Sunday, July 18, 2010


I'm going to Italy today to participate in excavations. I am not sure about if we're going to have an internet connection down there or not, so don't worry if there's no posts for 6 weeks or so.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Helios (Sol)

Helios, found at the Esquiline in Rome. The piece is made from Carrara marble and dating from the 4th century BC.

Helios, or Hyperionides/Hyperion (by his father), is showing up now and then, even thou I've found more depictions in mosaics than in sculpture. The god is easily recognized by his sun rays which spread out from the head and he can also be seen with a torch or globe.

Be cautious though, the rays might have been broken off and they were commonly made out of metal (i.e. Bronze) in which case you'll find a series of empty holes around the head.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Mithras entered the scene as late as during the empire, but his cult is fascinating and still quite mysterious - there's a lot we do not know about it. Here's a short sumemry of what I've read about it, which shouldn't be taken as a full testemony: The cult came from the east and was open only to men. It was centred around ritual dining, seven spheres (it seems to have been a hierarchical religion) and the slaughtering of bulls. The sanctuaries are very easily recognized on the shape (long and thin, often with the spheres easily visible), the dining couches and most of all, they're almost always to be found underground. You can see examples from Ostia here and here to get a better grasp of the general shape.

Statues of Mithras are also easily recognized and quite common; The god, wearing a Phrygian cap, is seen slaughtering a bull which is also bitten by a dog, serpent and scorpion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Hygieia has quite commonly come down to us in classical sculpture, even thou I must admit that I only can reckon two museums where I've seen such pieces. She is portrayed as a virgin with a kind face expression, in a long robe with a snake which she is feeding from a bowl.

Hygieia from Zappeion, Athens, of the Hope type. From the second century AD, copy of a Greek original from the third century BC.

Hygieia from Epidaurus, no dating was offered but you can clearly see the snake, which is why I uploaded this shot.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Asklepius is unexpectedly common in classicl sculpture and he is very easily recognized, even thou he can be confusd with Zeus from time to time unless you're cautius. It might be usefull to know that he is almost unexsistant in art (even as he is mentioned, as a hero, in the Iliad) before the 6th and 5th century BC as he made a rather late entrance on the scene.

The god is normally portraied as a bearded man, sitting on a throne or standing up, holding a staff which is encircled by a climbing snake. He can also be seen with his daughter, Hygiena.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Poseidon (Neptune)

Poseidon is one of the great gods, but very much not the strongest of the three brothers. He's also in constant bad luck when it comes to persuade cities to come under his patronage (Athens is only one of many) and this might be one reason why we see less statues of this god than what we might expect, I can only come to think of two famous and easily identified pieces.

He is however easily recognized with his beard, trident and commonly a dolphin at his feet.

A highly polished statue of Poseidon, originating from the Roman period.

This piece, posted here earlier on, is a good example of hos Poseidon might look.

You might also remember this piece, which can be either Poseidon or Zeus (the later being popular nowadays).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hermes (Mercurius)

Hermes from Hadrianus Villa in Tivoli, Roman copy from the 2nd century AD of a Lysippos Bronze from 330 BC.

A quite atypical Hermes from a local workshop in Messene, 4th century AD.

This Hermes is the work of the Augustan period (27 BC-14 AD), perhaps inspired by older works.

Hermes is one of those gods you run into now and then while admiering classical sculpture. He's rendered as a young, beardless, man, sometimes with winged sandals (even though not as commonly as might be expected). Other easily recognized attributes are his heralds staff (the kerykeion, a detail which unfortunately seems to have been easily broken of and lost) and way farer hat. Yet, even with all those attributes, you'll have a though time recognizing him, as you might notice from the photos above, he could eb just any youth without them.

You can see another rendering of Hermes in Hermes and the infant Dionysus.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Artemis (Diana)

Artemis, goddess of the hunt and closely associated with Apollo, is quite common in classical sculpture, but can still be tricky to identify as she appears in two different costumes.

Artemis Verailles, Roman copy of a 4th century original (attributed to Leochares).

The first, and easiest to recognize, is Artemis as the hunter. You'll easily recognize this type by the short skirt (she is one of few goddesses that ever wear a short skirt), bow and arrows and she's frequently accompanied by a stag.

Artemis from ca 100 BC, dressed in a chiton, peplos and himation.

Bronze from the 4th century BC.

The other type is Artemis as a maiden, as she can be found in e.g. Brauron. Here she's dressed in a long dress, but still with the arrows.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ares (Mars)

Here you see Mars as he was thought of in the 2nd century AD (If I remember this correctly).

This is a modern copy of a statue from at Hadrianus villa, but it's a good representation of Ares as youth.

The Greek Ares, associated with the Roman god Mars, is very rare in sculpture and you're really lucky if you run into him. I could only find two examples; one at Hadrianus villa (Tivoli) and one at the Monte Martini museum at Rome. It is however easy to recognize the god when you see him, he's portrayed in arms as bearded in early art (archaic) and as a naked youth from the classical period and onwards.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Athena (Minerva)

Athena must have been one of the most popular gods to represent in sculpture during antiquity, it's not uncommon that large museums have not one but several different pieces - the national museum in Athens have a room with only Athena statues, Glyptoteket in Copenhagen have at least four pieces and so on.

It is also very easy to recognize Athena, which of course helps us noticing her. She's normally the only armoured female god, she's wearing an Aegis (a piece of armour covering the upper torso, with a gorgons head in the center) and commonly a crested helmet. She is also often seen with a shield at her side and sometimes a snake or owl.

You might want to compare the picture above with the one of Athena Parthenos (a 2nd century ad copy) or a Hellenistic bronze Athena from Piraeus.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Apollo, crudely dated by the Carlsberg Glyptotek to 30 BC-500 AD - I would guess narrow it down to 30 BC-235 AD.

Apollo from at temple at the Athenian Agora, 4th century AD, possibly a work by Euphranor.

You can be almost certain that you will find a statue of Apollo if you visit a museum of classical art or history - he is one of the gods that you'll keep running in to.

He's also easily recognized with his rather female forms and his lyre, an instrument that he almost always carry. There are however types that doesn't fit in to the norm, such as Apollo from Olympia, where we see him depicted in a stiff position, on top of the situation, as if he can't be seen by the fighting centaurs and Lapiths.

Apollo from Olympia (ca 460 BC).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hera (Juno)

Here (lat. Juno) is quite uncommon in sculpture, I can only come up with two examples that I have seen (I'm sure that I've forgotten a dozen thou).

It must also be admitted that Hera isn't the easiest goddess to recognize. You can however look for a royal female with a crown and sometimes a pomegranate.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Zeus (Jupiter)

The Roman emperor as Jupiter (Zeus), 2nd century AD. Found next to the stadium in Isthmia.

Zeus (Jupiter) is, of course, the king of the gods and the son of Kronos (Saturnus). He's, however, not the most common god to be found in sculpture, even thou you'll see him from time to time - you might compare this with the fact that he has no major temples on any city acropolis and only a few festivals in his honour.

Zeus can be recognized by several traits: he's always bearded and you'll normally find him sitting quietly on a throne with a sceptre in his hand (probably on the model of Pheidias statue). You can also find him flanked by an eagle from time to time.

Other statues of Zeus:
Zeus and Ganymede
A throned Zeus with Cerberus (This is however most likely a Serapis in original, a god closely connected to Zeus).
Upper body of Zeus

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Gods in classical sculpture

The gods going into battle vs. the giants, a so called gigantomachy. Here you see Heracles to the left (in his lions pelt), then Dionysoswith his panther skin and wagon drawn by the same animals and thereafter Apollo and Artemis with their bows. Many other gods are involved in this battle, but not seen in this shot. Relief from the treasury of the Siphnians at Delphi, late 6th century/early 5th.

Well it's time for a new theme, the last one has been going on long enough, and I would like to focus on the Greecoroman pantheon and how these are represented in sculpture - thus expect a lot of statues for a while. Remember that even as I use a lot of printed material as sources to write these posts (such as the Oxford Classical Dictionary, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology and a number of books written specifically on ancient religion and art) will much of what I present come from my own experience of ancient sculpture.

I would also like to add that I am perfectly aware of the dangers of talking about the Greek and Roman gods (as an example, Zeus and Jupiter) as the same entities, but it should be manageable as long as I do not wander of too far into mythological details - the focus is on the artistic representation in antiquity not on the origins, specific cults or epithets. Only gods that I've got found in classical sculpture will be represented here.

Artemis (Diana)
Ares (Mars)
Athena (Minerva)
Charados (A greek flood god)
Demeter (Ceres)
Dionysos (Bachus)
Tyche (Fortuna)
Helios (Sol)
Hera (Juno)
Hermes (Mercurius)
Hygieia (Sirona)
Kybele (Magna Mater, connected with Rhea)
Muses (connected with the Camenae)
Nike (Victoria)
Pan (Inunus or Faunus)
Persephone (aka Kore; lat. Proserpina)
Poseidon (Neptune)
Zeus (Jupiter)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Amathous and the treatment of finds

Some finds are very difficult to store. Here you see one solution used at Amathous where all the loose drains have been placed in one corner of the site - I really hope that the documentation was done properly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A grave monument

Funerary stele, 6th century BC, from the necroplois of Kition.

This stele is interesting as it is in the shape of a lotus flower, a fairly popular flower in ancient culture. You can, as one example, find it, being eaten by bulls, in pottery paintings.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An easily recognized style

Head of a wreathed, bearded man. Limestone from Arsos, ca 480-450 BC.

It is always interesting to see how certain types of statues show up again and again. Here we see a head of a male, which is looking very much like the one posted about a month ago.

Another interesting feature is the very faint red colour on the beard and curls, could it be traces of the original paint?