Statues are some of the most iconic parts of Ancient Greece and Greek Mythology. Crafted out of bronze, marble, limestone, and more, these works of art have stood the test of time and continue to provide a glimpse into the ancient world.
Greeks used statues for a variety of reasons. Not only were they made to honor their gods and esteemed members of society, but they played an important role in storytelling as well. Some of the most famous Greek statues date back to 600 B.C.
Despite centuries of decay and neglect, many of these statues still have fine details that are difficult to replicate. The Ancient Greeks were known for creating realistic depictions of their deities. Thanks to modern preservation techniques, much of that attention to detail can be viewed in museums around the world.
In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at over 25 of the most well-known Greek statues.
The Venus de Milo
Perhaps the most recognizable works of Ancient Greece is the Venus De Milo. Originally sculpted sometime between 130 and 100 B.C, the iconic statue is a perfect example of art in this period. The statue was made during the Hellenistic, which started at the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire. In the art world, the Hellenistic period is identified by the flowing lines and emotive faces.
The Venus De Milo is made out of Parian marble by Alexandros of Antioch. Alexandros was an artist who worked for commission. This particular piece was made to depict Aphrodite, also known as Venus. She was the goddess of love and beauty.
The Venus De Milo was discovered on the island of Milos back in 1820. After exchanging hands several times, the statue is currently housed at the Louvre.
The Pergamon Altar
This massive altar measures 35.64 meters wide and 35.4 meters deep. Made between 130 and 100 B.C, this piece is an altar to Zeus, the god of sky, lightning, and thunder. This statue differs from other works of art. Instead of depicting a single subject, it portrays a battle between the Giants and the Gods of Olympus. A detailed relief on the sides of the altar aims to replicate this mythological battle.
The Pergamon Altar was originally built on the Acropolis of Pergamon. The ancient city is located in modern-day Turkey. It’s not known how many artists worked on the altar, but scholars believe that there were at least 40. Today, the altar is located in Germany.
Laocoon and Sons
This statue, made around 200 B.C, is currently on display at the Vatican museum. The subjects of the work are Laocoon and his twin sons. The story of Laocoon is still up for debate. What scholars do agree upon is that he was a priest of either Apollo or Neptune.
According to Greek mythology, Laocoon angered these gods, resulting in the death of his twins. The statue shows Laocoon and his sons being attacked by sea serpents.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
Also known as Nike of Somothrace, this powerful statue shows the goddess of victory. While the statue has experienced significant damage, its missing pieces only add to its beauty. The statue has no head or arms. Yet, Nike’s powerful wings extend behind her body in a powerful pose.
The artist of this work is unknown. As the title would suggest, the statue was found on the Greek island of Somothrace back in 1863. Today, you can see Nike in all her glory at the Louvre.
The Victorious Youth
The bronze statue is a relatively new discovery. It was found off the Adriatic coast in the Sea of Fano. In 1964, the statue got caught up in fishing nets. After a detailed restoration, scholars determined that the statue was made around 310 B.C.
The discovery of the statue led to some controversy. Originally, the fishermen were paid a mere $5,600 for the statue by Italian art dealers. The artwork then passed through many hands by way of “under the table” dealings. Eventually, it was purchased for nearly 4 million dollars by the Getty Museum in California, where it’s currently showcased.
The Matya Charioteer
The Motya Charioteer was made around 350 B.C. Made during the Classical period, this statue is one of the first statues from this era to be discovered. While the subject is missing his arms, the charioteer is still very identifiable thanks to his face detailing.
The statue depicts the charioteer in a victorious pose and wearing a customary tunic from the Motya region.
Aphrodite of Knidos
Another beautiful depiction of Aphrodite is this statue made by Praxiteles. Praxiteles is one of the most renowned artists of Ancient Greece. For this particular piece, Praxiteles was commissioned to create a statue for a temple in Kos. The artist made two versions. First, he presented this statue. Unfortunately, the citizens of Kos rejected it due to the nudity and took the clothed version he made.
After that, the nude statue was purchased by the people of Knidos. Currently, the original version of Aphrodite of Knidos is lost. The palace where it was housed burned down in 475. However, several copies do exist.
Hermes of Praxiteles
Carved out of Parian marble and polished for a smooth finish, this statue depicts Hermes and the myth of Dionysus. According to mythology, Hermes, the god of trade and trickery, takes baby Dionysus to the Nysiades to be raised by nymphs.
The statue was made by Praxiteles around 400 B.C. It was discovered in 1877 in the Temple of Hera. To the surprise of scholars, the statue remains relatively intact. Aside from a missing arm on both Hermes and Dionysus, much of the original details are still present.
Not much is known about the Marathon Youth statue. It’s believed that the piece was made around 400 B.C. However, the artist is still a mystery. Some think that the artist was a student of Praxiteles due to many of the artist’s techniques being used.
The statue shows a young boy winning an athletic competition. After centuries of being lost, the statue was discovered in the bay of Marathon, which is in the Aegean Sea. It was found in 1925 and is currently on display in Athens, Greece.
Zeus at Olympia
The massive statue of Zeus was made around 455 B.C. When it was completed, this awe-inspiring statue towered above spectators. It was about 12 meters tall and showed Zeus sitting on an ornate throne.
Unfortunately, the statue was lost or destroyed in the fifth century. There’s still some speculation about the statue’s fate. Some believe that it was carried off by the Romans while others think it was destroyed in a fire. Whatever the case may be, the statue continues to live on through artistic depictions.
Made around 447 B.C, the Athena Parthenos statue is another long-lost work of art that’s remembered through recreation. The original was made out of chryselephantine, which is a combination of gold and ivory on wood. After completion that beautiful work of art was placed inside the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. Sadly, the Romans removed it, making it lost forever.
The Parthenon Marbles
The Parthenon Marbles consist of six distinct statues. They were originally made around 447 to 438 B.C. by Pheidias. Sculpted out of stunning white marble, the statues were part of the heavily adorned Parthenon. They depict the birth of Athena, Helios, Dionysus, and other key figures of Greek mythology.
Like many other Ancient Greek works, the statues’ journey to its current home is surrounded by controversy. Essentially, it was stolen from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1812 by a British Lord. Eventually, it was sold to the British government, who then gave them to the British Museum.
The Marble Metopes of the Parthenon
Also made by Pheidias, the Marble Metopes were made at the same time as the Pantheon Marbles. Like the previous work, the Marble Metopes were originally crafted to adorn the Pantheon. The large panels depict the triumph of reason over animalistic instincts. Depending on their location within the temple, some panels also showed important events in Greek Mythology, such as the battle of the Giants.
In total, there were 32 panels used to line the walls of the Pantheon. Many of them were destroyed when a cannonball struck the temple. Those that survived were taken by the same Lord who took the Patheon Marbles.
This familiar statue shows a discus thrower in action. The original was made around 460 B.C. by Myron of Eleutherae. Myron was a skilled bronze artist who worked solely with bronze. He also put a lot of his focus on creating art of athletes.
The original version of the statue has been lost. However, we know of the work thanks to various copies that were made. One of those copies was even owned by Hitler. Today, you can see the most famous copy in the Museum of Rome.
The Artemision Bronze
This bronze statue was discovered in the late 1920s. It was found during an excavation of a shipwreck in the Cape of Artemision. When it was first pulled from the sea, the statue was broken into two pieces. Even today, components are missing. However, the main statue remains in good condition.
Generally, scholars agree that the statue was made around 460 B.C. It’s unclear about the subject. It shows a god preparing to throw a projectile. For this reason, it’s believed that it could be either Zeus or Poisden.
The Riace Bronzes
Also made around 460 B.C. the Riace Bronze statues were discovered off the shore of Riace, Italy. The story of how these statues were found is quite interesting. An amateur scuba diver saw the arm of one of the statues sticking out of the sea bed. Thinking it was a dead body, he called the authorities.
Luckily, the arm was merely a statue that had been lost for centuries! Scholars believe that the two statues were made by two separate artists, Myron and Alkamenes.
Zeus and Ganymede
Zeus and Ganymede is a terracotta statue that was discovered in multiple pieces. The first was found in Olympia around 1874. It wasn’t until 1938 that more pieces were found. Eventually, the statue was restored and displayed in Greece.
Originally made around 470 B.C. the statue shows a story in Greek mythology. According to legend, Zeus saw Ganymede and stole him from his father to take up to mount Olympus.
The Charioteer of Delphi
Also known as “The Rein Holder,” the Charioteer of Delphi is a bronze sculpture that is thought to have been made around 470 B.C. Like the other Charioteer statue from earlier, the subject of this piece is wearing the customary chariot tunic.
The cool thing about this statue is that it’s preserved very well. In addition to still having its main arm and reins, the statue has its glass eyes and copper lashes.
The Fallen Warrior of the Temple at Aphaia
The Fallen Warrior statue is believed to show a casualty of the Trojan War. The subject is shown suffering on the ground. Even with physical damage, you can see pain and anguish on the subject’s face. The soldier is holding onto a large shield and is wearing head armor.
The statue was found in the Temple of Aphaia, which is on the island of Aegina. It was removed and sold to royalty following its discovery. Today, it’s on display in Munich, Germany.
This statue was made around 480 B.C. by the famed sculptor Kritios. While it may look simple at first, it’s an important piece when you’re looking at how art styles evolved in Ancient Greece. It marks a notable shift from the rigid and formal statues of earlier periods to the more fluid and emotional statues moving forward.
The boy depicted in the statue is standing upright. However, instead of being in a formal position, his posture is a bit more relaxed and natural.
The Peplos Kore was found on the Acropolis of Athens in 1886. It’s believed that it was made around 530 B.C. The statue shows a young female or maiden, also known as a Kore. “Peplos” comes from the garment the subject is wearing.
Today, you can take a look at the Peplos Kore at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
This marble statue was made around 570 B.C. It was made by Rhonbos as an offering to the goddess Athena. Many scholars think that the subject is Rhonbos himself. He’s depicted as an average citizen bringing a calf to the Acropolis as a sacrifice for Athena.
The statue was found in 1864, making it one of the earliest works of art found during the site’s excavation.
Kleobis and Biton
While these statues are identified as Kleobis and Biton at the Delphi museum they’re housed in, not all scholars agree. Some think that the statues show the twin sons of Zeus. This would make sense considering that the figures were both worshipped in Peloponnese where the statue was originally made in 580 B.C.
Those who believe that the statues are of Kleobis and Biton believe that the art shows an event where Hera provided blessings. The two young men were sons of a priestess to the goddess Hera. When they collapsed after carrying their mother to Hera’s temple, she prayed to the goddess to give them a peaceful death.
The Sacred Gate Kouros
Made around 600 B.C. this statue remained hidden for over two millennia. It wasn’t discovered until 2002. Many scholars believe that it was made by Dipylon. The location of the discovery supports this claim. It was found at an Ancient Greek cemetery. The cemetery was located in an area for pottery makers lived. The statue was also found with other works of art that suggest that the piece was made by the skilled artist who came from the area.
Lady of Auxerre
Last, but not least, we have the Lady of Auxerre. Made between 600 and 625 B.C. this statue depicts a young girl. Because it’s an earlier Greek statue, the statue has heavy Egyptian influence. This is evident through the hair and costume.
The Lady of Auxerre was found, somewhat mysteriously, at the Louvre in 1907. It was just sitting there in storage. To this day, no one knows how the statue got there.
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