Upper part of a colossal limestone statue of a bearded man

From the Sanctuary of Apollo at Idalion (modern Dhali), Cyprus
About 500-480 BC

Evidently a priest

In 526/5 BC Cyprus suffered the same fate as the East Greek cites on the west coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The island was absorbed into the Persian Empire which, since the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, had included Syria and Phoenicia. Freedom of movement within the Persian Empire intensified contact between these areas. Cypriot sculptors became more dependent on East Greek models and influenced by Phoenician taste.

Thus this priest is dressed in Greek fashion in a chiton partly covered by a himation. The short hair, secured by a laurel wreath decorated with rosettes, is also East Greek, as is the smile on the lips. However, the double bank of snake curls on the forehead, and the treatment of the artificially curled beard reflect Achaemenid influence.

The large figure, placed in the centre of a series of statues in the front of the main court of the sanctuary, would probably have represented a priest. The cult of the Greek god Apollo was not introduced to this sanctuary before the fourth century BC. Earlier, the principal god seems to have been represented by a male figure in a lionskin, brandishing a club in one hand and a lion in the other. These figures are reminiscent of both the Phoenician Melqart and the Greek Herakles and may be best described as the 'Cypriot Herakles'.

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More information

Bibliography

M. Caygill, The British Museum A-Z compani (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

V. Tatton-Brown, Ancient Cyprus, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

R. Senff, 'Das Apollonheiligtum von Idalion' in Studies in Mediterranean Archa, XCIV (Jonsered, Paul Aströms Forlag, 1993)

Dimensions

Height: 1.040 m

Museum number

GR 1917.7-1.233 (Sculpture C 154)

GAA3386

Excavated by Sir Robert Hamilton Lang

Location

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