"Obsertatis auribus" (They stopped their ears)

Parthenope tears Naples legend

The mythical founder of Naples is the siren Parthenope who played her sweetest music to win the affection of the sailor Odysseus. But he had been warned by the witch Circe that sirens would use their song to lure him off course and crash his ship into the rocks. Odysseus plugged his ears with beeswax and had his seamen tie him to the ship's mast. Siren sisters Ligeia, Leucosia and Parthenope sang their sweetest songs, but alas, were never heard. Parthenope cried so much her tears filled the Bay of Naples. 

The tragic beauty of the Parthenope myth inspired the "Tears of Parthenope" necklace by writer, artist and futurist Rita J. King. Her Treasure of the Sirens pendants were inspired by amphora deposited on the seabed near Naples during ancient shipwrecks. 

"Tears of Parthenope" by Rita J. King

"Tears of Parthenope" by Rita J. King

Between the 9th and 7th century, Greek sailors founded a settlement on the small island called Megaride. They renamed it Partenope for the dead siren they found in the sea and carried to shore to entomb. The settlers expanded onto the mainland and created a city grid which is still in use today. They named it "Neopolis" (new city) which eventually became Napoli.

Their earliest coins from the 4th century B.C.E. were minted with Parthenope's image. In 1799 when the Bourbon rulers of Naples were ousted, French forces swept in and established the "Parthenopean Republic". Only six months later King Ferdinand sailed into Naples on a ship named "Sirena" and took back the city.

Silver coin of Neapolis / Naples with head of the Siren Parthenope (beginning 4th century BC) - Naples Archaeological Museum

Silver coin of Neapolis / Naples with head of the Siren Parthenope (beginning 4th century BC) - Naples Archaeological Museum

"Contemnit tuta procellas" (She defies the tempests)

The earliest descriptions of sirens give them female heads and avian bodies. During the Renaissance depictions of sirens evolved into beautiful mermaids. By the 19th and 20th century, they became sensual nudes whose appearance was as physically attractive as their enchanting song.

Siren pendant, 5th century B.C.E., Italic peninsula Metropolitan Museum of Art

Siren pendant, 5th century B.C.E., Italic peninsula Metropolitan Museum of Art

  Siren possibly commissioned by the Colonna family, Rome ca. 1571–90, Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Siren possibly commissioned by the Colonna family, Rome ca. 1571–90, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Today, Parthenope can be found everywhere in Naples, on fountains, signs and monuments both ancient and modern. The Lungomare near Castel dell'Ovo is called Via Partenope and myth says the castle was built directly atop her tomb. The university is named for her and its main doors are flanked by two giant sirens. More than 3,000 years later Parthenope continues to be the perfect symbol for Naples, a city so beautiful it breaks your heart and so tragic it inspires great passion. Parthenope's vulnerability gave her infamy. She gave herself feverishly to love, and though it did not win the object of her desire, her song continues to haunt Naples.

Castell dell'Ovo built over Parthenope's tomb. Photo credit: Danielle Oteri

Castell dell'Ovo built over Parthenope's tomb. Photo credit: Danielle Oteri

Naples is one of the oldest continuously habited cities in the world. It has survived centuries of invaders, earthquakes caused by volcanic eruptions, outbreaks of disease, Nazi bombs and the Camorra. Parthenope has remained its one constant symbol.

Purchase Tears of Parthenope necklace
Tears of Parthenope necklace
150.00

Our "Tears of Parthenope" necklace is inspired by the Neapolitan myth of Parthenope, the siren who cried so much her tears filled the Bay of Naples. This is a Feast On History exclusive created by writer, artist and futurist Rita J. King. Her "Treasure of the Sirens" jewelry line was inspired by amphora deposited on the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea during ancient shipwrecks. 

The amphora is a textured gold plated stainless steel fabricated by a 3D printer. Necklace includes a 30" chain, two aquamarine Swarovski crystals and a scroll inside the amphora with a fragment of the song of the sirens: "Sail on, wiser!"

 

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