The only sculptor of the fifth century who is at once known to us from literary tradition and represented by an authenticated and original work is Paeonius of Mende in Thrace. He was an artist of secondary rank, if we may judge from the fact that his name occurs only in Pausanias; but in the brilliant period of Greek history even secondary artists were capable of work which less fortunate ages could not rival. Pausanias mentions a Victory by Paeonius at Olympia, a votive offering of the Messenians for successes gained in war. Portions of the pedestal of this statue with the dedicatory inscription and the artist's signature were found on December 20, 1875, at the beginning of the German excavations, and the mutilated statue itself on the following day. A restoration of the figure by a German sculptor may be trusted for nearly everything but the face. The goddess is represented in descending flight. Poised upon a triangular pedestal about thirty feet high, she seems all but independent of support. Her draperies, blown by the wind, form a background for her figure. An eagle at her feet suggests the element through which she moves. Never was a more audacious design executed in marble. Yet it does not impress us chiefly as a tour de force. The beholder forgets the triumph over material difficulties in the sense of buoyancy, speed, and grace which the figure inspires. Pausanias records that the Messenians of his day believed the statue to commemorate an event which happened in 425, while he himself preferred to connect it with an event of 453. The inscription on the pedestal is indecisive on this point. It runs in these terms: "The Messenians and Naupactians dedicated [this statue] to the Olympian Zeus, as a tithe [of the spoils] from their enemies. Paeonius of Mende made it; and he was victorious [over his competitors] in making the acroteria for the temple." The later of the two dates mentioned by Pausanias has been generally accepted, though not without recent protest. This would give about the year 423 for the completion and erection of this statue.
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