Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great Jupiter's goat

Professor Budding:

In the recent Mystic Moment post, "Max and me and U, 2," Max, the monkey puppet, used the exclamation "Great Jupiter's goat!"  What gives? Or maybe to be even more articulate... huh?
Arnie - De Pere, Wisconsin  


Believe it or not, this was not some random phrase like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or Toad the Wet Sprocket (or is it socket?). But explaining this tidbit of classical mythology is a bit like having bees live in your head.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the Supreme God of Mount Olympus. Although the Romans did have a lot of original ideas, the idea of a supreme god really was a Greek idea, and their "Supreme God of Mount Olympus" was Zeus.  Why the Romans didn't pick their own mountain for their gods I'm not sure. The Romans were many things, but in general they weren't a lazy bunch.

Anyway, when Zeus was a baby, Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. Then you get to pick whether you believe:
  1. He was then raised by Gaia.
  2. He was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes— soldiers, or smaller gods— danced, shouted and clashed their spears against their shields so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry.
  3. He was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. Since Cronus ruled over the Earth, the heavens and the sea, she hid him by dangling him on a rope from a tree so he was suspended between earth, sea and sky and thus, invisible to his father.
And there's a half dozen other versions. What's important was Amalthea is sometimes represented as the goat who suckled the infant-god in a cave in Cretan Mount Aigaion , or sometimes as a goat-tending nymph.

So why didn't Max say "Great Zeus' goat!", you cry?

Because a Roman sculptor,  Gian Lorenzo Bernini, took some liberties. He created the sculpture  The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun . Produced in 1615, you can still see this at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

The sculpture shows shows Amalthea as a goat, the infant god Jupiter and an infant Faun.

Now, Bernini (1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist, and the leading sculptor of his age. Yes, he was good. He was also, for all practical matters, Roman. So it's pretty simple to see that he'd go for the Roman god, not the Greek god.

However, there is absolutely no reference in the mythology sources I've checked that puts Jupiter with goats or nymphs or even goat's milk, so in a real way, the sculpture is bogus. My suspicion is that Bernini wanted to do a goat sculpture, lost funding half way, and came up with the Jupiter/goat thing to please some patron lady bountiful.

There's as much to support that hypothesis as there is to support the Jupiter/goat connection, which is to say - none.

Then again, if you look at the picture of the sculpture, the goat does have Zeus' eyes. Bernini might have been a sly old dog or felt guilty, so he left a little shout-out to the Greek god crowd to say, "yea, I know."

Ask Professor Budding is a new service of Budding Ventriloquist. If you want to know more about something you read in the blog, Just ask.  Remember, at the heart of BV is the desire to give the gift of knowledge.

It's also important to the journalistic integrity of this budding ventriloquist that you can feel confident that I'm not making stuff up willy nilly.  When I make something up, it's very deliberate.

You're already feeling smarter, aren't you? Can't wait to explain Jupiter's goat to your family at dinner?

Might just drop your mythology class if BV keeps running this feature?
I hope you like the logo.  I had an even cooler concept of me wearing a graduation gown and mortar board, but my daughter thought that was too weird. God knows I would not want to have something weird creep into this blog.

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