Piraeus Athena


The Piraeus Athena is a bronze statue dated to the fourth century BCE. It currently resides in the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus.[1]

Piraeus Athena

Discovery


The Piraeus Athena was discovered in 1959, by workers who were drilling underground to install pipes. Bronze was first hit 1.5 meters below the ground; a few days later, they uncovered the statue at the intersection of Georgiou I Street and Philonos Street. The excavation of the statue was led by Efthymios Mastrokostas. The Piraeus Athena was found with three more large bronze statues, along with other artifacts.[2] The Piraeus Athena was discovered in very good condition; however, it underwent irreparable damage after being abandoned on the damp floor of the Piraeus Museum according to the scholar, Steinhauer.[3]

History and dating


There are various theories about the origins of the Piraeus Athena. Because the room the statue was found in was very close to the main harbor,[4] many scholars believe that the statue had been stored in a harbor's stoa and were just about to be shipped.[5] Additionally, the Piraeus Athena and other statues were not in random order but seemed to be packed.[6] A coin found near the statues had a date equivalent to 87/86 BC on it, along with a picture of King Mithridates VI.[7] Because it is known that Piraeus was captured by Sulla in 86 BC, many have further speculated two theories.[8] One theory is that the statues were going to be shipped in order to save them from the Roman attack.[9] The second theory is that the statues were being shipped by the Romans to Italy as part of their spoils.[10] It is thought that the statue may have originally come from the sanctuary of Zeus Soter and Athena Soteira in Piraeus.[11] This is because the peplos in the statue is similar to the drapery of the peplos in the statue of Eirene by Cephisodotus the Elder, who was also known to have made a statue of Athena that resided in the sanctuary of Zeus Soter and Athena Soteira.[12][13] Other scholars believe that the statue may have come from Delos, since three of the statues found with the Piraeus Athena were of Artemis, and Delos was considered the birthplace of Artemis.[14][15] Additionally, the Romans had captured Delos in 88 BC and therefore the statues could have been part of the scared funds Mithradates’ general had sent to Delos.[16] Due to the dating, it has been estimated that the Piraeus Athena probably dates back to 360-340 BCE.[17]

Description and representation


It is over-life sized, with a height of 2.35 meters (approximately 8 feet).[18][19] It is identified as a cult statue.[20]

Athena is wearing a peplos that is open on the right side.[21] The cloth of the peplos appears heavy, as evidenced from the deep cloth lines in the sculpture.[22] The heavy material hints that the statue was not from early in the fourth century, but probably towards the middle, since earlier in the fourth century, luxurious transparent cloth was the style.[23] Here, on the other hand, we see Athena wearing a peplos made from thick cloth that became fashionable later during the fourth century, according to the scholar, John Pedley.[24] The heavy cloth is also noted to re-emphasize her physical presence.[25]

The Piraeus Athena is often mentioned to seem approachable by the scholar, Neer. This serves as a stark contrast from the Archaic style, where gods were often depicted as stern according to Neer[26] One reason Athena here is perceived approachable is due to her stance. The Piraeus Athena, here is in contrapposto stance, meaning that her left leg is more relaxed, while she is putting her weight on the right leg.[27] This position portrays the idea that she is almost stooping towards the mortal viewer.[28] The passive and gentle expression on her face is also denoted with an air of approachability according.[29]

Athena is shown to have an aegis diagonally across her peplos in the sculpture.[30] The aegis has a miniature Gorgon's head on it along with a border of snakes.[31] Its small dimensions make it to be more like a marker of Athena's identity than an actual piece of armament.[32] The diagonal positioning of the aegis is seen to give Athena a swaying motion — some say in order to have the viewer's eye look towards what Athena was holding in her right hand.[33] There is a hole in the palm of the right hand and the right thumb indicating that Athena was originally holding an item, but that item's identity it is not certain. Some suggest it might have been an owl or the representation of victory, Nike.[34][35] It is also thought that Athena may have held in her left hand a spear or a shield.[36]

Athena additionally wears a helmet, which also helps to date the statue. This is because Athena wears a Corinthian helmet, which in fourth century B.C became very popular, as opposed to an Attic helmet where she is shown wearing in other sculptures.[37] The helmet in the Piraeus Athena has griffins on each side of the crest, and two owls on the visor.[38]

The Piraeus Athena has been determined to be an original, and many believe that the Athena Mattei exposed in the Louvre is the sole existing copy of it, even though the position of the right arm is in a different position.[39] There are various artists who have been thought to have possibly made the Piraeus Athena. Some say it could be the work of Cephisodotos, who is known to have made a statue of Athena during the fourth century BC.[40] Others say that it may be the work of Euphranor because it shares similarities with one of his other works, the Apollo Patroos.[41] Similarities include a full face and long neck that indicates a similarity in style, according to the scholar, Olga Palagia.[42]

References and sources


References
  1. Pedley, John Griffiths, Greek art and archaeology. (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2012). p.306
  2. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 326
  3. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327.
  4. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327
  5. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327
  6. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327
  7. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327
  8. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 328
  9. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 328
  10. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 327
  11. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 328
  12. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 330
  13. Waywell, G. B., “Athena mattei,” in The Annual of the British School at Athens 66. (1971). p. 379
  14. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 326
  15. “Delos (Site),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Delos&object=site>. p.1
  16. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 328
  17. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture>. p.1
  18. Pedley, John Griffiths, Greek art and archaeology. (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2012). p.306
  19. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p. 1
  20. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 331
  21. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  22. Neer, Richard T., Greek Art and Archaeology: A new history, c.2500 - c.150 BCE. (New York, 2012). p. 331
  23. Pedley, John Griffiths, Greek art and archaeology. (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2012). p.306
  24. Pedley, John Griffiths, Greek art and archaeology. (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2012). p.306
  25. Neer, Richard T., Greek Art and Archaeology: A new history, c.2500 - c.150 BCE. (New York, 2012). p. 331
  26. Neer, Richard T., Greek Art and Archaeology: A new history, c.2500 - c.150 BCE. (New York, 2012). p. 331
  27. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  28. Neer, Richard T., Greek Art and Archaeology: A new history, c.2500 - c.150 BCE. (New York, 2012). p. 331
  29. Neer, Richard T., Greek Art and Archaeology: A new history, c.2500 - c.150 BCE. (New York, 2012). p. 331
  30. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  31. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  32. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  33. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 330
  34. Steinhauer, Georgios, “The Piraeus bronze statues,” in Valavanis, Panos [et.al], Great Moments in Greek Archaeology. (Los Angeles, 2007). p. 330
  35. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  36. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  37. Waywell, G. B., “Athena mattei,” in The Annual of the British School at Athens 66. (1971). p. 378
  38. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  39. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  40. Waywell, G. B., “Athena mattei,” in The Annual of the British School at Athens 66. (1971). p. 379
  41. “Piraeus Athena (Sculpture),” in Perseus Digital Library Tufts University, (2014). <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact;jsessionid=11BC2A7C671270C807E2C9C6CA2ECED9?name=Piraeus+Athena&object=Sculpture >. p.1
  42. Palagia, Olga, Euphranor. (Netherlands, 1980). p.21
Sources

Further reading


  • Dafas, K. A., 2019. Greek Large-Scale Bronze Statuary: The Late Archaic and Classical Periods, Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Monograph, BICS Supplement 138 (London), pp. 97-116, pls 82-126.