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Myths & Monsters at Castle Howard
By Eleanor Brooke-Peat  //  Wed 24th May 2017
Curatorial, Collection, History
The Castle Howard collection is full of fascinating objects inspired by the myths and legends of the ancient world. Featured below are just a few of the gods, heroes and monsters you might come across during a visit to the house and gardens.
Discover the stories of Apollo and the Fall of Phaeton during our children’s half term interactive adventures with Rusticus, from 27 May to 4 June 2017.

The Atlas Fountain

Atlas was one of the Titans, a group of ancient Greek deities who were overthrown by the Olympian gods. As part of his punishment, Atlas was condemned to hold up the sky for the rest of eternity. He is often shown kneeling, supporting a massive globe upon his shoulders. Atlas takes centre stage in this fountain on the South Parterre, and is surrounded by four Tritons, or mermen, blowing water through their long conch shells. Designed and installed in the 1850s by the landscape gardener William Andrews Nesfield, the fountain is one of the most instantly recognisable features at Castle Howard.


Statue of Minerva

Minerva was the ancient Roman goddess of war and of handicrafts. If you look closely at this statue of the goddess, which you can find in the Museum Room, carved in relief on Minerva’s chest is her aegis (an animal skin cape) with the head of the Gorgon Medusa in the centre. Medusa was one of the deadliest characters of the ancient world, with snakes for hair and the ability to turn anyone who looked at her to stone.


Silenus and Bacchus

Silenus was the teacher, companion and foster-father of Bacchus, the ancient god of wine. Although often represented as fat, jolly, and usually very drunk, the statue of Silenus carrying the infant Bacchus on the South Parterre is a much more affectionate image of the demi-god with his foster son.

Bacchus and Silenus can often be identified by the grapes and vine leaves in their hair, indicating their relationship with wine. However, Silenus is usually depicted as much older, with a beard to indicate his age. An ancient Roman bust of Silenus can be found on the Antique Passage.

Many of the ancient legends about Silenus revolve around him drinking too much. In one story he got lost while drunk and was rescued by peasants who took him to the court of King Midas. To thank the king for looking after Silenus, Bacchus offered Midas one wish for whatever he desired. Midas asked for the power to turn everything he touched into gold; this blessing quickly turned into a curse for the greedy king when he discovered that this included his food and drink.

Silenus  Silenus

Meleager and The Calydonian Boar

Meleager was one of the great heroes of Greek mythology, best known as the leader of the legendary Calydonian boarhunt. When his father King Oeneus forgot to sacrifice to Artemis, the angry goddess sent a huge wild boar to ravage the country. Meleager gathered a band of heroes to hunt the boar down, and he himself finally killed it after a long battle. This lead statue of Meleager can be found on the Temple Terrace, with a hound at the hero’s feet and the head of the boar on the tree stump at his side. But watch out too for a statue of the monstrous boar that Meleager defeated!

Meleager  Boar