One of Italy’s finest archaeological collections shows off artifacts from southern Sicily’s prehistoric inhabitants through the Romans, showcasing pieces in stunning modern surrounds. Amid prehistoric tools and sculptures are the skeletons of a pair of dwarf elephants, as intriguing to us as they were to the ancients: It’s believed that the large central hole in these skeletons’ faces—actually a nasal passage—inspired the myth of the one-eyed Cyclops. Look for the often-reproduced grinning terra-cotta Gorgon, originally part of the frieze of the Greek temple of Athena, where it was placed to ward off evil. You’ll also see votive cult statuettes devoted to Demeter and Persephone—mother and daughter goddesses linked to fertility and the harvest. Legend had it that Hades, god of the underworld, abducted Persephone in Sicily and carried her down to his realm; her angry mother Demeter fought for her return, and the gods struck a deal—Persephone could return to Earth every spring and summer, making nature bloom, but she had to resume her duties as queen of the underworld in fall and winter, causing the lands above to wither and die. The museum’s most celebrated piece is the Landolina Venus, a Roman copy of an original by the great classical Greek sculptor Praxiteles. The graceful and modest goddess, now headless, rises out of marble waves; French writer Guy de Maupassant called her “the perfect expression of exuberant beauty.”
Syracuse and Ortygia Island
Syracuse and Ortygia Island› Attraction
Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi
Viale Teocrito 66, Italy
Our Rating Neighborhood In the gardens of the Villa Landolina in Akradina Hours Tues–Sat 9am–6pm; Sun 9am–1pm Phone 0931/464-022 Prices 8€ or 13.50€ combined ticket with Parco Archeologico della Neapolis Web site Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi
MapViale Teocrito 66 Italy Syracuse and Ortygia Island
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