The Pleasures of Research
Inferno XXV: Cacus, The Centaur
Ink on Paper, 2018
22 x 15"
For a moment in Inferno XXV, Dante catches sight of the monster Cacus, an Ancient Greek monster who is embodied as a centaur in Dante's conception. A spectacular horror, we are introduced to Cacus, insane with rage and covered with snakes and a winged, fire-breathing dragon on his back.
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Herein lies one of the most profound examples of the pleasures that research has brought me in pursuit of this project. I have discovered a great many things in while preparing myself for this work, and again in writing about it.
I lived for a time in Rome, walking regularly by the beautiful, round temple of Hercules Victor, a referential tribute to his defeat of Cacus, who not only stole the cattle of Hercules but who had a terrible history of eating human flesh and tacking the heads of his victims to the entrance to his cave. Though a character from Greek mythology, he was said to have lived in pre-Roman times, near the site of Hercules' temple. He was not a centaur, but your garden variety, fire-breathing monster—the terror of the neighborhood until Hercules set him straight.
Now, I walked by this spot all the time because it was on the edge of my neighborhood, and I was well aware of its association with Hercules, but only through research for this drawing did I discover so many dimensions of its history—the tether to Greek myth, enduring in Roman culture; the history of the site as the ancient cattle market in Rome; and the engagement of one of my favorite boyhood heroes, the brutal genius—half-god, half-man—named Hercules.