Sculptured marble plinth

Greek, about 330-300 BC
From the Later Temple of Artemis, Ephesos, modern Turkey

An energetic yet enigmatic scene

This carved square plinth comes from the later Temple of Artemis at Ephesos. Several similar pedestals were discovered at the west end of the temple, where they were first identified as part of a continuous Ionic frieze situated above the colonnade. Though their exact position still remains unclear, it is now thought that the pedestals supported columns at the west end of the temple. They may even have had the carved circular drums, also found at the site, placed on top of them.

Few of the pedestals survive, and those that do are very fragmentary, so it is difficult to assess their style or identify the subject matter. However, the scenes represented seem to vary in subject from ritual to mythological and include Nikai (representations of victory) leading sacrificial animals, Nereids riding hippocamps (sea monsters) and a Centauromachy (battle between Centaurs and Lapiths).

This particular plinth has one of the most energetic yet enigmatic scenes. A woman drags a male figure from the rock on which he is seated. His lion-skin may identify him as the hero Herakles. Behind the woman another figure leans forward. The head of this figure originally rested on a right hand with a sleeved garment not unlike Persian dress - an Amazon perhaps? The woman in front is not, though, dressed in conventional Amazon clothing. The entire scene remains difficult to interpret in terms of any known myth.

The extremely bold and dynamic carving on this sculptured plinth, like that on the others, suits the confrontational subject matter. This style of carving contrasts effectively with the quieter, passive scenes featured on the surviving carved circular drums.

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More information

Bibliography

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)

Dimensions

Height: 1.840 m

Museum number

GR 1872.8-3.11 (Sculpture 1200)

GAA9203

Excavated by John Turtle Wood for The British Museum (1871)

Location

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