Pytheos (Biographical details)

Pytheos (sculptor/medallist; architect; Greek; Male; 360 BC - 320 BC; fl. circa)

Also known as

Pytheos of Priene; Pytheus; Pytheos; Pythios; Pithios; Pythis; Pithius; Protheos; Phyleos; Phileos

Biography

Pytheos was primarily an architect but he may also have been involved with sculpture. The name of Pytheos is mentioned by Vitruvius as an architect in three contexts: for his contention that an architect must be extraordinarily skilled in a wide variety of arts and sciences (1.1.12), for his criticism of the Doric order (4.3.1) and, most important, as the author of treatises (or commentaries) on important buildings (7 Praef. 12). Vitruvius speaks of Pytheos having written about the Temple of Athena at Priene, which he designed (1.1.12) and about the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in a treatise composed together with Satyros (7 Praef 12). A second century Alexandrian papyrus confirms Pytheos' role as architect of the Mausoleum.

Pliny NH 36.31 also appears to name Pytheos in connection with the Mausoleum, but rather in the role of sculptor, for he says that a certain Pythis (generally believed to be a corruption of the name of Pytheos) made the four-horse chariot at the top of the monument. It is possible therefore, that Pytheos was both an architect and a sculptor. As Satyros, his colleague in the treatise on the Mausoleum, is known to have made statues, there is some question as to how work was divided between the two authors of the treatise and how much influence Pytheos might have had on the design and execution of the sculptures that so lavishly decorated the Mausoleum.

Pytheos must have moved on from working on the Mausoleum (completed in 351 BC) to Priene in the 340s, accompanied no doubt by many craftsmen who had been engaged in the earlier project. Many architectural features link the two buildings, in particular the unusual use of coffers, which were developed into the most prominently sculptured element in the Temple of Athena at Priene. It has been suggested that Pytheos was also engaged in other building projects in Asia Minor during the second half of the 4th century BC, but there is no documentary proof of this. Some modern scholars suppose that Pytheos was something like a court architect / sculptor for the Hekatomnid dynasty that ruled Caria.

Bibliography

Vitruvius 1.1.12; 4.3.1; 7 Praef.12
Pliny NH 36,31
Pollitt 198
Joseph Coleman Carter, 'The Sculpture of the Sanctuary of Athena Polias at Priene', London, 1984, pp.26-33.
G B Waywell, 'The free-standing sculptures of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos in the British Museum', London, 1978, pp.26, 72, 77, 82-83.
Ian Jenkins, 'Greek architecture and its sculpture', London, 2006, pp.223-225 and 239-243.
Boardman GSLCP pp.22 and 29.