“Is that the one we heard about?”
“Which one, the one with the headphones?”
A talking horse instructs you to walk awkwardly around the impluvium — to throw off suspicion. Act like an ordinary visitor.
Your guide, a smart young camper named Samantha, tells you that this is “a place where the gods vacation, because it reminds them of home.” In fact, the Getty Villa “is modeled after the beach house of a rich family that lived 2,000 years ago. Unfortunately, the real place, near Pompeii, in Italy, was buried under volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, so now the original belongs to Hades, god of the Underworld.” She warns you to avoid the monsters lurking here.
The horse introduces himself as Chiron, a wise centaur who trained some of the greatest ancient Greek heroes in the caves of Mount Pelion. From Achilles to Jason. He has watched their hamartia consume them as their tragedies unfold. Now he oversees hundreds of doomed teenagers as the Activities Director at Camp Half-Blood.
You are one of them. The only question left is, who’s spawn are you?
Like any good Percy Jackson fan, you probably already know. Perhaps you took the official Rick Riordan quiz (or a slightly sketchy online questionnaire) in hopes of finding your place at Camp Half-Blood. Maybe you already have a favorite god. I know I did.
On this tour, you will make a total of two choices to find out your godly parent. As you are guided through the grounds of the villa, you feel as if you are in a world of your own. Busts of long-dead philosophers call out to you as you pass by, imploring you to join their eternal debate.
Heroes talk your ear off about their adventures. They almost seem bored, stuck in these marble skins.
Venus converses with her muses, asking you to pick one: the truthseeker Clio, Muse of History; the athletic Terpsichore, Muse of Dance; the eclectic Polyhymnia, Muse of Hymns; or the extroverted Euturpe, Muse of Music.
All the while, Samantha warns you to stay away from the east gardens.
“That’s where Hades hangs out, and you do not want to meet up with him,” Samantha said.
Nonetheless, you end up in his lush garden. Complete with intricately tiled fountains and a cool summer breeze, it almost feels like there should be juicy pomegranates hanging from the plentiful trees. It was the fruit he used to lure in his wife Persephone, and now its metaphorically wine-colored flesh glistens so brightly.
The god of the underworld chats casually with you. He regales you with what you could do with him down in Hades. You could be his right-hand, rather than a pawn.
After Samantha drags you away, the god of the underworld whispers to you in rooms full of coffins. He tells you stories of the vividly painted faces of dead Romans.
You make another choice, depending on which muse you selected. The mystery is solved. You wander around a room full of statues. They are all white and decaying, their bright colors and sharp edges worn away by time. You pass each one, comparing it to the picture on your screen, until you find your godly parent.
They greet you.
Then Hades returns, almost cartoonishly.
“Not. So. Fast. You think you can just ignore me? I mean, I tried to be Mr. Nice Guy. We could have ruled together down in the Underworld, but nooooo, you had to follow your genes instead of your head. I’ll make sure you never go to Camp Half-Blood! I can’t let the other gods get more sons and daughters on their side. They’re amassing power against me, I know it! Well, if I’m going down, I’m taking this Villa with me!”
You defeat him, because of course you do. He returns to the underworld, where he will restore order to the dead, and do the hard work that his brothers did not want to. He will say hello to Cerberus, his three-headed dog, and wait for his wife to bring spring back into his life while Demeter’s winter rages above.
And you will celebrate, removing your headphones and remembering that the Villa is quiet for everyone else.
Upon returning to the entrance, you receive a gift from the gods; a bracelet identifying your divine lineage.
The descriptions engraved on the silicon band seem a bit off. Apollo, the exuberant god of the sun and poetry, is instead introverted and thoughtful. Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare, is simply athletic.
As you put on the bracelet, it still feels right. Perhaps, when you wake up in the middle of the night, bracelet still on, you will find that Apollo’s glows in the dark.
“You’ll need to wear that at Camp Half-Blood so we’ll know which cabin you belong in.”