Grotto of Tiberius

In 1957, the remains of four groups of figures depicting scenes from Greek myth in large tableaus were found in a cave at Sperlonga on the Italian coast about sixty miles south of Rome.

The cave, which was attached to a Roman seaside villa belonging to Emperor Tiberius, evidently served as a setting for spectacular dinners.

The sculpture groups decorated the inside of the cave. There were two smaller groups showing Menelaus and Patroclus and Diomedes and Odysseus with the Palladium. The two larger groups continued the Odyssean theme with a great Polyphemus Group and a Scylla Group (the latter now very fragmentary).

The Scylla Group was set in water and showed Odysseus's ship with the sea-monster Scylla alongside devouring several of his crew.

On the stern plate of the ship in the Scylla Group is the signature the Rhodian sculptors Hagesandros, Athenedoros, and Polydoros whom Pliny records as the sculptors of the The Laocoön Group

Sperlonga Grotto: Plan

The Polyphemus Group and the Scylla Group

The Steersman in the Scylla Group
The steersman is holding onto stern of boat. Scylla is trying to drag him to his death.
Only fragments of Scylla survive: her fishy tail can be seen at the left.

Head of Odysseus

© Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe