What happened to the arms of Venus de Milo?
Standing six feet eight inches, she is believed to have represented Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, love and sexual rapture. She is thought to have been created between 130 and 100 A.D. on the Island of Crete.
Last week while I was standing in the field on the Island of Milos, one of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, I learned from an islander their account of her discovery and condition. While digging among other ruins in that field a peasant named Yorgos Kentotoas unearthed her on April 8, 1820. It is not known if she was intended to adorn the nearby Roman amphitheater on Milos or the gymnasium in which she was found buried. In that day a gymnasium was often simply an open field in which athletes trained.
Originally she was painted and adorned with accents, such as ear rings and a bracelet, intended to give her a more life like appearance. In her left hand she held an apple, the symbol of Milos, and her right arm was across her torso as though the hand was tugging at the folds draped on her bent knee. The golden apple is also the symbol of her being “the fairest of the goddesses.”
When Yorgos found her among other ruins her body and legs were in separate pieces and her two arms were nearby. He took her home and housed her for some time. When visitors would visit the house and ask to talk with Yorgos, they were often told he was in the basement with his beautiful statue.
There was no Greek government at the time – only people who spoke Greek. The large French contingency on the island desired her. Yorgos and islanders wanted her to go to the Sultan to help gain tax relief. A conflict over her destiny resulted. The French eventually drug her to one of their ships anchored near the shore in the nearby harbor. Significant scratches resulting from the dragging can be seen on her back by a close observe. In a small boat they loaded her onto their ship. The arms were too heavy so they were in the process of being taken to another French ship anchored further off shore when the boat in which they were being transported sank and the arms were lost.
Several years ago a small exploration submarine was used in an unsuccessful attempt to find the arms. They are still buried at sea.
Her story is a classic example of how things come apart when individuals or governments are interested in different parts rather than the whole. In our own lives things are more harmonious when all the parts are put together properly.
Legends abound in Greek mythology. One of the most famous ones related to Aphrodite is her competition with goddesses, Hear and Athena to determine the most beautiful goddess. Zeus would not choose the fairest so the responsibility befell to Paris, Prince of Troy. Each of the goddesses offered him a bribe. He would not turn down the bribe of Aphrodite which was to give him the most beautiful woman in the world as a bride, Helen of Troy. Unfortunately for Paris, Helen was the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. Paris abducted Helen and that started the Trojan War.