Calder Classics

Among the Gods and Goddesses: The Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Florence 2014Calder ClassicsComment

by Alexia Hagler, Florence '14

Figuring out the stories of Hercules represented on the sarcophagus

Figuring out the stories of Hercules represented on the sarcophagus

The major Greek gods and goddesses and their Roman counterparts, e.g. Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, are common knowledge, but few know of the many myths that arose from the same cultures, like the myths of Ganymede or Endymion. Knowing that these myths have so profoundly affected society today is one thing, but actually seeing it is indescribable. The Uffizi Gallery contains countless statues of Greek and Roman mythological characters; for example, one of Niobe and another of Laocoon. In a room branching off the main corridor in the Accademia, which holds Michaelangelo's famous David, there are numerous figures from antiquity, such as Cupid, Hera, and Demeter. Many Renaissance painters spent copious amounts of time painting Greek and Roman myths, like the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, housed in the Uffizi Gallery as well.

In common speech, an "Oedipus complex" is a psychological term, and a narcissist is an insult, but both originate from Greek and Roman myths: Oedipus who married his mother and killed his father, and Narcissus who fell in love with himself, and as a result, starved to death. Understanding that these myths represent part of a religion spanning the rise and fall of an empire, and that here, people hundreds of years ago lived by this religion is one of the most magical aspects of Florence.

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