Saturday, 8 February 2014

Pagan Art: "Nemesis" by Alfred Rethel


Nemesis is the ancient Greek goddess of vengeance. The Greeks had a karmic sense of justice and believed that no one should either be too lucky or escape punishment for acts of hubris. Nemesis was this idea given executive form.

Her main site of worship was at Rhamnous, north of Marathon, so she was also called Rhamnusia and was supposed to have played a part in the total victory of the Athenians over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490BC. She was also known as Adrasteia, "the inescapable." Her name Nemesis is from the Greek word νέμειν, meaning "to give what is due." She was regarded as a daughter of one of the primordial deities, either Oceanus or Erebus (with Nyx).

Rethel was a 19th-century German history painter. He painted Nemesis in 1837 when he was about 29. The painting shows the goddess hovering over a murderer as he flees the scene of a crime. His victim lies slain in the background behind him. In her hand she holds a sword of retribution and an hourglass symbolizing the inevitability of punishment.

The painting now belongs to the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

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