New Pompeii Finds: ‘Full of Sensuality’ Fresco Uncovered in Ancient Roman City

Almost 2,000 years after Pompeii was buried by ash and rock spewed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, archaeologists have discovered a fresco illustrating a sensual scene between the Roman god Jupiter (disguised as a swan) and Leda, a Spartan queen in Greek mythology.

The vividly colored fresco, which was found in a bedroom in the remains of the ancient Roman city Friday, shows Leda protecting the swan with her cloak as it sits on her lap. 

"The scene — Full of Sensuality — depicts the union of Jupiter, transformed into a swan, and Leda, wife of King Tyndareus," the Pompeii Archaeological Site wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

"From her embraces, first with Jupiter and then Tyndareus, would be born the twins Castor and Pollux from an egg (the Dioscuri), Helen — the future wife of King Menelaus of Sparta and cause of the Trojan War — and Clytemnestra, later bride (and assassin) of King Agamemnon of Argos and brother to Menelaus," the post says. According to Greek mythology, the Greek god Zeus fathered Leda's children.

Pompeii Archaeological Park Director Massimo Osanna commended the fresco's creativity; it was painted in such a way to make it appear as though Leda is looking at whomever enters the bedroom. The bedroom is located near the corridor close to the entranceway of an upscale domus, which is the type of house occupied by the upper class in ancient Rome. 

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"Leda watches the spectator with a sensuality that's absolutely pronounced," Osanna recently told Italian news agency ANSA, also adding that the fresco depicts the Greek "myth of love, with an explicit sensuality in a bedroom where, obviously beside sleep, there could be other activities."

Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow. Approximately 2,000 residents died instantly when the southern Italian region was hit by the hot pyroclastic surge.

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