is a utopian world of bliss reminiscent to the golden ages of
Islam, Hinduism the Kingdom of heaven of Christianity 'and the
Elysian Fields in Greek mythology, the resting place of virtuous
and heroic souls.
Arcadia in Greek Mythology
Greek poet Hesiod
8th century B.C, wrote about life in Arcadia
lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote
and free from toil and grief, miserable
age rested not on them; but
with arms and legs never failing they made merry with feasting beyond
the reach of all evils.
they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and
they had all the good things; for
the fruitful earth unforced bore them fruit abundantly and without stint.
dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich
in flocks and loved by the blessed Gods”.
Greek mythology Arcadia is the realm of Pan
the Greek horned God with the hindquarters of a goat . In the
actual region of Arcadia in the Peloponnese of Greece , Pan was
worshipped by the rural shepherds and farmers. He was the God of the
fertile earth but also renowned for his great seductive virility and
his prowess with the pan flute.
God Apollo who defeated Pan in a contest of musical ability is also
Arcadia as a protector of herds and flocks. Apollo could also inflict
plague and pestilence on
Arcadia in Roman Mythology
Latin poet Virgil
70 B.C. wrote in his work the Ecolques about the pastoral
Arcadia. The influence of Virgil in establishing Arcadia as a
poetical ideal still resonates in arts and literature.
was “Christianised “ by the early Catholic church , they
saw in his writings prophecies about the coming of Christ in the
century to come.
Gregory of Tours born 538 A.D. warned however against reading his
work least one might succumb to paganism.
had become a legend in his own time . After his death in 19 B.C. his
remains were placed in a
close to Naples, the exact site has been lost.
Catholic church claim that in the tunnel cave of Chiesa della Santa
Mana di Piedigrotta, in
the vicinity of Naples , the site is where the tomb is located;
this is is however probably untrue and only a measure in
Christianising and controlling the Pagan veneration that accompanied
the original tomb shortly after Virgils death.
tripod burner associated with the worship and prophesying of
Apollo is situated at the tomb of Piedigrotta.
poet was attributed with magical powers and it is said that he
protected Naples from flies, and inflicted upon her enemies plagues
of Tilbury born 1150 A.D. was shown some of his magic spells and
said that he knew of two churches that used them to control flies. Virgil
is supposed to have used a magic fly to control and direct flies.
in Arcadia ego – Guercino
|Curious is that
in the first painting of the Shepherds of Arcadia by Guercino
painted around 1620 A.D. a blowfly is visible on the skull
resting on top of the tomb with the engraving Et in Arcadia Ego.
Furthermore a mouse is visible beside the skull. Apollo
sometimes took the form of a mouse : Apollo - Smintheus. It seems
that Guercino could be alluding to the tomb
Shepherds of Arcadia by
Et in Arcadia Ego – Nicolas Poussin
two Shepherds of Arcadia paintings by Nicolas Poussin
both portray Arcadian shepherds pointing towards the
inscription Et in Arcadia Ego engraved upon a tomb.
elder painting (1630) depicts 3 men and a woman. Two of the men
and the woman are intensely occupied with the apparent discovery
of the tomb, it seems the inscription has an unsettling effect . .
The other man seems unconcerned and is ” flowing '' water
from a amphora onto the ground next to where he is sitting.
is possible that he is the river God Alpheus symbolizing the
underground stream what flowed from Arcadia and surfaced at the
fountain of Arethusa in Sicily . (legend)
explanation could be that he represents Aquarius . His depiction
could symbolize the
from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius.
| Shepherds of Arcadia paintings by Nicolas
Nicolas Poussin and Jacopo Sannazaro
second and younger painting (1637) depicts 3 shepherds and a
shepherdess reading the inscription; Et in Arcadia Ego this time the
atmosphere is serene and 'pastoral '.
The poet Jacopo_Sannazaro
born 1458 in Naples and author of the pastoral work “Arcadia “
is considered by many art critics to be the source where Nicolas
Poussin found his inspiration for his 2e painting of the Shepherds
Shepherds of Arcadia paintings by Nicolas
In his epic poem
“Arcadia “ he writes of a tomb built by Meliseo for
his beloved Filla ; this section of the poem is reminiscent to the
lament of Phyllis who had married Demophon on his return from the
war with Troy. When he left Phyllis to help his
father she gave him a coffin containing the sacrament of Rhea. The tomb was only to be opened if he was unable to return.
is the mother of the Gods and was later strongly associated with
Cybele (mother goddess) and Gaia ( earth Goddess)
main centres of worship were in Arcadia and Crete. Her
name means flow and ease ; she represents the eternal flow of time
and (re)generation (Time
was measured in ages, the eternal cycle when every 2150 years the
and then rise once more in a new constellation .)
Arcadia she is connected to several rivers , where she bathed after
giving birth to Zeus.
to the source of the Alpheios river is a temple of Rhea.
the 12th shepherds song of Sannazaros Arcadia a tale
unfolds of two shepherds , Barcinio and Summonzio, who lament the
tragic tale of their friend Meliseo, who mourns the loss of his
beloved Filli who had died nearby. Summonzio
tells that Meliseo had engraved her name on countless stones in the
woods and finally builds a tomb for his beloved.
recites from memory a verse :
will make thy tomb famous and renowned among rustic folk.
shall come from the hills of Tuscany and Liguria to worship this
corner of the world solely because thou hast dwelt here once.
they shall read on the beautiful square monument the inscription
that chills my heart at all hours, that
makes me strangle so much sorrow in my breast “
who always showed herself so haughty and rigid to Meliseo now lies entombed, meek
and humble, in this cold stone”.
poems persona , Sincero, had left Naples to nurse in Arcadia his
intense hurt of a disappointed love, only to be haunted by the sad
melancholic tales of the shepherds.
experiencing a bad nightmare he returned by way of a tunnel to Naples
(tomb of Virgil)? to find that his beloved had died.
real life this had happened to Sannazaro when he returned to Naples
to mend a rift with his beloved, only to discover that during his
absence she had died.
Et in Arcadia Ego : Even in Arcadia I exist.
reading of the inscription in all 3 paintings by the shepherds and
the effect it has on them
, implies that something of great magnitude has occurred.
Life in Arcadia , as
depicted by Hesiod is in the instant of reading , changed , the
dreamlike death, the great sleep ...gone.
In the painting of
Guercino and Poussin's 1st work on the subject the
youngest work the mood has changed, gone is the air of melancholic
In essence the
shepherds have “fallen” from Paradise, comparable to the
eating of the apple by Eve in Eden. the original sin caused by
her “frivolous'' disregard of Gods directive, cementing the
role of women in second place in Judaic-Christian-Islamic societies.
In Poussin's 2e
painting of the Shepherds of Arcadia the reading of the inscription
is received with great interest almost as a gift. ...”Blood
of Eden “....
The central message
in the painting is that men and women stand shoulder to shoulder in the world as
equals , able to experience love, joy , anguish, death and hate ;
free to pursue the quest for knowledge........ humanity aware of
its own mortality and in charge of of its own destiny.
The accursed gift
of knowledge in Eden; seemly welcome in Arcadia.
explore idea's connected to the" Rennes le Chateau and the
Shepherds of Arcadia" theme :
blood of eden - Peter Gabriel