08 November 2010

Ulysses and the Sirens

The Guardian, with the Observer have a series of small booklets this week about the Ancient World. They are produced in collaboration with the British Museum
Today’s is about Rome and the Roman World. On the last pages are pictures of key artefacts from the British Museum. The last picture is of a wall painting from Pompeii, a seascape. It’s “the scene where Ulysses and his crew block their ears as they sail past the Sirens, lest the song lure them to destruction”. The reproduction is so small that this detail can’t be seen.
Ulysses was usually described as ‘wily’, and was the only person to have heard the song of the Sirens and lived. He blocked up the ears of his sailors with wax, to make them deaf, and had himself bound to the mast, so they he could hear but not be seduced. His sailors couldn’t hear any orders of his to sail to the Sirens.

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