Reub's journey

12 July 2010

White horse in Rome

495 BC (left) and June, 2010 (right)

Our trip to Italy gave me lots of chances to admire sculpture, especially in Rome. One of my favorites is an ancient, unheralded set of sculptures guarding the top of the steps on Capitoline Hill, Piazza Campidoglio, which Michelangelo was hired to redesign back in the 1560s.

This is Castor and his beautiful horse. A similar statue of Pollux & his horse is on the other side of the marble stairway that they both look down upon.

The two statues are of Castor and Pollux (the twins of Gemini and the product of Leda and the swan). According to legend, Castor and Pollux came to life and helped the Romans win a great battle against the Etruscans in 496BC; thereafter they became objects of worship and sometimes confused in the public mind with Romulus and Remus.

When Michelangelo gave the Piazza its face-lift, he moved the two statues here; they had only just been discovered in 1561 on a site next to the Tiber river. He repaired them at the time, but you can see that the years have been hard on these statues and soon it will be time to do it again.

Pleeeease don't let this beautiful thing fall apart.

He doesn't have stirrups because they hadn't been invented in 176AD (seriously)

My hope is that the white horses of Castor and Pollux will be saved just like this copied bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, which stands near them; it is the most admired sculpture in the piazza. Now housed in a museum, the original is the only surviving bronze statue from antiquity. It survived the Middle Ages only because it was mistaken for the Christian Emperor Constantine. I guess all other bronze statues were melted down to make weapons. Sad.

This is a powerful piece of work, also moved to this location by Michelangelo.

I do think the horse conveys more strength than the rider.

For sheer grace and beauty, though, I loved the white horse of Castor. I bet Michelangelo must have felt the same way.

Already 2,500 years old, I hope it lasts much longer.


  1. Amazing! These are so beautiful and I can feel the power of the horse's strength too. It is so great that these have withstood the test of time for so long.

  2. I saw this place but it was at the end of a very long day and now I see it with your new eyes!

  3. These are brilliant! Thank you for taking us along with you on your journey!

  4. it is humbling to know how old those pieces of art are...the details on that bronze horse are amazing!!!


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