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Roman - Odysseus, about 25 BCE


Odysseus, about 25 BCE

Parian marble , 66.7 x 109.9 x 31.8 cm (26 1/4 x 43 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.)


Odysseus creeping towards an unseen object or adversary has long been a magnificent mythological sight at Fenway Court. The crafty Greek hero assumed this unusual posture on several occasions during the ten-year siege of Troy. Near the end of the war, he crept into the city on a spying mission. Odysseus also entered the city with Diomedes to steal the sacred image of Athena, the Palladium. Some sources say the Odysseus did the stealing. Others say he became jealous of Diomedes’ success in this endeavor and crouched just outside the city to ambush his accomplice returning over the walls with the small icon. The glint of moonlight on Odysseus’ drawn sword is what saved Diomedes from death.

This Odysseus is a Roman pedimental figure, meant to be seen in the setting of a wide triangle on a small building such as a shrine in the Gardens of Sallust in Rome, where the statue was found in 1885. The complete composition might have shown the Palladium on an altar or pedestal in the center, with Diomedes creeping up from the other side. Or perhaps Athena herself stood in the middle of the pediment, as was often the case in Archaic Greek sculpture, helping the thieves to hasten Troy’s fall.

Source: Cornelius C. Vermeule (1984), "Odysseus," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 5.