Troy – Myth and Reality @ British Museum

exhibition on 14.02.2020

Carefully and imaginatively displayed exhibition, at one point visitors walk through a construction looking like giant wooden ribs to indicate the Troyan Horse

quick notes initially:

Three displays reminded me of God’s recent paintings

Two remind me of today’s additional painting, the red triangles

Cy Twombly (1928-2011) painting of Achilles’ Vengeance

very large painting of lines creating a triangle shape with red at the tip
apparently likened to both the initial of his name the letter A and a bloodied spear
and representing his anger which led to the killing of Hector

the other is also Achilles, Wounded Achilles, by Filippo Albacini (1777-1858), the sculpture used to advertise the exhibition, but seen from the back, has Achilles’ spear lying at his hand, and the arrow in his foot as well as his leg all making kind of triangle or arrow shapes, as though pointing at something and reminding me of the way the triangles or arrows in the painting today also seem to be pointing at something

the third was another sculpture about Scylla. After the Fall of Troy the survivors on both sides had difficult sea journeys. Odysseus had to travel through a strait with Scylla on one side and Charybdis on the other. Scylla was a human eating multi-headed sea monster. The sculpture has her right arm raised over her head exposing the area of her chest underneath her right arm
Odysseus lost 6 men, but his ship sailed through. This reminded me of yesterday’s additional painting with the six circles in the centre and two more on the outside

interesting to me that the circles are all the same, the 6 crew that were lost, Odysseus’ men and the two on the outside perhaps representing Scylla and Charybdis, are represented by the same symbol, blue sphere with a C on one side in Raw Sienna. The 6 spheres being pulled towards one of the two other spheres, namely Scylla who destroys them in the story, telling me that all are made of the same stuff underneath all the differences, namely all are part of God

The entire story and perhaps its enduring appeal to me speak of the same thing.

The exhibition tells that the initial cause of the War was because an Apple was thrown with the inscription ‘to the most beautiful’ and three Goddesses had wanted the Apple for themselves, Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. Paris hands Aphrodite the Apple, causing dismay to Athena and Hera which then causes the War

to my mind the problem here was that Aphrodite, Athena and Hera were seen as separate Goddesses
if Paris had realised they were all representing God and therefore one, perhaps he might have thought up a different solution, giving the apple to the one, allowing the one to choose where it would be best placed

the exhibition tells of all the survivors of the War having to face difficult sea voyages
indicating to me there is no victor or loser in a war
because all are one

the exhibition also tells how the story was long believed to have been made up by Homer even though he gives detailed accounts of location
the location was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann and Frank Calvert apparently found the city excavating in 1863
but the truth about whether the War occurred or not is not known
many layers have been discovered, the city was first created perhaps around 3000 BC
it may be that 1750-1180 BC were times of particular wealth
the exhibition suggests that it was destroyed in 1300 BC by an earthquake and rebuilt
furthermore between 1400-1200BC Mycenean statues were destroyed, the exhibition suggests this may have been a possible time for the War to have taken place

The exhibition compares the onward journeys, the difficult sea journey faced by the survivors to the hardships soliers may need to endure after facing brutal conflicts
Real or not, this is not as important as God’s message, to my mind, the stories seem to tell of God’s guidance perhaps

Aeneas’ flight with his family – the exhibition has a painting showing Aeneas struggling to carry his elderly father Anchises who perhaps importantly clutches the ‘household Gods’, carries with him God’s wisdom perhaps, while his very young son walks in front of him carrying his sword – strangely – the painting by Henry Gibbs ‘Aeneas and his family fleeing burning Troy’ (1654)Aeneas and his family leaving Troy showed how Aeneas was a powerful symbol of duty and virtue for Medieval and Renaissance Europeans – his arrival in Italy was thought to represent Rome’s glorious future
in the painting his wife is held back by a Greek soldier
to my mind this shows Aeneas put the correct values first and was able to save what he could, carrying his elderly father rather than something else perhaps

while the story of Achilles shows the opposite
he believed his story could be foretold instead of trusting God
all the characters who face situations ‘with foreboding’ seem to meet sticky ends
it seems to me
Hector leaving his young family
Helen herself leaving her husband
instead of trusting God
knowing what he will do will be for the best

Odysseus’ story is seen in the exhibition as an example of a soldier facing his demons on returning from battle
certainly it makes more sense that way than as a real story
especially at the end
when having conquered his demons he proceeds to slay all the men who had proposed to his wife as well as all the women who had ‘helped’ them – thereby causing himself more trauma to overcome, if it were real
whereas if the suitors are seen as metaphors for Odysseus struggling with himself, being someone else, unable to be a good husband to his wife, absent in some way, perhaps emotionally, then his metaphorical slaying of those characters and any women who helped would make more sense
Ulysses (the Italian name for Odysseus) & the Sirens (painting by Herbert Draper 1909 Ulysses and the Sirens) is an example – the Sirens represent sexual temptation, Ulysses has to face his own desires and fears
all the examples of the journey are examples of his struggles with the situations he is confronted with – perhaps the loss of his men is symbolic of his own failures – where he is unable to keep to a straight path for instance, when he loses 6 men to Scylla
in the story he is said to spend time with other women, Calypso and Circe in particular
throughout however he trust in God, albeit his Gods, trying to follow the advice given
working through difficulties without knowing the outcome beforehand

the entire story and all associated storylines telling that being guided may be very different from knowing the outcome before it occurs
and if this cannot be done, trust in God still needs to be learned

Two further thoughts occurred to me at the exhibition
– this is not so much about the Divine as how things tend to work unless God decides otherwise

one about Achilles
perhaps obvious –
the exhibition tells how he quarrelled with Agamemnon who had taken Achilles’ Troyan captive woman for himself
Achilles refused to fight and a painting has him almost drawing his sword with Athena restraining him
in the story his comrade then takes his armour and is killed by Hector
Achilles then kills Hector and desecrates his body
all of this speaks to me of a regrettable lack of discipline and respect
which account for Achilles’ heel being his weak spot
this would make easy sense to me if his mother had arranged for Achilles to be in the service of Agamemnon rather than Achilles learning the ‘hard’ way to be respectful and disciplined and earn his place at Agamemnon’s side
and this would be the factual explanation of the dunking in the river which was supposed to leave his heel vulnerable
his failure to abide by Agamemnon’s wishes being a huge mistake I imagine, would lead him to make many further mistakes
God’s way of guiding perhaps
not just Achilles but all around and beyond

the other is Scylla, who in the sculpture is associated with a centaur
to my mind a centenarian
this seems to pop up a lot
recently in the Sleeping Beauty, Aurora has to sleep one hundred years
and I have been thinking about Prometheus having his liver eaten daily and
God reconstituting it every night until a centaur intervenes
to my mind meaning until he was one hundred years old at which time God ceased to make the liver whole again

perhaps just pointing to human lives generally thought to be about 100 years on a good day