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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Arles Archaeological Museum

The modern Musée de l'Arles Antique  is located about 20 minutes walking away from downtown Arles . The museum was built on the site of the enormous Roman circus where horse races and bullfights were organized (The Gladiators were fighting in the Amphitheater).It presents models of ancient monuments, objects from daily life from the prehistoric period to the 6th century AD, with a great emphasis on the Roman Era.

Among the displays are one of the world's most famous collections of 4th-century Roman Christian sarcophagi as well as sculptures, mosaics, jewelry and inscriptions.

Medusa was celebrated for her personal charms and the beauty of her locks. Neptune fell in love with her, and obtained her favors in the temple of Minerva. This violation of the sanctity of the temple really pissed Minerva, and she changed the beautiful locks of Medusa, which had inspired Neptune’s love to serpents... Don't mess with Minerva.

I visited the Museum last November to see the expo about the archaeological underwater investigation of the Right Bank of the Rhone River, which produced the most beautiful torso of Julius Casear ever excavated.

Among the Mosaics displayed there were beautiful pieces : 

Zeus and Europa
Europa was the beautiful daughter of the Phoenician king of Tyre, Agenor. Zeus, the King of the gods according to Greek mythology, fell in love with her. (He had a tendency to do that...)

Overwhelmed by love for Europa, Zeus transformed himself into the form of a magnificent white bull and appeared in the sea shore where Europa was playing with her maidens. The great bull walked gently over to where Europa stood and knelt at her feet. The appearance and movements of the bull were so gentle that Europa spread flowers about his neck and dared to climb upon his back overcoming her natural fear of the great animal.

But suddenly, the bull rushed over the sea abducting Europa. Only then the bull revealed its true identity and took Europa to the Mediterranean island of Crete. There, Zeus cast off the shape of the white bull, and back into his human form, made love to Europa beneath a cypress tree. Europa became the first queen of Crete and had by Zeus three sons: King Minos of Crete, King Rhadamanthus of the Cyclades Islands, and, according to some legends, Prince Sarpedon of Lycia. She later married the king of Crete, who adopted her sons.
Orpheus Mosaic

The Greeks of the Classical age venerated Orpheus as chief among poets and musicians, and the perfecter of the lyre invented by Hermes. Poets pretended that, with his music and singing, he could charm birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and even divert the course of rivers. He was one of the handful of Greek Heroes to visit the Underworld and return.

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