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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Arune Gulati

Kleobis and Biton are the names of two kouroi found together at Delphi that have both artistic and mythological significance. Stylistically, the kouroi are typical Archaic Greek representations of the male body. They are nude, well defined muscularly, and representative of young aristocratic youth like so many other kouroi. Many of the lines on the sculptures are rendered stylistically rather than realistically, such as the knees which are rendered simply with etched lines with little detail. This can also be seen in the bottom border of their ribcages, which are represented only by a solitary curving line etched in an otherwise flat, undefined stomach. Their eyes are large and disproportionate to their heads and their facial expressions are unusually severe. These statues were found around 580 BCE and thus were relatively early on in the development of the kouros form. (Whitley 217)

More important than their stylistic importance is their relevance to Greek mythology. The names of the statues are inscribed on their bases, which sets them apart from other anonymous kouroi. From their names, anyone can make the connection to the Kleobis and Biton of the story involving Athenian poet and statesman Solon and the Lydian King Croesus. The story goes that King Croesus, a very egotistical man concerned with his legacy, went to Solon to ask who was the happiest man in the world, knowing in his mind that it would be him. Instead, though, Solon told Croesus, much to his dismay, that the happiest people in the world were Tellus, an Athenian who died honorably in battle and was very successful, and two brothers, Kleobis and Biton, who were very successful in athletic contests and had been awarded the greatest thing a mortal could receive, death. According to the legend Solon told, Kleobis and Biton, unable to find oxen to transport their mother to the Sanctuary of Hera, carried the yoke upon their own shoulders and made the trek. Upon arriving at the sanctuary, their mother prayed to Hera to grant her wonderful children the greatest gift a mortal could have. Kleobis and Biton died in their sleep the same day, but were eventually immortalized in statue by the Argive sculptor Polymedes. (Parada)

Parada, Carlos. “Cleobis and Biton.” Greek Mythology Link. 1997. 1 Dec. 2007 <>

Whitley, James. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.