October 23, 2014

Feast of San Giovanni da Capestrano

Viva San Giovanni!
October 23rd is the Feast Day of San Giovanni da Capestrano, patron Saint of military chaplains and jurists. He is also the protector of Capestrano, a commune in the Province of L'Aquila (Abruzzo), where he was born in 1386. 

San Giovanni is revered as the "soldier saint" for his role in the valiant defense of Belgrade against the Ottoman Turks in 1456. With his fiery sermons, he helped raise a peasant army and assisted John Hunyadi, the heroic White Knight of Wallachia, in breaking the siege and routing the invaders. 

To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer in honor of St. John of Capistrano. The accompanying photo comes courtesy of Tea at Trianon.

Prayer to St. John of Capistrano

Lord, you raised up Saint John of Capistrano to give your people comfort in their trials. May your Church enjoy unending peace and be secure in your protection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

O'Giglio Spogliato

Photo courtesy of Sons of San Paolino
Sunday, November 2nd (2pm)

Saint Catherine of Sienna Roman Catholic Church
990 Holzheimer Street
Franklin Square, NY 11010

The Sons of San Paolino di Nola are pleased to announce that for the 1st time in New York, a giglio has been constructed with the key element of the true Neapolitan giglio. La Prima Borda, or La Borda for short, which is also known as "The Soul of the Lily.” This key element, along with its intricate construction of lightweight lumber will allow us to dance the giglio the way it was meant to be danced.

In the spirit of this throwback to authenticity, we will be hosting "O'Giglio Spogliato" November 2nd, at 2pm. For those who may not know, spogliato means “naked.” The giglio will not be dressed with its normal "face,” rather the bones or bare wood structure will be on display for all to see.

The intent of this afternoon will be to test the new style authentic structure, demonstrate proper lifting, dancing and turning techniques. So join us and celebrate this truly noteworthy event where giglio authenticity comes back to America.

Non vedo l'ora di vederti

For more info visit http://www.sanpaolino.org or find the San Paolino on Facebook

The Emperor of Philadelphia

No man in the history of the City of Philadelphia was more loved, hated, admired, feared and despised than Mayor Francis L. Rizzo, Sr.

Monument to Mayor Frank Rizzo
By Niccolò Graffio
“The streets of Philadelphia are safe.  It’s only the people who make them unsafe.” – Frank. L. Rizzo
“The City of Brotherly Love” began as a settlement founded by William Penn in 1682.  The previous year, Penn had received a charter from King Charles II of England to establish what would eventually become the Pennsylvania Colony.  Penn, a Quaker, had experienced religious persecution in England and was desirous of founding a colony in the New World where there would be absolute freedom of worship.  His “Holy Experiment” included the building of a city this farsighted soul believed would one day form, as he put it, “…the seed of a nation.”

The City of Philadelphia was officially established by Penn with the Charter of 1701. Penn derived the name of the city from the Greek philos (“love” or “friendship”) and adelphos (“brother”). At this time the city’s inhabitants were mostly settlers from the British Isles, as well as some Germans, Finns, Dutch and slaves from Africa. True to Penn’s vision, many religious minorities settled the area. In addition to Quakers, Mennonites, Catholics, Pietists and even some Jews helped to build the early city. As it grew, Philadelphia began to emerge as an important regional commercial center, facilitating trade between the Caribbean and British colonies in the northeast. Continue reading

October 22, 2014

Villa Palagonia at Caffè Vivaldi

Allison Scola of Villa Palagonia
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Tuesday, October 28th
(7pm – 8pm)

Caffè Vivaldi
32 Jones Street
New York, NY 10001 
(Off Bleecker Street, near Seventh Avenue)
(212) 691-7538

Villa Palagonia will spice up the scene at Caffè Vivaldi (a Greenwich Village classic restaurant, cafe, bar) with their spectacular renditions of traditional and original Sicilian-American folk music. There is no cover. Dinner, dessert, and drinks are encouraged.

For more about Villa Palagonia visit http://villa-palagonia.com

Also, check out Allison's fantastic website Experience Sicily

A Look at the 2014 Fiaccolata di San Rocco in Astoria, Queens

Final preparations are made before the procession
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Saturday, October 18th, I returned to Astoria, Queens to join the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana (3704 28th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103) for the annual Fiaccolata di San Rocco. Thank you Vincenzo Carpinelli and all the members of the society for your warmth and hospitality, it’s always a pleasure to celebrate with you. Evviva San Rocco!
(Above and below) Devotees gather outside the club for the fiaccolata
Gina and Peter's smiling faces lead the march
The procession makes its way through the neighborhood
(Above and below) Members carry candles and sing hymns for San Rocco
After celebrating Mass with Father Vincent, we depart St. Joseph's Church
Rocco Fasano leads the marchers in song
After Mass the procession makes its way back to the clubhouse
Outside the club, the ladies sing in praise of San Rocco
Inside, we were treated to some caffè and pastries 
I enjoyed a sfogliatelle
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

Also see: 

October 21, 2014

Beauty or Truth: Neapolitan Sculpture of the Late 1800s and Early 1900s

Curated by Isabella Valente. Progettazione tecnologica: Angelo Chianese

Complesso Monumentale di San Domenico Maggiore

Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 8, 80134 Napoli, Italia

Friday, October 31, 2014 to Saturday, January 31, 2015

Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II - Databenc, Distretto ad Alta Tecnologia

This exhibit is a unique chance to see all of the masterpieces of sculpture of 18th century Naples, an especially illustrious era for Italian and European art. 

For the first time, this exhibition offers the public a series of complex itineraries and the many personalities of the artists who were excluded from modern historical consideration. 

There are various sections: itineraries covering sculpture of the XIX century and early 1900s in Naples (Angelini, Lista, Gemito, Belliazzi, Amendola, Jerace, Palizzi, Franceschi, d’Orsi, De Luca, Renda, Cifariello, Barbellam De Mattei, etc...); the Jerace Collection of the city of Naples; virtual itineraries of unmovable monuments.

Official Event Website: http://www.ilbellooilvero.it/

October 20, 2014

Sicel-Sicilians and the Birth of Sicilian Culture

"Hybia is the name of a diety, doubtless a native
Sikel deity, in whose honor several spots of
Sikel soil were named." (Freeman)  
Photo courtesy of Journeying to the Goddess
By TOM VERSO (October 16, 2014)
Most histories of Sicily make a passing almost obligatory comment about the three ‘Original Sicilians’ encounter by the Greeks when they began colonizing the island in 735 B.C.: Sicels, Sicans and Elymians. Histories of Sicily generally begin with preface comments about the existing occupants and then jump into the Greek colonization. For example, Professor Gaetano Cipolla in his very very excellent book “Siciliana: Studies on the Sicilian Ethos” (Legas 2005), while giving an interesting and fair presentation of the Sicels, nevertheless writes: “We know little of the [Sicels] and Sikans, (more can be learned through a more aggressive archeological program)” (Kindle Location 673). Yes, it is true that “we know LITTLE of the [Sicels] and Sikans”! However, it is also true that we know MUCH more than what gets into contemporary history books. For example, Edward A. Freeman, in his “The History of Sicily From The Earliest Times Vol. I & II” (1891), devotes hundreds of pages of critical linguistic and historiograpahic analysis of ancient texts dealing with the ‘Original Sicilians’; the Appendices alone are staggering works of scholarship and analysis.
In short, while the American university system worships and perpetuates the myth that ‘Tuscany = Italy’, with endless studies of the ‘Johnny-come-lately’ Arno Valley culture, southern-Italian Americans can trace there history back over 3,000 years to the primordial beginnings of Western Civilization. If Guido / Guidette knew the profound history coursing their veins, they would stop being Guido / Guidette. But, then again: How can Guido KNOW … if there are NO … teachers … yoh? Continue reading

October 19, 2014

A Look at the 3rd Annual Columbus Day Giglio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

(Left) This year's giglio facade was made in Nola, Campania. (Right) Detail depicting San Paolino returning a young Christian captive to his mother
By Giovanni di Napoli

Hundreds gathered in the rain last Monday for the Third Annual Columbus Day Giglio Party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hosted by the Giglio Boys Club, members transformed Lorimer Street (between Metropolitan Ave. and Conselyea St.) into a free outdoor party to showcase and celebrate southern Italian culture.

Arriving early, I was a little worried the inclement weather would dampen the celebration, but I was assured the festivities would go on rain or shine. Thankfully, the crowds came, the rain eventually subsided and the party went off without a hitch.

As might be expected, food is an important part of any party and the Giglio Boys pulled out all the stops when it came to feeding their guests. Tray upon tray of delicious southern Italian fare was generously provided, including fresh bocconcini, involtini di melanzane, and a wide variety of pasta dishes. I tried (and loved!) the trippa alla naploetana, oil-marinated diavoletti, capuzzelle and peperoni imbottiti.

In addition to all the wonderful food and music, there was, of course, the dancing of the giglio, a three story tower made with wood and papier-mâché in honor of San Paolino, patron saint of Nola. Dating back to the 4th century AD, the ornate structure is lifted by a hundred men and paraded through the streets with much fanfare.
Most importantly, the celebration was a terrific opportunity for family, friends and neighbors to get together and strengthen our community. It was great to see so many young people take an interest in their heritage, get involved with the preparations and participate in the activities.

Three cheers are in order for the Giglio Boys Club who did a spectacular job organizing the event. I’m grateful for all their hard work and tremendous generosity. Special thanks to Dom Veruzza for inviting us; my friends and I had a great time and we look forward to doing it again next year. Evviva San Paolino!
(Above and below) Hundreds gathered in the rain to celebrate Columbus Day
Beneath a shower of confetti the dance of the giglio begins
Marching down Lorimer Street
(Above and below) Revelers enjoy a wide variety of southern Italian dishes
Capuzzelle di angello was just one of the many delicious delicacies available
The boys make it look easy
Sonny Consolazio shows his pride
Popular with the young, this could be the beginning of a new tradition
Despite the lousy weather, the guys have tons of fun
The towering giglio lights the night sky
For more photos visit us on Pinterest 

October 18, 2014

Titan of the South: Luca fà-Presto

San Nicola in gloria 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

[The following article was originally posted on October 18, 2009. I've since added photos of San Nicola in gloria (Museo Civico) from my visit to NaplesSaint Sebastian Cured by Saint Irene from the Philadelphia Museum of ArtKing Tiridates Before Saint Gregory the Armenian from the Boston Museum of Art and The Flight into Egypt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I inadvertently left out the first time around. Also included, for illustrative purposes, is a reprint of a photo of Giordano's St. Benedict and the Miraculous Sacks of Grain from the Abbey of Montecassino, destroyed in 1944. For more on the lost works from the Abbey see, "Montecassino" by Robert Enggass, p. 41-55, A Taste For Angels, Yale University Art Gallery, 1987.]

Today I treated myself with a trip to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The occasion was in celebration of one of my favorite Southern Italian artists, Luca Giordano. I thought I would pay homage to the Baroque master on his birthday by viewing some of his works in person. Continue reading

October 17, 2014

Southern Italian Halloween Costume Ideas

'O Munaciello, The Little Monk
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Halloween is once again upon us and, in accordance with its tradition, children (and adults) must decide what costumes to wear for the festivities. Since we all have our favorite characters from Southern Italian history or folklore, we thought it would be fun and interesting to consider some of them for this year's costumes.

Munaciello "The Little Monk" This mischievous pint-sized Neapolitan spirit is blamed for almost everything that goes wrong, except when he wears his red cap, then he is associated with good deeds. He is small, pale and wears a monk's robes. It is best to stay on his good side.

Bella 'Mbriana The most famous and beloved ghost of Naples, this princess' distraught spirit wanders the city. She has become a household guardian, and her name is invoked for protection and good fortune. The bella ‘Mbriana only appears for an instant, as a reflection in a window or through a curtain swaying in a breeze. She is associated with the gecko, a small lizard found all over Southern Italy.

Santa Rosalia
Photo courtesy of Thomas Rowe
Patron Saints — Choose a favorite Saint or the patron from your ancestral hometown. Not only will they make great Halloween and All Saints' Day costumes, it’s also a fun way to teach the kids about their faith and heritage. Special thanks to Thomas Rowe for sharing his wonderful photo of ElenaMarie, who made an adorable Santa Rosalia.

La Janara, The Witch
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Janare (Witches) — There is no shortage of janare in southern Italy's myths and folklore. Also called magare or streghe, the most famous come from Benevento, known today as the "city of witches." Stories abound of witches singing and dancing with faeries in the moonlight around the sacred walnut tree near the Ponte Leproso, an old Roman bridge spanning the Sabato River. Cut down in the 7th century, legend says the tree was regrown and the rituals continue to this day. Others claim a branch from the old tree was transplanted to Stretto di Barba in Avellino and grown anew. Not to be outdone, Furore and Isernia (among others) have their own colorful tales of witches and witchcraft (stregaheria), including the little "crone” pictured here, based on the wicked hags from Castelvuovo del Volturno in Molise.

Il Cervo, The Red Deer Man
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Il Cervo (The Red Deer Man) — In the town of Castelnuovo del Volturno (Molise), they celebrate the last Sunday of carnival with a tradition of obvious pre-Christian origins. It’s called the rito del cervo, or Red Deer Man ritual. Dressed in furs, antlers and face paint, the Deer Man and Deer Woman perform an elaborate ritual which includes witches (Janare), a fairy wizard from the mountains (il Martino) and the Hunters (il Cacciatore). Any of the characters would make a fine Halloween costume.

Paolo di Avitabile ("Abu Tabela") A Neapolitan Soldier turned mercenary lord who ruled various foreign lands with an iron fist. He is still spoken of in those places, and his name has become legendary. To some Abu Tabela was a proud figure of authority and stability, to others he was like the Bogey man. Either way, he was not someone to be trifled with.

October 16, 2014

Feast of San Gerardo Maiella

Viva San Gerardo!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
October 16th is the Feast Day of Saint Gerard Maiella, patron of motherhood. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a prayer for expectant mothers.(*) The accompanying photo of the Saint was taken during the 2012 Feast of Saint Gerard at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.

Prayer For Motherhood

O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonderworker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on earth didst always fulfill God's designs, help me to do the holy Will of God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory in the world to come. Amen.

(*) Prayer For Motherhood was reprinted from The Feast of St Gerard Maiella, C.Ss.R.: A Century of Devotion at St. Lucy's, Newark, New Jersey by Reverend Thomas D. Nicastro, The History Press, 2012, p. 148

Also see:

October 15, 2014

Remembering a Hero

Salvo D'Acquisto
By Lucian

Salvo D'Acquisto was born in Naples on October 15th, 1920. In 1939, during the Fascist epoch, he voluntarily enlisted in the Carabinieri, which was at the time the first corps of the Italian army in addition to military/federal police (Gendarmerie).

A year later, shortly before the start of the Second World War, he was dispatched to Libya with the 608th Police Section. During his tour he was wounded but remained with his division until contracting malaria. In 1942 he returned to Italy, was sent to officer school and graduated as a vice brigadier (deputy sergeant).

After this Salvo was assigned to Torrimpietra, near Rome. In September of 1943, shortly after the remnants of the Italian government officially rescinded their alliance with the Axis, a German SS division was stationed near a derelict military installation in an area under the jurisdiction of Salvo’s outpost. This occurred during a very difficult time in Italy, their government was effectively useless and the country was under the direct control of either the German or Allied invaders. On September 22 two of these German soldiers were caught in an explosion while inspecting boxes of abandoned munitions. One was wounded and the other killed. Continued reading

October 11, 2014

Echoes of Gemini: Castor and Pollux from Prospect Park to the Samnites

The Horse Tamers by Frederick MacMonnies, Prospect Park 
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Lucian
When I was a kid I grew up near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. My friends and I loved the park; it was big enough to get lost in, although even at that young age we knew that getting lost there was a bad idea. Every season the park had something to offer; spring and summer we had picnics and climbed trees, in autumn the leaves would become the vibrant colors usually associated with New England, and in the winter we would toboggan down the hills on the west side of the park. When a proper toboggan was unavailable, cardboard or borrowed garbage pail covers would suffice (we always put them back). One of the corner entrances to the park, near the circle connecting to Coney Island Avenue, close to the stables and bowling alley (now only a memory), are majestic statues of two men controlling bucking horses. Sitting two stories high on top of stone pedestals, it was impossible not to notice these larger than life bronze sculptures. One day I asked my mother who the statues were; and, unafraid of telling the truth, she looked down at me and said “I don’t know.”
Now I’ve grown up, travelled, and learned as much on my own as I did in school. I was visiting Naples with, interestingly enough, one of my childhood friends, and we saw statues much like the ones we remembered at the entrance to the park. However, this time we didn’t need to ask who they represented. In 1846 the statues were given as a gift to King Ferdinand II of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by Czar Nicolas I of Russia to match the ones in St. Petersburg. They were a version of The Horse Tamers, famous statues in Rome that were themselves copies of a Greek original from the 5th century B.C.  Many people associate The Horse Tamers with Castor and Pollux, Greek demigods that were adopted by the Romans, Samnites (Sabellians) and other Italic tribes a very long time ago, centuries before the Empire. Also known as the Dioscuri (Sons of Jupiter), Castor and Pollux were believed to have been introduced to Rome directly from Magna Graecia in the 6th Century B.C.  The version of the Horse Tamers in Prospect Park was sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies and dedicated in 1899, and the theme has been described as an allegory of the “Triumph of Mind over Brute Strength.” I find this concept appealing, yet the ancient peoples of Italy who worshipped the Dioscuri clearly demonstrated that it is always better to have both.
The Horse Tamers by Baron Peter
Klodt von Jürgensburg, Naples
The indigenous tribes of Italy absorbed many Greek ideas and religious practices, but the flavor of these concepts sometimes changed to better suit the tribe’s own character (i.e. Mars is not exactly the same as the Greek Ares), and not all of the tribes borrowed the same things. The Samnites worshipped Hercules, and may have elevated him to full godhood; they also adopted Castor and Pollux, and had a temple for them in Sabellian Capua. Before and during the Republic, Rome was not the only player in the region; some of their competitors were just as aggressive in trade, warfare and expansionism. A good example of this would be Campania and the ancient city of Pompeii. The area had Greek colonial origins but was eventually heavily settled and ruled by a Samnite people for generations before it was voluntarily absorbed by Rome, a situation made possible only because it was under threat from another Samnite tribe and needed a powerful ally to help fight them off (the First Samnite War, 343 to 341 B.C.).

The Samnites were Rome’s original rivals to the initial domination of the Italic peninsula, and more combative and tenacious opponents would be difficult to find. Similar to the Romans in mindset and practices, there are many who believe that if the Samnite tribes were more unified, they would have conquered the peninsula in Rome’s stead.
“Samnium was the landlocked plateau in the centre of Southern Italy bounded, on the north, by the river Sangro and the lands of the Marsi and Paeligni; on the south by the river Ofanto and the lands of the Lucani; on the east, by the plain of Apulia and the lands of the Frentani; and, on the west, by the plain of Campania and the lands of the Aurunci, Sidicini and Latini.” Samnium and the Samnites, by E.T. Salmon p. 14
The Samnites spoke Oscan but, despite their important historical significance, we are ill supplied with written material from Samnium. Luckily, among the material we do have is the Agnone tablet, one of the longest surviving Oscan inscriptions.
“The failure to conduct fully equipped and generously supported archeological expeditions into Samnium is in striking contrast to the splendid activity so common elsewhere in Italy. Probably it is to be attributed to the fact that Samnium does, after all, belong to the south, and until very recently the south was a very neglected part of Italy” Samnium and the Samnites, by E.T. Salmon p. 12  (1967)
One can easily argue that almost half a century later, the South is still neglected; and also that today even world renowned archeological sites, such as Pompeii, are lacking the requisite funding to properly preserve and secure the treasures that have been uncovered. Even so, the archaeologists and other academics do the best they can with the funding that they have, and in 2004 uncovered a Samnite temple in the ruins of Pompeii that contained evidence that Samnite culture was more sophisticated than previously thought and that their practices survived for some time under Roman rule. We can only hope that one day we will uncover additional information about the Samnites and other Italic tribes.

The Horse Tamers by Baron Peter
Klodt von Jürgensburg, Naples
The Samnite people, at least when they were officially part of Samnium, were not known to issue or mint coins of their own, but did use the currency of others. In the third century B.C. Castor and Pollux appeared on the coins of Luceria, a Latin Colony in Samnite territory. The Dioscuri appeared again on insurgent coins used by the Samnites in the Social War, but these and other images were thought to be imitations of Roman coins that also used them, a psychological tactic that has been compared to Confederate currency during the American Civil War. The supposed reasoning was that the rebel currency was intended to challenge and eventually supplant the coinage of Rome.

We have talked about ancient Italic peoples that adopted Castor and Pollux, and where their images have appeared; but who exactly were the Dioscuri, and what was their role in the old religion? Perhaps the best place to start is not with the brothers but with their mortal mother, and the very popular tale of Leda and the Swan.

As is common in the old religions, the stories of the gods are not always consistent; they vary depending on region and century. Leda was the wife of Tyndareus, King of Sparta. On the same night that Leda had lain with her husband, she was visited and seduced by Jupiter (Zeus) in the guise of a swan. How much say she had in the matter is debatable; mortal consent was not usually a concern of the Greek or Roman gods, nor of ancient kings. Leda was impregnated by both Jupiter and her husband Tyndareus and bore four children, some or all of which were hatched from eggs (depending on the version of the legend). There were two boys, Castor and Pollux (Poludeuces), and two girls, Helen and Clytemnestra. Pollux is always considered divine, and Helen referred to as the daughter of Zeus, but whether the other children were divine or hatched from eggs is not consistent with the accounts. Another tale has Helen as the daughter of the goddess Nemesis, who was also approached by Zeus as a swan; and in this version Leda minds her egg and adopts Helen as her stepdaughter. Clytemnestra married King Agamemnon and Helen went on to become Helen of Troy.

Leda and the Swan is also a favorite subject of artists throughout the ages; from antiquity, to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and finally modern times. Even Leonardo DaVinci painted Leda, but tragically the work is now lost. The image of Leda and her divine lover can be found in sculptures, paintings, cameos, and rings. Sometimes they include her children hatching from eggs. Leda is also exalted in poetry; William Butler Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan” is a classic of modern literature.

Leda and the Swan, Stabiae
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

The sons of Leda, Castor and Pollux, grew to be exceptional men and their exploits were connected to many other legends. Castor was famous for taming horses and Pollux was an excellent boxer, and as deities the brothers were associated with both these things and athleticism in general. When the legendary King Theseus and his friend Pirithous abducted their sister Helen, the twins quickly travelled to Attica with their followers and rescued her. They also sailed with Jason and the Argonauts to capture the Golden Fleece. During the voyage, the belligerent King Amycus, famous for beating strangers to death, challenged Pollux to a boxing match. Pollux accepted the challenge and killed him. While at sea the Argo, Jason’s ship, was threatened by a violent storm. Orpheus alone knew how to appease the Samothracian gods and prayed while playing his harp. Immediately the wind died down and two stars fell over the heads of Castor and Pollux. For this they are known as the patron gods of seamen, voyagers and St. Elmo’s fire. Coincidently, the sign or figurehead for one of the ships that carried St. Paul was said to be of Castor and Pollux (Acts 28:11).

On completion of the voyage with Jason the twins were involved in other notable events, including the Calydonian Boar Hunt, and the siege of the city of Iolcus.

After returning to their homeland, Castor and Pollux abducted the sisters Hilaeira and Phoebe, and the women bore them sons, Anogon and Mnesileos. Unfortunately, the women had been betrothed to the twin’s cousins, Lynceus and Idas of Thebes, sons of Tyndareus's brother Aphareus. This understandably caused a bitter feud between the cousins, who eventually warred with one another. Castor was mortally wounded by Idas, and Pollux killed Lynceus. Idas was about to land a killing blow to Pollux when Jupiter (who had been watching from Mount Olympus) hurled a thunderbolt, killing Idas and saving his son. Jupiter then offered Pollux immortality in Olympus. The conflict caused Helen to be left unguarded and she was abducted by Paris, starting a chain of events that led to the Trojan War. The gods and heroes of our ancestors were not perfect and their shortsighted actions often caused tragedy, which was perhaps the lesson of their tales. Paris, while abducting Helen, reminded her that he was following the example of Theseus and her own brothers, but the result of his actions was catastrophic. Not knowing the fate of the twins, Helen was said to have looked upon the invading army from the walls of Troy and said “Where are my brothers?”

When Jupiter offered divinity to Pollux, his son pleaded for his brother Castor. Jupiter gave Pollux the choice of spending all his days in Olympus or sharing them with his twin. Pollux chose to share his immortality with his brother and they spent alternating days in Olympus and Hades. In another version of the story, Jupiter rewarded the loyalty of the brothers by giving the twins a place among the heavens, in the constellation of Gemini. The brightest stars in the constellation Gemini are Alpha Geminorum (Castor) and Beta Geminorum (Pollux), and both stars help guide troubled ships. The Dioscuri are said to sometimes assist their followers in critical times of need. The Romans believed that the brothers intervened for them at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 B.C., and afterward a temple was built in their honor in the Forum at the center of Rome.

Because of horse taming and boxing the Dioscuri were seen as patrons of athletes, as we now see Saint Sebastian. From their voyage on the Argo they are the patrons of travelers and seamen, much as St. Peter and St. Paul are today. From Roman and Samnite coins and ancient temples to the sculptures of the Horse Tamers we feel echoes of Castor and Pollux, and the stars of Gemini watch over us all.

While visiting my mother we decided to take a walk to Prospect Park and happened to pass by the statues. I asked my mother if she remembered my questions about them and she said that I asked so many questions as a child that it was hard to remember them all. After we walked through the entrance she said “Well, tell me who the statues are!”  We walked together as I told her the story of Castor and Pollux, and the statue that I saw on my trip to Naples. She said she would share the tale with her grandchildren; who are my nieces and nephews. I thought about how much our people have forgotten, and how children today are learning far less about our history. It felt good to bring part of that history back to my family, and to realize that, in so many ways, we are still surrounded by it.


Samnium and the Samnites, by E.T. Salmon ISBN 978-0-521-06185-8

Heathen Gods and Heroes, by William King (First edition 1710) 1965 edition ISBN-10: 0809301504, ISBN-13: 978-0809301508

Classical Mythology, The Myths of Ancient Greece and Italy, by Thomas Keightley (Third Edition published 1854) 1970 edition ISBN-10: 0-89005-177-1, ISBN-13: 978-0-89005-177-1

Myths of Greece and Rome, by H.A. Guerber (First edition 1893) 1993 edition ISBN-13: 9780486275840