The charioteer of Delphi

The charioteer of Delphi is probably the most famous Greek statue in bronze. It represents a charioteer in a long robe with the reins in his hand and is very detailed, with for example fine bronze lashes and silver teeth. The statue belonged to a larger sculpture: a chariot with a team of four horses, next to which the owner and one or more attendants with an extra horse were standing. Of the rest of the monument only some smaller fragments of the horses remain. The charioteer, the only fully preserved figure, shows little expression and looks rather stiff. Since the owner was the actual victor, he had to draw most attention, not the charioteer.

The whole monument was erected at Delphi, on top of a stone base with an inscription, which is partly preserved. It contains the name Polyzalos, who was a member of a well known family of Sicilian tyrants. Because the name is written over an erased inscription, scholars doubt whether the monument was erected for a Pythian victory of Polyzalos in 478 or 474 BC, or of his brother Hieron in 482 or 478. The monument was dedicated to the god Apollo.

© KU Leuven, 2012