Archaeologies of the Greek Past - Home
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
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Found by French excavators in 1896 near the north-west region of the temple of Apollo, the Charioteer of Delphi is one of the few original bronze statues that have passed the test of time. It remained in the same location that Pausania, the Greek travel writer of the second century B.C., found him as evident in his “Guide to Greece” work. Of course, the statue was buried, due to a rock fall avalanche, and had to be rescue. Although recovering this work in Delphi was a great achievement, scholars believe that this is only a part of a much larger work, which remains unknown even now.
The Charioteer of Delphi was created by casting several pieces of bronze, utilizing the lost wax method. In this method, the sculptor must first design and create a clay model. He must model the features in wax. Consequently, he must cover this with clay. Adding the molten bronze causes the wax to melt away and leave behind the end result.
Interestingly, there were two fragments of text located around the Charioteer. Closest to the statue is written “Polyzalos dedicated me” in Ancient Greek. It is known that Polyzalos was the tyrant of Gela in Sicily. It is believed that he dedicated this statue for two reasons; the first being that he wanted to commemorate his victory in the chariot race in the Pythian games and the second is that he wanted to offer thanks to the god Apollo for his win. As a result, the Charioteer of Delphi is also a part of the famed votive offerings, as a majority of Greek art is. The other fragment, being more unreadable, suggests that the Charioteer was sculpted by Sotades. According to the timing of the Pythian games, since they were held every 4 years, this sculpture can be dated to be just after 478 B.C., 474 B.C., or 470 B.C., placing it in the early Classical period.
A model of the Severe style of the early Classical period, the Charioteer has the characteristic fixed stare, heavy chin, and regular folds of drapery. It is truly a prized Hellenic work.
The Charioteer of Delphi can now be seen in the Museum of Delphi.
Whitley, James. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. (New York, 2007). 7-10, 69, 73, 140, 271, 278.