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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

The transitional period of Greek Sculpture. 480-450 B. C.

Harmodius and Aristogiton statues













In the two preceding chapters we studied only original works, but from this time on we shall have to pay a good deal of attention to copies. We begin with two statues in Naples. The story of this group – for the two statues were designed as a group – is interesting. The two friends, Harmodius and Aristogiton, who in 514 had formed a conspiracy to rid Athens of her tyrants, but who had succeeded only in killing one of them, came to be regarded after the expulsion of the remaining tyrant and his family in 510 as the liberators of the city. Their statues in bronze, the work of Antenor, were set up on a terrace above the market-place. In 480 this group was carried off to Persia by Xerxes and there it remained for a hundred and fifty years or more when it was restored to Athens by Alexander the Great or one of his successors. Athens however had as promptly as possible repaired her loss. Critius and Nesiotes, two sculptors who worked habitually in partnership, were commissioned to make a second group, and this was set up in 477-6 on the same terrace where the first had been After the restoration of Antenor's statues toward the end of the fourth century the two groups stood side by side.

It was argued by a German archaeologist more than a generation ago that the two marble statues shown in Fig. 101 are copied from one of these bronze groups, and this identification has been all but universally accepted. The proof may be stated briefly, as follows. First several Athenian objects of various dates, from the fifth century B.C. onward, bear a design to which the Naples statues clearly correspond One of these is a relief on a marble throne formerly in Athens. Our illustration of this (Fig. 102) is taken from a "squeeze," or wet paper impression. This must then, have been an important group in Athens. Secondly, the style of the Naples statues points to a bronze original of the early fifth century. Thirdly, the attitudes of the figures are suitable for Harmodius and Aristogiton, and we do not know of any other group of that period for which they are suitable. This proof, though not quite as complete as we should like, is as good as we generally get in these matters. The only question that remains in serious doubt is whether our copies go back to the work of Antenor or to that of Critius and Nesiotes. Opinions have been much divided on this point but the prevailing tendency now is to connect them with the later artists. That is the view here adopted.

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