Apollo Sauroktonos (Apollo Lizard-killer) is the title of several 1st - 2nd century AD Roman marble copies of an original by the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles. The statues depict a nude adolescent male about to catch a lizard climbing up a tree. Copies are included in the collections of the Louvre Museum, the Vatican Museums, and the National Museums Liverpool.
The bronze original of this sculpture is attributed by Pliny (XXXIV, 69-70) to the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles and is usually dated to c.350-340 BC. Martial wrote an epigram about the statue (14, 172): "Spare, treacherous child, the lizard which is crawling towards you. It is eager to perish by your hands."
The Cleveland Museum of Art claims to own a bronze original (or part-original) of this work. The work is currently being analyzed to verify this claim by scholars and archaeologists. Greece has raised questions about ownership and title.
The statue's iconography could indirectly refer to Apollo's fight against the serpent Python or, if the lizard is an attribute of the god, it could show Apollo in his purifying function, as a destroyer of plagues - Greek gods called smintheus (rat-killer of rat) or parnopios (grasshopper-killer) are certainly known.
Roman popular representations
Small-scale decorative reproductions were made in the Roman era. The theme of Apollo and the lizard is also found on Roman mosaics.
The Louvre version
The Louvre version is 1.49m high, as Inventaire MR 78 (n° usuel Ma 441), and the left arm, the right hand and the lizard's head are modern restorations. Formerly in the Borghese collection, it was bought by Napoleon in 1807.
- Martial, Epigrams, Book 14. 172, http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/martial_epigrams_book14.htm Accessed 26 Oct, 2013
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