Author: Alex Thomason

Influential Sculptors and their Works of Art from Ancient Greece

Alex Thomason

When it comes to influential sculptors from Ancient Greece, there are many individuals that come to mind. Polykleitos, Lysippos, Praxiteles, Agesander, Athenodorus and Polydorus are few sculptors that continue to impact the art world in today’s society.

Polykleitos of Argos was famous for his precise depictions of the human body through his keen knowledge of mathematics. Polykleitos’ ideal proportions are evident in his sculpture of Doryphoros, which many people consider to be one of the most well known sculptures of the Classical Greek era. He depicted Doryphoros as an athlete with an incredibly muscular frame. The statue originally contained a spear that was propped along Doryphoros’ left shoulder.

Lysippos was known for being Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor. He was the successor of Polykleitos, and was considered to be one of the greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek period. Lysippos had a similar idealized style of the human body as Polykleitos, except he took a more representational approach through his artwork. This is evident in the facial features of his sculpture of Alexander the Great. He perceives Alexander as being perfectly symmetrical. Polykleitos definitely had an idealized approach to his work, but his figures had more human-like dimensions in comparison to Lysippos’ sculptures. Another one of Lysippos’ popular sculptures is the Weary Herakles. This sculpture depicts a nude Herakles with tokens of his feats, leaning on a club with his head held toward the ground. The muscular structure in this work is similar to the detail in Polykleitos’ representation of Doryphoros. Lysippos is also well known for his statue, the Apoxyomenos. It is also known as the “Scraper” because the statue depicts an athlete scraping sweat off his body with an instrument the Romans referred to as a strigil.

Another sculptor that shares a similar style is Praxiteles. One of his famous works is of Aphrodite of Cnidus. This work of art is often referred to as Venus Pudica, which means “modest Venus.” This name was given to in reference to the statue covering her genitalia. The statue is famous for its beauty, and for it being one of the first life sized nude representations of a female. The statue depicts Aphrodite before a ritual bath that restored her purity. One of Praxiteles less renowned works was “Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos,” also known as “Hermes of Praxiteles” and “Hermes of Olympia.” The facial symmetry in his work is similar to many of Lysippos’ sculptures.

Another work that received much notice in both the ancient world and today’s society was of “Laocoön and His Sons.” This statue was sculpted by three Rhodian artists named Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. The sculpture represents the Trojan priest of Poseidon named Laocoön and his sons getting attacked by large serpents. This work displays agony similar to Lysippos’ Weary Herakles.

All of the works mentioned share a similar approach when regarding the attention to detail in the human anatomy. “The Greeks no less than we today, were obsessed with the human body. Like us, they exercised and trained, toned, and even dieted-or at least the freeborn males did. Like some of us moreover, they also assigned moral qualities to the beautiful body,” (Lapatin, 1997, pg. 138).


Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is well known for its perfect sense of geometrical dimensions, but little is known of the statue, other than that, it was created as way for Polykleitos to demonstrate his treatise entitled the Canon (the “Rule”). The Canon regards Polykleitos’ geometric attention to detail. The original was made out of bronze approximately 440 BCE. The original statue and treatise have not yet been found; however, several Roman copies in marble survived, and they convey the essential form of Polykleitos’ work. Most bronze statues from ancient Greece have been lost, so the creation of marble copies was a common practice for the Romans. There are many copies of Doryphoros, but little is known of the relation between the duplicates. There are duplicates in various locations, like the Vatican, Naples and Munich. There is even a copy Minneapolis. “Of the Doryphoros, both its beginnings and end are unknown: Where was it sited? Whom did it represent? What purpose did it serve beyond, as we are told, illustrating in bronze the proportional system enumerated in its sculptor’s treatise, the Canon, or the ‘Rule’?” (Moon, 1995, pg. 149). Considering Polykleitos was obsessed with the human body and mathematics, many of his sculptures were of incredibly athletic mean. Polykleitos’ head to body size is one to seven, which is incredibly accurate in regards to the average dimensions of a human. This was a common style from the Classical era of Greece. Doryphoros is a slightly larger than life-sized statue, standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall. The attention to detail is so realistic that Doryphoros’ left shoulder muscles are slightly tensed from he was originally holding a spear. In the marble copies, large sculpted tree stumps were created behind one of legs of the statues to support the weight of the stone. The original bronze statue would have no need for a stump because the strength of the metal would have made it unnecessary. A small bend was typically present to support the right hand and lower arm. Although it is unclear exactly who Doryphoros is supposed to represent, some scholars believe that Doryphoros depicted a young Achilles, on his way to fight in the Trojan War, while others believe that there is confusion on whether Doryphoros is supposed to represent a mortal hero or a god.

Alexander the Great

Lysippos was great sculptor from the Classical Greek era that helped the art community progress toward the Hellenistic period. He shows a similar attention to detail in comparison to Polykleitos. Lysippos made well-known sculpture that depicted Alexander the Great in a god-like manner. The statue of Alexander shows extensive muscular definition with a heroic, emotionless facial expression. In the anthology from the Milan Papyrus, “Lysippos, Sicyonian sculptor, daring hand, learned artisan,“Your bronze statue has the look of fire in its eyes, that one you made in the form of Alexander. The Persians deserve no blame. We forgive cattle for fleeing a lion.” Alexander believed Lysippos was the only sculptor fit to represent him in a sculpture. The fear of offending Alexander through creating a more realistic depiction of his sculpture may be the reason Lysippos chose to represent Alexander in such a flattering manner. There is no confirmation on the findings on any of Lysippos’ original work; however, on October 26, 2010, Greek authorities arrested two men that were in possession of several artifacts including a bronze statue of Alexander that could possibly be Lysippos’ original work. The statue is currently being tested at the laboratory of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, where they will find out if this is truly an original sculpture of Alexander created by Lysippos.

Weary Herakles

The Weary Herakles was bronze statue created by Lysippos during the Late Classical period in approximately 330 BCE. The statue is lost, but marble copies exist to represent Lysippos’ original work. The statue is slightly larger than life size. Many of Lysippos’ common styles are evident in the Weary Herakles in regards to his extreme facial expression. He took an interesting approach by giving Herakles bad posture and a distraught facial expression. Although the sculpture of Herakles has a slouched posture, there is still a vivid attention to detail regarding the muscular structure. This conveys a completely different mood in comparison to Lysippos’ sculpture of Alexander. Herakles is depicted wearing a lion pelt (his first labor) and the Apples of the Hesperides on his back that represent the entire “dodekathlos” (Twelve labors of Herakles). Many people argue that the Apples of Hesperides is representation that the statue was not only supposed to emphasize the ideal bodily form, but also represent the mind. Kenneth Dutton argues in The Perfectible Body: The Western Ideal of Male Physical Development, that Hercules is symbolic of the search for divinity—but a divinity ‘to be attained through deeds and actions,’ not introspection and prayer.”‘ Lysippos’ inclusion of the apples of the Hesperides in the statue’s right hand—which Hercules earned by outsmarting Atlas—reminds viewers that this isn’t just about body; it’s also about mind,” (Todd, 2005, pg. 31). A copy of the Weary Herakles was said to have been created in 212-216 AD was during the construction of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonis’ resort, referred to as the Baths of Caracalla, (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). Approximately thirteen hundred years later after the construction of the Baths of Caracalla, .

Renaissance Italians, started to conduct archaeological excavations at the Baths.

The head of Herakles was found first, and about six years later the section containing the torso, club and lion-skin was unearthed in 1546, (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). “The Roman poet Statius’ description of a small copy he saw at the home of his friend, Vindex. gives some idea of how Lysippos’ version was viewed during this early era:

Amid his treasures . . . was a Hercules that with deep delight took my heart captive, and with long gazing I could not satisfy my sight, such a majesty was in the work, such a power was framed within those narrow confines; the god, the god was there.” (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). The Lysippos copy is on display at the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, Italy.


The Apoxyomenos was constructed by Lysippos during the Late Classical period in 330 BCE. Apoxyomenos represented an athlete, which is evident through its extremely detailed muscular structure (like most of Lysippos’ work). The original bronze statue was lost, but it is known from its description in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, which relates that the Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa placed the sculpture in the Baths of Agrippa that he constructed in Rome in 20 BCE. The emperor Tiberius grew fascinated with the figure, so he had it moved to his bedroom. However, the public grew furious and began to shout “Give us back our Apoxyomenos!” As result, Tiberius returned the statue to its original place. Like Polykleitos, Lysippos used the Canon approach to create the statues proportions. He made the proportions the Apoxyomenos head slightly smaller than Polykleitos Canon ideology. He set the ratios at one and eight rather than Polykleitos’ one and seven model.

A bronze copy of Apoxyomenos was found in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia in 1998 (Lyons, 2005, pg. 367). The copy was discovered by René Wouten. “The sculpture of Apoxyomenos was found in 1998, on the sea bottom at a depth of 45 meters, near the island of Lošinj (northern Adriatic Sea, Croatia). The sculpture was partially embedded in sediment, and the attached organisms on the sculpture belonged to complex biocenoses of a calcareous detritus-rich muddied bottom. The sculpture was raised from the sea on 27 April 1999 and immersed in a basin of fresh water for desalinization aimed toward slowing, and subsequently stopping, corrosion effects due to the presence of dissolved salts. The freshwater immersion produced an osmotic stress in the marine fouling organisms resulting in their death. After a 17-day desalinization period, the sculpture was removed from the freshwater basin and sampling of organisms and calcareous structures for instrumental analysis was performed under the supervision of experts of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, the Croatian Conservation Institute, and the Archaeological Museum in Zadar (Croatia),” (Lyons, 2005, pg.367). The head was disconnected, but none of the parts were missing.

Aphrodite of Cnidus

Praxiteles of Athens created the sculpture, Aphrodite of Cnidus in the 4th Century BCE. It was largely considered one of his most famous works because it was one the first nude female representational sculptures of its time. There are later reconstructions of Venus Pudica (modest Venus) that indicate the action of covering her breasts known as the Venus de’ Medici or the Capitoline Venus. Like many of the other works created by Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Cnidus is displayed in a naturalistic, human-like pose. According to possible accounts from Pliny, Praxiteles received funds from the citizens of Kos to create a statue of the goddess Aphrodite. Praxiteles created two versions, one was fully clothed, and the other was completely nude. The appalled citizens of Kos rejected the nude statue and purchased the clothed version. The appearance of the clothed statue is unknown because the statue was never found. Given the lack of accounts regarding the clothed statue, it is likely that the clothed Aphrodite of Cnidus did not receive much attention in comparison to the controversial nude statue. The nude statue of Aphrodite was purchased by the citizens of Knidos. Rumor has it that the statue was modeled by the courtesan Phryne, which added to its growing popularity. The statue became somewhat of a tourist attraction. A lyric from Antipater of Sidon stated “Paris, Adonis, and Anchises saw me naked, Those are all I know of, but how did Praxiteles contrive it?” A story from Erotes (section 15) gives a vivid description of the statue. “The floor of the court had not been doomed to sterility by a stone pavement, but on the contrary, it burst with fertility, as behooves Aphrodite: fruit trees with verdant foliage rose to prodigious heights, their limbs weaving a lofty vault. The myrtle, beloved by the goddess, reached up its berry-laden branches no less than the other trees which so gracefully stretched out. They never know foliage grown old, their boughs always being thick with leaves. To tell the truth, you can notice among them some infertile trees, but they have beauty as their fruit. Such were the cypress and the planes which towered to the heavens, as well as the tree of Daphnis, who once fled Aphrodite but now has come here to seek refuge. Ivies entwine themselves lovingly around each of these trees. Heavy clusters of grapes hang from the gnarled vines: indeed, Aphrodite is only more attractive when united with Bacchus; their pleasures are sweeter for being mixed together. Apart, they have less spice. Under the welcome shade of the boughs, comfortable beds await the celebrants— actually the better people of the town only rarely frequent these green halls, but the common crowds jostle there on festive days, to yield publicly to the joys of love,” (Pseudo-Lucian, Erotes).

“Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos”

Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos was created by Praxiteles in the 4th Century BCE. It is likely that this is not one of Praxiteles most famous works because their are limited accounts on the sculpture. It was discovered at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece in 1877. The excavation was led by German archaeologist Ernst Curtius. The statue is now located at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. Hermes is still missing his right forearm, two fingers of his left hand, both forearms below the elbow, the left foot and his penis, whilst Dionysus is missing his arms except for the right hand on Hermes’s shoulder and the end of his right foot. Much of the tree trunk and the plinth were lost as well. Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos are positioned in life-like manner with extreme attentions to detail throughout the statue. The sculpture also represents similar approach to the Canon, in regards to the extreme attention to detail in the figures. Even the Dionysos as an infant is extremely detailed.

“Laocoön and His Sons”

The Laocoön and His Sons was created by three Rhodian sculptors named named Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. Laocoön’s sons appear significantly smaller than him, which draws most of the attention toward Laocoön. The attention to detail is incredible throughout the sculpture. The attention to detail in Laocoön muscular structure is especially significant. His veins are even visible throughout his arms. The art styling is from the Hellenistic Pargamene baroque that rose from Asia Minor. The statue was found on January 14, 1506 by a farmer named Felice de Fredis when digging up vineyards in the Esquiline Hill, (Vault, 2010, pg.401). “The Laocoon is ‘probably the most widely discussed work of sculpture which we possess from antiquity’ wrote Margarete Bieber in 1967. Its popularity shows little sign of abating,” (Vault, 2010, pg. 402). There are many different variations of the story as to why Laocoön and his sons were being attacked. “The most famous literary account of Laocoon’s story, in book two of Virgil’s Aeneid, describes how the priest and his sons are strangled by seaserpents sent by Minerva to punish him for having warned his fellow Trojans not to trust the wooden horse. His advice is ignored and his demise cast as a ‘sacrifice’, a kin to the slaughter of a bull at an altar. ‘They say that Laocoon has rightly paid the penalty of his crime.’ In this version, mortals are puppets who dance to a divine tune. Laocoon is the scapegoat. In alternative versions of the story, he is punished for the sacrilegious act of marrying and having children against the god’s wishes or, according to Servius in his commentary on Virgil, for having intercourse with his wife in the presence of the cult statue. Seen like this, the Laocoon group is neither exemplum doloris nor exemplum virtutis, but a ‘simple’ warning against transgression,” (Vault, 2010, pg. 402). This piece of art portrays an interesting look into ancient Greece’s culture. Agony regularly plays large a role throughout ancient Greek artwork. It also shows how petty ancient Greeks depicted their gods. Throughout many ancient Greek myths, the gods express human-like emotions, and its evident in the sculpture.




Laocoon’s Children and the Limits of Representation.

By Caroline Vout. 2010


Lapatin, Kenneth, The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors (Book) — Book reviews

The Art Bulletin. March 1997, Vol. 79 Issue 1, p148, 9 p.


Moon, Warren. Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition

Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995


Samartzis Arnold, The Spine Journal : Official Journal of the North American Spine Society. Spine Society, January 2007, 7(1):133-134)


The History of Cardinal Farnese’s “Weary Hercules”

By Jan Todd. August 2005








Alex Thomason

ARH 351



Dagon was referred to as the Chief Deity of the Philistines that dates back to the Third Millennium BC. He was heavily worshipped in the cities of Azotus, Gaza and Ashkelon. Little is known about Dagon regarding the Canaanite pantheon and Dagon’s role, but the position that he used to play in Palestinian religion is quite evident.

He was the god of fertility and crops. He was typically portrayed with the upper body of a man, and the lower body of a fish. “Dag” is actually the Hebrew translation for “fish,” and “dagan” means grain in Greek. Often times, Dagon was associated with a female deity named Derceto. She also had the upper body of a human with the lower body of a fish. This may explain why Dagon is regularly portrayed as a half-fish, half-man creature. Coins from ancient Phoenician and Philistine cities indicate that Dagon was not solely represented as a fish-like creature. The fish lower body may be due to different perceptions of Dagon that could have developed around the Mediterranean Sea.

Dagon was one of four sons to Anu, the Sumerian sky god. Dagon’s son Baal, later took on the role as the god of fertility. His brother El was the “father of humanity,” and was typically portrayed with bullhorns. The depiction of deities with bullhorns is actually evident in many ancient civilizations. Although Dagon was the Chief Deity in Palestine, he was considered second to El in the Canaanite pantheon.

King Zimri-Lim of Mari made an interesting reference to Dagon in 18th century BC, written by Itur-Asduu an official in the court of Mari and governor of Nahur (the Biblical city of Nahor) (ANET, p. 623). It refers to a dream of a “man from Shaka,” then Dagon appeared. He blamed Zimri-Lim on the failure do defeat the King of the Yaminites because he did not report his actions to Dagon. He promises Zimri-Lim, “I will have the kings of the Yaminites cooked on a fisherman’s spit, and I will lay them before you,” (ANET, p. 623).

The religious practices involving Dagon continued to at least the second century BCE. At the time, the Israelites established a monarchy, and Palestine became their biggest enemy. Dagon’s reign as a deity more than likely ended after to the destruction of temple at Azotus.



  • The Bible NIV Translation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991
  • Knight, Kevin. ‘Dagon,’ The Catholic Encyclopedia 4 (1999):, pg. 1-2
  • DeVries, Lamoine. Cities of the Biblical World. Peabody, Massachussetts: 1997
  • Keller, Werner. The Bible as History. New York: Bantam, 1984
  • The Revell Concise Bible Dictionary. Tarrytown, New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1984 

Alex Thomason

Near and Middle East


Ancient artifacts have been subject to looting over many years. According to Ursula Lindsey with The New York Times, “The Middle East lost many of its ancient treasures in colonial times, when priceless artifacts were carried off to European collections and museums. It is now witnessing ‘a new wave of loss’ associated with wars and conflicts, said Tamar Teneishvili, a program specialist for culture at the Unesco regional bureau in Cairo. Many archaeologists are experiencing flashbacks to the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Baghdad’s national museum was looted and sites across the country were ransacked,” (Lindsey, 2014)

Looting has especially taken a toll on Dhahir, Iraq. According to an article written in The New York Times, “The looting of Iraq’s ancient ruins is thriving again. This time it is not a result of the “stuff happens” chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003, but rather the bureaucratic indifference of Iraq’s newly sovereign government,” (Myers, 2010).

The issue at hand is stopping the increase in black market trade with ancient artifacts. According to a staff writer with the Al Arabiya News, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, is selling ancient Iraqi artifacts in the black market to finance its military operations in the region, Iraqi and Western officials said. Speaking at a conference at the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in Paris, France’s ambassador to UNESCO Philippe Lalliot warned that Iraq’s cultural heritage is in “great danger,” (Al Arabiya News, 2014).

One of the measures taken to restore peace in the Middle East was the development of the antiquities police force in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops.

Steven Myers with The New York Times states, “A new antiquities police force, created in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops, was supposed to have more than 5,000 officers by now. It has 106, enough to protect their headquarters in an Ottoman-era mansion on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad and not much else. ‘I am sitting behind my desk and I am protecting the sites,’ the force’s commander, Brig. Gen. Najim Abdullah al-Khazali, said with exasperation. ‘With what? Words?,’” said Myers.

“The failure to staff and use the force — and the consequent looting — reflects a broader weakness in Iraq’s institutions of state and law as the American military steadily withdraws, leaving behind an uncertain legacy,” (Myers, 2010).

In regards to the tourism industry, the significant loss of ancient artifacts has caused major setbacks in Iraq for financial gain. I believe one of the problems lie within the Iraqi forces. The force commander’s statement, “I am sitting at my desk and I am protecting the sites,” draws a major red flag when it comes to the quality of leadership within the organization. However, this may prove to be difficult considering the creation of the antiquities forces in 2008 proved to be a giant failure. The Iraqi government may need assistance with training to create teams that effectively enforce looting.

I believe the best way to create success in decreasing the rapid growth with ancient artifacts being sold on the black market is by getting the community involved. A joint campaign created between the US and Iraqi forces to promote the historical/cultural significance of the ancient artifacts may help decrease the social acceptance of the black market trade. Once, a legitimate Iraqi force has been built, I believe all matters regarding looting should be taken care of internally.

Another problem lies within the ethics of museums, galleries and universities. These institutions should be held more accountable in regards to the knowledge of where they acquired their artifacts. Extensive documentation and background checks should be mandatory when making acquisitions. It is too easy for the manager of an art gallery to say, “I did not know the painting we received was originally stolen.”

Ultimately, the Iraqi antiquities forces need a complete overhaul to enforce the growing looting issues in the Middle East. Also, museums, universities and other institutions need to be held accountable when making acquisitions with privates sellers. If these two issues are effectively dealt with there may be a chance to stop the increase in looting.










Academics and Archaeologists Fight to Save Syria’s Artifacts



Iraq’s Ancient Ruins Face New Looting

By STEVEN LEE MYERS Published: June 25, 2010



ISIS selling Iraq’s artifacts in black market: UNESCO                                                         By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News Published: Tuesday, 30 September 201



Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says                                                      By James Glanz and William J. Broad Published March 13, 2005       

Syria’s Neighbors Must Pressure Assad on Preserving Antiquities                                       By James McAndrew Published: October 9, 2014                           


Course Power Points:

Neo-Babylon & Assyria