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Room 23: Greek and Roman Sculpture 

Object details

Height: 183 cm
Museum number: GR 1870,0712.1

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Marble figure of a victorious athlete

Roman version of a Greek bronze original of about 440–430 BC, found at Vaison, France.

Known as the Daidoumenos (ribbon wearer) this statue shows a triumphant athlete tying a ribbon round his head immediately after a victory.

At ancient Greek sports festivals it was the custom to give ribbons to winning athletes. Later, at the awards’ ceremony, the athlete received a wreath of leaves such as olive, laurel or wild celery leaves, depending on the festival. The identity of the athlete and the event he won are not known. He may represent athletic victories in general.

What is a victor statue?

Victor statues were intended to immortalise successful athletes. Sculptors favoured bronze for athletic statues, perhaps because it better represented tanned, oiled skin, but many were carved from marble. They were set on bases inscribed with a dedication to a god, the athlete’s name, father’s name, home town and contest.

This Roman marble statue copied a bronze original by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos. It is recorded that the original fetched the price of a hundred talents, an enormous sum in the ancient world.

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J Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games (London, The British Museum Press, 2011)

FN Pryce, AH Smith, Catalogue of Greek Sculpture in the British Museum, I-III (London, The British Museum Press, 1892)