. 259-61.
(66) As cautiously discussed in Gigante, op. cit., pp. 236-38.
(67) On this burial, see F. Zevi 'Claudio e Nerone: Ulisse a baia e nella domus aurea', in Andreae and Parisi Presicce (eds.), op. cit., pp. 316-31, especially p. 319.
(68) The best analysis of the mosaic is H. Lavagne, 'Le nymphee au Polypheme de la Domus Aurea', in Melanges de l'Ecole de Francaise de Rome, vol. LXXXII, 1970, pp. 673-721; see also Lavagne, op. cit. in n. 2 above, pp. 579-88 (on the context of the room). For a comparison of the Domus Aurea mosaic with the Polyphemus group at Baiae, see F. Zevi, 'Claudio e Nerone: Ulisse a baia e nella Domus Aurea', in Andreae and Parisi Presicce, (eds.), op. cit., pp. 316-31; Carey, op. cit., pp. 53-56.
(69) The debate revolves around the lack of colour differentiation between skin and drapery and the range of green and yellow colours that have been taken to suggest patinated bronze: see Lavagne, op. cit in n. 2 above, p. 586; Dunbabin, op. cit. in n. 19 above, p. 141.
(70) On this aspect of the Domus Aurea, see M. Bradley, 'Fool's gold: Colour, culture, innovation and madness in Nero's Golden House', APOLLO, vol. CLVI, no. 485 (July 2002), pp. 35-44. On the rus in urbe theme of the Domus Aurea, and a comparison with the Sperlonga grotto and Baiae nymphaeum, see J. Elsner, 'Constructing decadence: The representation of Nero as imperial builder', in J. Elsner and J. Masters (eds.), Reflections of Nero: Culture, History and Representation, London, 1994, pp. 121-22.
Michael Squire is a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow at Harvard University and a Research Scholar in Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is co-author, with Nigel Spivey, of The Classical World: Self, Style and Society (forthcoming spring 2004) and is currently working in Italy as a research-writer for Let's Go travel books.