“The Galatian Suicide” and Troy’s last night
The wonderful “Galatian Suicide” – kept at the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, in Rome and also known as “Galata Ludovisi” because it belonged to the collection of cardinal Lodovico Ludovisi (1595-1632) in the 1600s – is a marble sculpture dating back to the 1st century BC, the Roman copy of a Greek bronze original from the last three decades of the 3rd century BC.
The Hellenistic model – with other statues such as the “Dying Galata” we’ve already written about – was part of the great victory monument in ancient Pergamon that King Attalus I entrusted to court sculptor Epigonus, to celebrate the triumph of his army against the Galatians, a Celtic people, in 240 AD.
In this masterpiece, the Celtic warrior is portrayed in the extreme act of committing suicide by plunging a sword into his shoulder, with a dying woman at his feet: he chose to take his wife’s life and his own rather than to be captured by the enemy.
Later, the statue was probably placed in the Gardens of Sallust, on the Quirinal hill, to celebrate Caesar’s victory in Gaul.
Some say the “Dying Galata” is referenced in the “Posthomerica”, an epic poem Quintus of Smyrna wrote between the end of the 4th century BC and the beginning of the 3rd, which picks up the storyline exactly where Homer’s “Iliad” stopped.
Indeed, the verses describing the last night of Troy are deeply touching:
And all the city sank down into hell. (Quintus Smyrnaeus, “The Fall of Troy”, Book XIII, vv. 437-444, W.Heinemann, London 1913).
Of Trojans some by Argos’ sons were slain.
Some by their own roofs crashing down in fire.
Giving at once ill death and tomb to them:
Some in their own throats plunged the steel, when foes
And fire were in the porch together seen:
Some slew their wives and children, and flung themselves
Dead on them, when despair had done its work