“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy.
If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.“ –Socrates
I love intellectuals with a sense of humor, and when the curators of the Greek National Archaeological Museum in Athens included this sarcophagus in their collection, they scored a goal with me. Funerals were serious business in ancient Greece, but I can’t imagine looking closely at this coffin without grinning.
The sarcophagus started life as a beautifully carved vault for the remains of a couple. The next person on stage was a starving artist with an overactive chisel. And before we know it, the guy gets cut out all together and reduced to a group of papyrus scrolls. After a bit of rock-hammer nip and tuck, the lovely lady is reduced to pure Athenian androgyny, then her head was lopped off and replaced with the cue ball cranium of the benefactor.
The fact that this sarcophagus wasn’t broken into roadway gravel is amazing enough, but to somehow end up in a world-class archaeology museum makes the tale even funnier. I can hear the artist now: “Don’t worry, it looks just like you. I’m sure no one will notice.”
It’s weird to be sure, and the audacity of it all makes it wonderful as well: a Greek sculptor’s answer to photoshopping. Who knew?
James & Terri
Oh you are having a great time I can tell James. Now i am curious did you get all of this detail in the museum or is this your own research?
It’s pretty obvious huh? How many opportunities come along to mix classic antiquities and humor? All the info on this post, except the Socrates quote, came from the museum placard. And actually, I’d love to know more about the history, like why the sarcophagus was available to be be recycled. ~James
Perhaps a recycling depot for sarcophagus tombs exists somewhere? 🙂
And, is the bottom photo, of that handsome dude, taken at Ostia Antica? Or, on second look, maybe not. I mean the location, not the description of the bloke. 🙂
Ding, ding, ding! You got it in one Yvonne. Very observant of you. Have you been to Ostia recently? If I remember correctly, this bench was just outside the small museum/cafe building. ~James
Well the Greeks presaged some of our most advanced technologies, so why not adapt from them the ol’ cut ‘n paste routine as well?! 😉
You’re so right Amit. Given their massive contributions to Western Civilization, I always think of the Greeks as a race of intellectuals. But this sarcophagus demonstrates that there were a few practical folks around. ~James
I’ll bet he didn’t get any repeat business!
It’s impossible to know the whole story on this sarcophagus Laura, but it’s darned funny anyway. The sculptor wasn’t particularly kind to the guy, and with his chipped nose and chewed-up ears, it looks like he’s been through the mill. ~James
There is quite a lot of dodgy looking stuff in museums in my opinion. Apparently some people don’t even rate the Venus de Milo but I don’t think I have ever seen that!
I agree Andrew, but what normally happens is that as one goes down the museum food chain, the exhibits get to be lesser quality. So the confusing thing in this case is that as an archaeology museum, the one in Athens has to be very near the top. But a bit of comic relief never hurts. ~James
Early answer to Photoshopping! 😀 😀 😀 Ridiculously hilarious.
I have the same question as Sue. Did you do your own research or was the information in a museum?
Thanks Tess. As I said to Sue, all the info on this post, except the Socrates quote, came from the museum placard. Isn’t this a weird and wonderful piece? ~James
It sure is! 😀 😀
How fun to start my morning with an attention getting title and an entertaining tale! Anita
Thanks Anita. I had to scratch my head to come up with the title, and I’m glad you liked it. I think that titles are important and sometimes for me, they’re the hardest part of writing a post. All the best to you and Richard for the New Year. ~James
The photoshopping analogy is a great one – amazing story even if it isn’t all true.
You can’t really tell from the photo, but the mounting of the head was pretty slipshod, which makes it even funnier. And remember, that this piece sits in one of the premier archaeology museums in the world. Pretty weird, but it makes a funny story. ~James
Lol! Perfect photoshop indeed by the ancient Greeks! Yes someone probably lost their job over this one! Thanks for sharing and for making us smile: )
I’d love to know the whole story Lia, but it’s lost to the mists of time. But, what remains is funny enough. ~James
Yes it is perfect even without all the details:)
I guess recycling has always gone on 🙂
Something else to give the Greeks credit for. ~James
That is definitely an interesting story, but I am most impressed with James’ new body. That workout is doing wonders – it is like your body is carved from a block of marble.
Getting buff is one of my my goals for 2015 Jeff – no matter how I have to do it. ~James
It is interesting to me that the sarcophagus was allowed to be “enhanced”. I love the stories you bring to life with your posts. Looking forward to your 2015 adventures.
Thanks LuAnn. With all the wacky stuff that went on with this sarcophagus, it made this story particularly fun for me. tI gave me a whole new level of respect for Greek sculptors. ~James
Thanks Steve. I hope all is going well for you guys, and all the best in 2015. ~James
Ha haaa! That’s priceless!!!!
A very early sculpture of a transvestite?
BTW that nude torso with a laurel wreath suits you beautifully.
I hadn’t thought of that Veronica, but this could be the first sculpture of a transvestite. Hard to say though. They had lots of kookie ideas back “in the Olden days” (as my nieces say). All the best in Sicily for 2015. ~James
I think both ideas are plausible. Either way, it’s hilarious!
And best wishes for you too in 2015!
You know, you look pretty good in stone!!! A glimpse into the future maybe?
Nope. Won’t happen Rusha. I’m taking Cheech and Chong’s advice and going “Up in Smoke.” ~James
Great little piece to kick off the new year 🙂
Thanks Chris. I loved this piece, and it’s so funny that I’m amazed that I haven’t done something with it sooner. All the best in 2015. ~James
Hahah, we have to love Greeks for their humor! 🙂
The Greeks contributed much to our civilization Lily – one being theatrical humor. Now we know they also added sculptural humor. ~James
If your photo depicts the Greek version of Photoshopping, would the modern version of sarcophagus sculpture be a post-mortem facelift? Both ideas seem kind of goofy, I think, but I just can hear the sarcophagus-side viewers mumbling, ‘He looks good, don’t you think?’ 🙂 – Mike
I love a good pun Mike – I really do. This sarcophagus was funny for so many reasons, and I must admit that it was a breath of fresh air in a serious, world-class museum. ~James
Love the last pic.
Definitely a cheap rush job on the sarcophagus. Probably figured the person using it was dead anyway?
I won’t be in a sarcophagus Bronwyn, but still, I’d like to know that whatever it is that survives me isn’t such a botched job. I’d love to know the real story. ~James