The Fall of the Giants (1530) by Guilio Romano

How not to climb Mount Olympus

Google marks the first conquering of the summit, but our book, Flying too Close to the Sun, recalls another attempt

Today's Google Doodle honours Mount Olympus, which was climbed to the summit the first time on this day 2 August, back in 1913. Of course, that was the first time it was conquered by humans. Our book, Flying Too Close to the Sun, recalls an earlier, mythological assault on Olympus's summit, as captured in Giulio Romano's sixteenth centry fresco, The Fall of the Giants.

This Renaissance work pictures a race of gaints who, according to Ovid, preceded us humans, and rebelled against the Greek Gods. Here's how our book Flying Too Close to the Sun describes the action, as painted on to the walls of Palazzo Te, in Mantua, Italy.

"The earthbound giants have rebelled against Jupiter, piling two mountains together and clambering up the heap of stones to reach Mount Olympus," reads the text. "Jupiter fends them off and destroys them with a volley of lightning. In Romano’s fresco, Jupiter, watched by the other Olympian gods, descends on a dense cloud with a cluster of thunderbolts. 

"His eagle-topped throne sits above him, at the centre of an illusory domed space. The hapless giants below tumble downwards, some crushed by heavy stones, others sinking into water. In one section, a huge classical arcade of bricks and marble cracks and topples onto the grimacing giants.  


Flying Too Close to the Sun
Flying Too Close to the Sun

"With an illusionistic effect characteristic of his Mannerist period, Romano makes it seem that the very room itself is collapsing. That witty and entertaining conceit made the fresco a perfect addition to the private palace of Romano’s patron, Federico Gonzaga, who would invite visitors into the room and watch their reaction to the dramatic setting in which they suddenly found themselves."

For more breathtaking mythological art, ancient and new, get Flying Too Close to the Sun.