This is a fascinating story that spans centuries and continents. The famous Aphrodite statue is now on display in Aidone, Sicily, after a decades-long odyssey involving the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles and Italian prosecutors.
The statue of Aphrodite, the ancient goddess of love, was taken from the archeology-rich region of Morgantina, near Enna, 30 years ago, in an illegal excavation, acquired by the Getty and, after a criminal investigation, repatriated to Italy in the spring of 2012.
The story is the subject of a book, “Chasing Aphrodite,” by Los Angeles Times reporters Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino. For the article and podcast, click HERE.
Experts now believe the returned statue represents the goddess Persephone or her mother, Demeter, who were worshipped in the ancient city, Morgantina. Persephone and Hades are closely associated in Greek mythology. Hades abducted Persephone at Largo Pergusa, not far from Morgantina, and required her to return to the underworld for several months every year, which became the ancients explanation for winter.
In the winter of 2013, another important statue has been returned by the Getty to the Museo Archeologico in Aidone, Sicily. Like the Aphrodite statue, the terracotta head depicting the Greek god Hades was also taken from Sicily in the 1970’s.
In addition to these important sculptures, this part of Sicily is rich in archeological treasure. Visits to The archeological site of Morgantina and the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina are musts on any Sicilian itinerary.
Some of the finest mosaics in Italy can be found at the luxurious Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina. The most recognizable being the famous “bikini girls” playing Grecian sporting games such as discus throwing and handball. This important, now UNESCO protected, site dating back to the third century A.D., was built on a scale and to a level of luxury with no parallels in the Roman Empire. The villa covers an area of 4,000 square meters that are built on a series of terraces. In the bathing complex there is a frigiderium (cold room), a tepidarium (warm room) and it then opens out into a trio of calderia, or hot baths. It stands some 721 meters above sea level making it one of Sicily’s most spectacular sites with a view.
To learn more about this region of Sicily, click HERE.
This is one of the amazing things about Italy travel. The archeology!
Yours in exploring Italy!