The Dying Gaul knew how to face defeat with dignity.



The Dying Gaul, (a Roman marble copy of a Hellenistic work of the late third century BC Capitoline Museums, Rome.)


This piece of heroic and tragic sculpture brings to an end this week where I have been looking at classical sculpture. The Dying Gaul is said to represent the honourable and dignified dying moments of a noble Celtic warrior. In Homer’s great epics, the Greeks were passionate about man’s responsibility to accept his duty and to face glory or death with equal bravery. So this man is sitting on his shield with his weapons scattered around him contemplating his imminent death.

With past heroes Greece, France and Italy going out of the Football World Cup with less than their ancestors’ spirit of dignity, I can only hope that those two other European sides, England and Germany accept death or glory in the appropriate manner when they meet to battle it out on Sunday.

There seems to be a pattern emerging in this tournament where the European nations, one by one, are having to taste the bitter cup of defeat.

If they are not feeling heroic then maybe they should at least keep a sense of proportion and remember that other Ancient Greek poet, Archilochos,’s advice on defeat:

Some Saian mountaineer
Struts today with my shield.
I threw it down by a bush and ran
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.

(Archilochos, 7th Century B.C. translated by Jon Corelis)

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