Piraeus Apollo

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Piraeus Apollo.Archaic-style bronze.Archaeological Museum of Piraeus

The Piraeus Apollo is an archaic-style bronze dating from the 6th century BC, possibly from the years 530-520 BC, exhibited now at the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus (Athens). Apollo was the god of the ideal order and balance and the depictions of naked young men in the Kouros (young male) type are believed to be representations of the god. This bronze statue seems to be the last stage in the development of the formal almost static Kouros type that survived for a long time from the early Archaic period (640-580 BC).

Head of Piraeus Apollo
Side-back view ofPiraeus Apollo

Originally the Kouros type represented the archaic-thought that nature expresses itself in ideal everlasting simple-forms which can be traced by the senses and depicted in a way of illusive-reality. Matter was not regarded lifeless but something full of life, in an almost animistic belief. These ideas seem to go parallel with the natural- philosophical conceptions of Thales from Miletus who searched a simple material-form behind the appearances of the things and also believed that matter was alive (υλοζωϊσμός). This material character is paralleled in sculpture by the absolute representation of blooming life through unnaturally simplified forms.[1]

The Piraeus Apollo is a product of the late archaic period (530-480 BC) in which the Greek sculpture attained a full knowledge of human anatomy and used to create an harmonious whole. It is among the very few such bronzes that have survived. The statue seems to differentiate from the previous formality and represents a kind of motion. The symmetry and the analogies of the members are closer to the post-archaic sculpture which gives more emphasis not to the illusive reality but to the analogy and the interaction of each member with the others in the whole. In the last few decades of the 6th century, the philosophical mystic currents were to have a considerable influence on late archaic art. The logical move from Ionian natural philosophy to metaphysics was the conscious decision of post-archaic mind.[2] In post-archaic period, the illusive imaginative reality was displaced by harmony and symmetry.

The method of interaction and analogy was perfected by Polykleitos in classical period. He used the principle of continuity and in his famous sculptures each member transmitted to the next a part of his existence; therefore there was an harmonious analogy with the rest of the parts. It seems that his canon (κανών:norm, standard) was a standardization which in his opinion led to the ideal form. He was probably influenced by the metaphysical theory of Pythagoras who believed that behind each object there was a mathematical relation that led to order and balance.[3] The discovery of the perfect mathematical relation was a continuous attempt of the Greek architects.

The Greek belief of ideal forms was later extended by Plato in his metaphysical theory of forms (ideai:ideas). The Greek word idea (ιδέα:idea) has the same roots with the words idein (ιδείν:to see), eidos (είδος:species), and probably with oida (οίδα:know), therefore one must see something in order to know it. Originally, the words were applied to such obvious forms as the human body. The transference of the words from visible to invisible show how the Greek mind moved from the gift of senses to the principles behind them which were also used in the art of sculpture.[4]


  1. ^ E.Homman,Wedeking.Transl.J.R.Foster (1968).Art of the world-Archaic Greece. Methuen-London pp.63-65
  2. ^ E.Homman,Wedeking. Transl.J.R.Foster (1968).Art of the world-Archaic Greece.Methuen-London pp.194-196
  3. ^ Nigel Spivey (1997).Greek Art. Phaidon Press Ltd. pp.196-198
  4. ^ C,M.Bowra (1957).The Greek experience.W.P.Company. Cleveland and New York. p.12

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