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Neptune onshore. | by Simon Matzinger
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Neptune onshore.

Here stands Neptune,

the counterpart of the greek god Poseidon,

the roman god of freshwater and the sea,

in his left hand his trident,

and on his right, kneeling,

the sea nymph Thetis,

also known as the goddess of water.


What is she saying and why is she kneeling?

Wasn't it Poseidon, who fell in love with her

and desired her as his wife?

As also Zeus lusted after her.

But that was before this scene.


Both wanted Thetis at that time,

Thetis herself favoured Zeus,

but there was a slight problem.

An oracle, which foretold

that the son she bore

would become greater than his father.

That was quite a damper on the ambitions

of the gods, and none of them

wanted to take on the risk.


So it became, that she should marry Peleus,

a brave and kind, but a little bit boring human,

where it would be no problem (for the gods),

if his son was mightier than him.

Thetis was not amused at all and angry,

that an oracle would crimp her plans,

but this is another story.


The son, who became mightier than

his father was Achilles,

hero of the Trojan War

and the central character and greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.

And finally we are back to this scene on the fountain:


Thetis is entreating Neptune

to favour the voyage of her son, Achilles,

who has set off to conquer Troy.

But why this scene, in a place

with about 350 km distance

as the crow flies, to the sea?

Well, Neptune driving across the seas

in dominion over the watery element,

was a common motif for monarchs

in 16th to 18th-century art,

and acted as a symbol for controlling

the destiny of their nations.


You can find this fountain in Schönbrunn

in Vienna, where it was finished in 1780

for Maria Theresa.

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Taken on March 31, 2014