Group of Polyphemus and the Greek

Inv. Scu 53

This group shows Polyphemus holding the body of one of Ulysses’ dead companions.

He sits on a rocky spur, with his torso leaning slightly towards the left and his right foot planted heavily on his victim’s limbs; the animal skin on his leg underlines its wild nature.

With one hand, he holds the young Greek and with the other a seven-reed flute (Pan flute), but this is a modern restoration: he was probably holding a cup of wine, thus depicting the episode where Ulysses offers wine to Polyphemus.

His face and eyes are turned towards the right, as if someone had suddenly attracted his attention. The presence of the third eye allows us to identify him as a Cyclops, a legendary figure linked to the myth of Ulysses.

The head of the Greek is the result of a later restoration, though ancient, perhaps related to a personage of a Bacchanal procession given the presence of the vine-leaf wreath.

Originally, the head was bent backwards, a movement not copied by the restorer.

It is possible that the work was part of a composite group, perhaps one decorating a nymphaeum.

The sculpture was found in Piazza Venezia and has been dated to the Antonine period (138-191 AD).