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Useful weblinks: Baucis and Philemon 

Pictures

  • In this painting, Adam Elsheimer has somehow managed to make the hut look cosy and spacious as well as sparse and poorly furnished!
  • Ask students to examine this painting by Johann Heiss. Ask them how they think he has created a contrast between the gods and the mortals - is this what they envisaged when they listened to the story?
  • In this painting Jacob Jordaens really has disguised his gods as poor wanderers – notice the dirt on their bodies and the rags they wear! Hermes/Mercury’s winged helmet is strangely at odds with this idea though – you could ask students why they think the artist decided to include this element.
  • Artists have been interested in depicting the moment of metamorphoses of Baucis and Philemon as well as their hospitality inside the hut. Questions for students: Which of these representations of them turning into trees do you like the most? Which do you think is most fitting?
    Old trees – Here, the bark of the trees resembles the wrinkled skin of the aged couple. Perhaps this is why the tale has old Baucis and old Philemon turn into trees!
    Sensual trees
    A print by Matheus Jean (1619)
    The last two appear on this website that includes other pieces of artwork concerned with the connection (and the blurring of the lines) between people and trees!

Zeus

  • Discover more about Zeus’ birth, life and role as a god at Greek Mythology.com and Mythman's Zeus homepage.
  • This Greek gods website has a great selection of paintings, pottery and statues of Zeus.
  • Take a look at this statue. In antiquity (as well as now!) Zeus was often shown as having a beard. Questions for students: What do you think that adds to his image? Does it make him look older? More authoritative? Divine or human? He is also often shown accompanied by an eagle, his own bird that often appears in stories as symbolising a good omen from Zeus.
  • Since Zeus was the god in charge of the weather, he is also often shown holding a lightning bolt, as on this Athenian Greek vase. Annibale Carracci (late 1500s) created this painting. In stories, Zeus often appears as a lustful god who likes to seduce women other than his wife using many different guises. This picture still draws on his lustful nature, but this time it is with his wife Hera and no disguises are employed.
  • There are many modern representations of him too. Probably this is because he was the King of the Gods and so he is the most well known of the Greek Gods. Here are just a couple;
    Zeus as he appears in the Disney film ‘Hercules’
    Powerful Zeus! This image looks as if it has been taken from a game! In fact, Zeus does appear in several video games, e.g. SMITE.

Hermes

  • You can find out more about Hermes’ life and role as a god on this page.
  • On this Athenian red figure lekythos (5th century BC) you can see some of the trademarks of Hermes – his winged sandals, allowing him to travel easily across the world as a messenger of the gods, and the caduceus.
  • This sculpture of Hermes can be found in the Museo Pio-Clementino in Italy – the caduceus is also represented here.
  • Hermes appears in the Disney film ‘Hercules’ – with his blue skin and dark glasses here, he looks ridiculous! Still, the winged helmet and sandals make it impossible to mistake him for any of the other gods.

Xenia/Hospitality

  • You can find general information about the concept of xenia (hospitality) on this website.
  • Xenia as a concept often appears in ancient accounts/tales. Most of the time it is between rich friends when they travel (e.g. when Telemachus travels around mainland Greece searching for news of his father in Homer’s Odyssey) – perhaps in the hope that they will receive similar treatment when they visit in return! However, in this tale the gods are dressed as poor wanderers and there would be no hope of them repaying the kindness of hospitality. It is meant to be given as a kindness, not as a down-payment!
  • Take a look at this amusing comic (taken from Greekmythcomix, which includes many other great comic strips related to classical tales!) which uses examples from Homer’s Odyssey of people adhering to the rules of xenia and people breaking them!

The Tale in Antiquity and in Modern Culture

  • In Homer’s Odyssey Eumaeus gives Odysseus (who is disguised as a beggar) hospitality in his small farm hut.
  • In Callimachus’ Hecale the hero Theseus is entertained by an old woman on his way to capture the Marathon Bull.