Height: 1.840 m
Diameter: 1.970 m (lower)
Excavated by J. T. Wood for The British Museum (1871)
GR 1872.8-3.9 (Sculpture 1206)
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Marble column drum from the later Temple of Artemis at Ephesos
Hellenistic Greek, about 340-320 BC
From Ephesos, modern Turkey
A fragment from one of the Seven Wonders of the World
This is the best preserved column drum from the Temple of Artemis. It has the remains of seven figures, two of which have been almost completely obliterated. The subject portrayed is disputed, but the scene is clearly presided over by the messenger god, Hermes, who gazes upwards with his kerykeion (winged staff) in his right hand and petasos (wide-brimmed sun hat) hanging behind his head. The god appears here in his guise as Hermes Psychopompos (leader of souls to the Underworld). The woman standing in front of him, whom he appears to guide, has been identified as many different tragic heroines, including Iphigenia, Alkestis or Eurydike. Other theories base the scene on the drum around the myth of Persephone. The suggestion that death is involved is supported by the presence of a winged youth with a sword who may be Thanatos, the personification of death.
The Roman author Pliny the Elder (AD 23/4-79) tells us that the famous fourth-century sculptor Skopas carved one of the thirty-six column drums of the temple. This particular drum was traditionally associated with Skopas on stylistic grounds, but it would be a remarkable coincidence if the only reasonably preserved drum should be his work. If, however, we are to believe that Skopas was involved with the sculptural programme at the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos in Karia, it is possible that he and his workshop moved on to another major commission at Ephesos.
P.A. Webb, Hellenistic architectural scul (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996)
A.H. Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in -1, vol. 2 (London, British Museum, 1900)
B.S. Ridgway, Fourth-century styles in Greek (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)