Charioteer of Delphi [Illustration]

Charioteer of Delphi [Illustration]

Charioteer of Delphi (5th century BCE, cast 1977)

Around 478 BCE, Polyzalos, the Tyrant of Gela in Sicily, commissioned a statue to express his gratitude to the god Apollo for his charioteer’s victory in the Pythian Games. Now in the museum at Delphi, this bronze is considered one of the finest surviving sculptures of classical Greece. The cast near Philadelphia’s Museum of Art was a gift from the Greek government.

Contemporary Greek artists Nikos Kerlis and Theodora Papayannis cast this faithful duplicate using the lost-wax process, one of the most accurate methods available. As in the original, the left arm is missing, as are the chariot and horses that once formed part of the sculpture.

Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

Voices heard in the program:

Ann Kuttner is professor of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art at the University of Pennsylvania.

Penelope Lagakos is the daughter of Judge Gregory Lagakos who facilitated the donation of the Charioteer.

Shane Stratton is a sculptor in Philadelphia who has taught at the Tyler School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Segment Producer: Eric Molinsky

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, or on our website – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation.

Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

This artwork is part of the Along Kelly Drive tour, and the Around the Philadelphia Museum of Art tour.

Charioteer of Delphi [Illustration] - History

A n earthquake shakes the sacred sanctuary of Delphi in 373 BC, causing a seismic catastrophe that buries one of the world&rsquos most impressive ancient finds for over two thousand years: the Charioteer of Delphi.

Also known as the Heniokhos ( &Eta&nuί&omicron&chi&omicron&sigmaf ), meaning the rein-holder, the Charioteer of Delphi is one of the world&rsquos finest bronze statues of antiquity. Discovered in 1896 during the Great Excavation of Delphi at the Sanctuary of Apollo, the life size statue of a charming male youth stands at 1.8 meters.

A remarkable example of bronze craftsmanship, the Charioteer of Delphi was commissioned in 478 - 474 BC by Polyzalos, a tyrant of Gela, in commemoration of his victory at a Pythian Game chariot race.

Youth participating in Panhellenic games were known to be of noble origins, racing with the chariots and horses of aristocrats. Draped in a xystin , a long tunic, and standing tall with a muscular build and great posture, the young Charioteer is filled with the joy of having achieved this high honor, yet stands poised, mature and modest before the crowd, self disciplined and confident, containing his emotions.

A vivid representation of Greek life, this piece exemplifies the ancient world&rsquos ideals, transcending from the more rigid archaic, to a more fluid classical style.

Originally part of a group of statues including horses and a chariot, this masterpiece today stands near the site of its discovery, at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi . While discovered in pieces, the Charioteer of Delphi was unearthed in almost perfect condition, aside from a few missing parts including his left forearm and silver details on the headband.

Historically speaking, Greek bronze statues were cast in segments, assembled to create the final piece. Though its origin is not exactly known, it is assumed the statue came from Athens, due to the nature of its design.

This piece is especially important because of the rarity of such complete ancient bronze statues. Most are considered to have been destroyed for metal, or naturally deteriorated over time. The survival of the Charioteer of Delphi, in such pristine condition, is attributed to the natural catastrophe that covered the site.

Charioteer of Delphi [Illustration] - History

It is very similar to the statue known as Piraeus Apollo

The Charioteer of Delphi is a masterpiece of the ancient Greeks and is considered to be among the finest of the era’s bronze sculptures. Also known as Heniokhos, the life-size statue of a chariot driver was found in 1896, in Delphi, at the Sanctuary of Apollo. The charioteer is one of the few original sculptures made of bronze that survived the centuries, and today it can be seen at the Delphi Archaeological Museum.

The statue is a commemoration of the victory of Polyzalus of Gela, riding his chariot in the Pythian Games held in 478 BC at Delphi. It depicts the driver at the moment of his victory, when he presents his chariot and horses to the spectators. Heniokhos was part of a larger piece that included at least four horses and perhaps two grooms.

Heniokhos is a special exhibit in the museum, and it is the last item that visitors see on their tour. There is a drawing of the missing parts next to the statue, and little pieces of what remains of them. It is believed that the sculptor of the statue was Pythagoras of Samos, but the sculptor Calamis from Sicily is also thought to have been involved in its creation. No one knows for sure.

At that time, the Sicilian cities were very wealthy and only their rulers could afford to order statuaries such as this. They could also offer the most beautiful items to the gods and had the best drivers and horses. However, it is unlikely that the statue actually comes from Sicily, and because the master remains unknown, many believe that it was made in Athens. The reason: the style and decorative work of the statue.

(The sculpture can be seen at the Delphi Archaeological Museum)

It is very similar to the statue known as Piraeus Apollo, which historians claim was made in Athens. The figure of Heniokhos is a young man wearing a robe or a long tunic (xyston), which was the traditional clothing for a charioteer. The tunic was tightened with a white belt, and two other bands passed over the shoulders. In ancient Greece, these men were carefully chosen, and the most important characteristics were their height and weight: the taller and lighter they were, the better.

It is believed that this young man was from a noble family. For the Panhellenic games, all chariot racers were selected from among the elites. The charioteer is very strong, as we can see in his arms and posture. One of the most interesting features are his inlaid eyes, which are made from glass (onyx).

(One of the most interesting parts are the inlaid eyes. which are made from glass)

(The Charioteer’s introverted expression is compared with the Archaic smile)

This bronze statue survived because it was buried under a rock-fall in the city, which is perhaps the event that destroyed the site in 373 BC. The parts that are missing from the statue are little details from the eyelashes and the lips, and his left forearm. The style of the young man is classed as “Severe” or “Early Classical.” The statue is defined as naturalistic, and the Charioteer’s introverted expression is compared with the old Archaic smile.

(One of the examples of the Delphos gown)

This smile was used by ancient Greek sculptors when they wanted to suggest that their subject was calm and infused with well-being. The best example of this expression is the Kroisos Kouros, but Heniokhos was even more naturalistically presented than this statue.

Ten years after its discovery, the Delphos gown was designed by the Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, who was inspired by the statue’s clothing. These dresses are considered one of the most important pieces of 20th-century fashion.

Ancient Greek Olympics Gallery

This magnificent bronze statue of a charioteer is in the Delphi Museum, and commemorates a victory in the chariot races at Delphi in the 470s BC. The Games there, held in honour of the god Apollo, were of national importance and ranked alongside those of Olympia, Corinth, Nemea and the Great Panathenaia held at Athens.

As at the Olympic Games, winners at Delphi were allowed to set up statues of themselves. It was thought that these bronze objects, and thus the victor's fame, would last forever, but sadly over the centuries thousands of them were melted down for re-use.

The inscription on the base of the statue records that the monument was set up by Polyzalos, who was a tyrant of Gela in Sicily. The Greek nobility of Sicily and southern Italy specialised in breeding horses, and delighted in winning prestigious equestrian events in their homeland. The inscription was changed after the tyranny of Polyzalos was overthrown, and the word 'tyrant' was removed, so that the dedication became that of a private individual. Politics were an integral part of ancient sport!

The figure, in traditional charioteer's robes, was originally part of a monument depicting a chariot, four horses and a groom, but only fragments of the other parts survive. The charioteer's remaining hand still clutches the reins. This may well not be Polyzalos himself but a charioteer employed by him, for the races were far too dangerous for most owners to want to compete in. As many as 40 chariots would compete in one race, with the most dangerous being the sharp turns round a pillar at either end of the track. In one race at Delphi, only one of the 40 chariots arrived home.

Charioteer of Delphi [Illustration] - History

A Votive Playground at the Center of the Earth


T aking a stroll through the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, one will journey through centuries of history, culture, architecture, art and archeology, from Prehistory to Late Antiquity. The on-site Great Excavation of 1892 procured the various artifacts creating the very first Museum of Delphi, which opened its doors over a century ago in May of 1903. This collective display was funded by a trust established by Andreas Syngros, a famous Greek politician and philanthropist.

By the early 20th century, Delphi&rsquos mysterious allure was the object of interest amongst the foreign jet set and other prestigious individuals, receiving international attention and acclaim for the Delphic Festivals organized by poet Angelos Sikelianos and his wife, Eva Palmer Sikelianos .

From the museum&rsquos inauguration to 1939, a second generation of archaeologists began to study its artifacts, advocating for the creation of a new museum whose structure and organization would highlight the various findings in a way the researchers concluded was best.

A more scholarly approach to research and presentation seeing antiquities displayed in chronological order was established thereafter. But the outbreak of WWII in 1939 threatened the collection&rsquos safety, and the new exhibit remained closed to the public while artifacts and antiquities were buried or transferred to Athens for safe keeping.

Some pieces like those of the chryselephantine statuettes, were hidden in the vaults of the National Bank of Greece, while one of Delphi&rsquos most treasured pieces, the famous bronze Charioteer of Delphi , was stashed in the crypts of the National Archaeological Museum.

It was not until the 1950s that Delphi saw its antiquities gradually return to the exhibition space, which finally opened its doors to the public in 1961, with the architectural touch of Patroclos Karantinos, under the leadership of Ephor of Antiquities Ioanna Konstantinou and National Archaeological Museum Director Christos Karouzos.

Today, the Archaeological Museum of Delphi is comprised of an outdoor archaeological site and building, housing findings small and large. The exhibits, presented in chronological order, display artifacts from the Sanctuary of Pronaia Athena, Sacred Way Votive Pit, Temple of Apollo and Siphnian Treasury.

Among sacred treasures, a few of the collection&rsquos most celebrated pieces include:

This marble sculpture is a Hellenistic or Roman representation of the Archaic omphalos kept in in the temple&rsquos inner sanctum, the adyton . A symbol of Delphi, the naval stone&rsquos decor imitates the agrenon weave, a thick wool cloth that covered the original stone omphalos.


A triad of figures historians believe may be Artemis, Apollo and Leto, the chryselephantine statues are made of gold and ivory, exemplifying the craftsmanship of Ionia.

A marble pair of traditional archaic kouroi, this monumental duo is considered to be Kleobis and Biton of Argos, sons of a priestess of Hera. Created by the sculptor Polymedes of Argos, the kouroi were dedicated to Apollo by the people of Argos.

560 BC


A traditional terracotta cup used for wine drinking, the Kylix of Apollo depicts the god performing a libation, pouring wine out of a bowl while a raven looks on. Wrapped in a sleeveless chiton, his characteristic wavy hair is crowned in a myrtle wreath.

478 - 474 BC

A remarkable example of bronze craftsmanship, and the most renowned of Delphic votive offerings due to the rarity of such sculptures, the Charioteer of Delphi was commissioned by Polyzalos, a tyrant of Gela, in commemoration of his victory at a Pythian game chariot race.

130 AD

A muse to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Antinoos was a youth from Bithynia who drowned under mysterious circumstances in the Nile in 130 AD. Proclaimed a god by Hadrian himself, the memory of Antinoos lives through widespread marble statues and busts representing his likeness.

Charioteers, 1924

Two erect stone figures, copies of a bronze Charioteer of Delphi made for the Art Institute of Chicago from the Greek original, stand on pillars at a park entrance. Each of the statues had just one arm at first, as does the ancient prototype, which shows remnants of an arm and a rein. But shortly after installation at the estate in 1924 the owner decided to have the remaining arms removed because, as he explained, "there was no chariot and there was this arm out, it just looked stupid." So much for art history.

With the arms gone in the park versions, the statues seem more attenuated than the original-despite their being rather stockier interpretations-as the vertical elements in the drapery stretch up to become in effect static fluted columns. This sort of artistic license lends credence to the supposition that for Robert Allerton, symmetry and balance came fist and archaeological exactitude lacked relevance.

If you would like to see a bronze replica with the arm still attached, visit the Workman Gallery of Ancient Mediterranean Cultures at the Spurlock Museum on the UIUC campus.

Archaeology and the Ancient Greek Pythian Games at Delphi

The Pythian Games at Delphi were part of the festival of Apollo. The games occurred every four years, with each Pythiad marking the halfway point to the Olympics.

Initially,the contests were musical but in the sixth century BC, athletic and equestrian events were added to the programme. Archaeologists have excavated many of the venues for these events at Delphi, including the stadium and gymnasium. As at Olympia, votive offerings have also been found. These can be used to identify who competed in the Pythian Games.

Ancient Greek Sports at Delphi

The athletic contests and equestrian events added to the programme of the games after 586BC were very similar to those held at Olympia. They included the:

  • Dolichos or long distance foot race
  • Diaulos or boy’s two stade foot race
  • Stade
  • Hoplite race or the race in full armour
  • Tethrippos Dromos or four horse chariot race
  • Synoris or two horse chariot race
  • Keles – a race of mounted riders

The Stadium and Gymnasium of Delphi

Archaeological evidence for the sports venues and training facilities have been found at the highest and lowest point of Delphi. The most complete excavated remains consist of the stadium and the gymnasium.

The stadium: the best preserved in Greece, Delphi’s stadium is situated above the sacred temenos, it is the highest structure at Delphi. Built in the fifth century BC, it was embellished during the second century AD.

The archaeological remains are impressive. In the north were twelve rows of seating, hewn from the natural rock. In the south, space for an additional six rows was constructed. The track is embellished with a line of second century roman arches. In front is the racing area with the starting and finishing lines, complete with the runner’s grooves still in situ.

One interesting feature on the retaining wall of the stadium is a fourth century BC inscription forbidding the drinking of wine in the stadium. A five drachma fine was levied on anyone who broke the rule.

The Gymnasium and Palaestra. Situated below the temenos of Apollo, the gymnasium and Palaestra are situated close to the temple of Athena Pronaia. The remains on site today date to the fourth century BC.

The facilities were used by locals and athletes in training. The complex is spread across two terraces. On the upper terrace were two practice running tracks. The indoor track or xystos had a roofed colonnade to protect athletes from the elements. Next door was an open air paradromis.

Below on the lower terrace was the palaestra which was used for wrestling and the changing areas for the athletes – dressing rooms and a large round pool for bathing.

Victors and Votive Offerings: The Charioteer of Delphi

Prizes for the victors of the Pythian Games were similar to those at Olympia and included gold tripods and crowns of laurel leaves, which were sacred to Apollo. In turn, the winners showed gratitude for their victories by dedicating offerings in the sacred temenos.

Many remaining offerings are preserved in the museum of Delphi. Perhaps the most elaborate and well known is the charioteer of Delphi. Dedicated by Polyzalos, the tyrant of Gela in Sicily, it is the only figure to survive from a larger piece which featured 4 horses and a groom. Dating to the fifth century BC – the early classical period, the charioteer was made by wax casting- then a new technique that gave statues a more lifelike pose. The charioteer’s eyes of white paste with dark stone pupils still remain and seem to follow spectators about the room.

Although Polyzalos named himself as the victor, he was not in fact the driver, only the sponsor. His victorious charioteer was uncommemorated. This is not the case for other competitors.

An inscription which dates to 50AD proves that some of the competitors of the Pythian Games were women. It is possible women may have competed in their own competitions or in the boy’s races. The women in question were three sisters who were winners not only at the Pythian Games but other Pan-Hellenic competitions. They dedicated a set of statues of themselves, now lost, to commemorate their victories. One, Tryphosa, won the stadion at Delphi and the Isthmian games – the first woman to do so according to the plaque. Her sister, Hedea is shown to have won the chariot race.

An Exact Replica of 'The Charioteer of Delphi' now decorates the Doha Airport in Qatar

The Charioteer of Delphi, also known as Heniokhos (Greek: Ηνίοχος, the rein-holder), is one of the best-known statues surviving from Ancient Greece, and is considered one of the finest examples of ancient bronze sculptures. The life-size (1.8m) statue of a chariot driver was found in 1896 at the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi. It is now in the Delphi Archaeological Museum. Polyzelos, the Tyrant of Gela, dedicated this statue to commemorate his victory at the chariot race during the Pythian Games of 470s BCE.

The official opening ceremony of the exhibition of the copy of ‘Iniohos’ (greek: Ηνίοχος), which is a gift of the Greek Government in Qatar, took place yesterday morning. The unveiling of the statue was made by the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, during her official visit to Qatar, and by the Director General of the Qatar Museums Authority, Ahmad Al-Namla.

Lina Mendoni referred to the story of Iniohos, to his discovery in 1896 - the year of the organization of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens - to his special features, to the emotions that are reflected on his face, to the fact that he is one of the rare statues, which preserves it’s eyes, made of semi-precious stone and glass, elements that make the Iniochos the most famous of the tributes to Apollo of Delphi.

The Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni was given a tour of the new National Museum of Qatar, which presents the history of the country from prehistoric times to the present day. The Museum, work of the French architect Jean Nouvel, is inspired by the crystals of the desert and exposes the history of the country, both with works of art and monuments, as well as with the use of multimedia.

She also visited the Museum of Islamic Art, work of the famous architect I.M. Pei, which hosts an exhibition unique in number and importance. It is noted that Greek conservators work also in this museum. Special mention was made of the existing collaboration between the Museum of Islamic Art and the Islamic Collection of the Benaki Museum in Greece, as well as of the prospect of co-organizing exhibitions of common interest in the future.

Front of the statue as it appears in the famous game of Ubisoft, Assasin’s Creed Odyssey.

The statue as it appears in the famous game of Ubisoft, Assasin’s Creed Odyssey.

Often dangerous to both drivers and horses, who frequently suffered serious injury and even death, the sport generated strong spectator enthusiasm comparable to modern-day interest in motor sports. Some of the organizational aspects of chariot racing also paralleled current practices in professional sports.

It is unknown exactly where chariot racing began, but it may have been as old as chariots themselves. It is known from artistic evidence on pottery that the sport existed in the Mycenaean world, but the first literary reference to a chariot race is the one described by Homer in Book 23 of the Iliad, at the funeral games of Patroclus.

The participants in this race were Diomedes, Eumelus, Antilochus, Menelaus, and Meriones. The race, which was one lap around the stump of a tree, was won by Diomedes, who received a slave woman and a cauldron as his prize. A chariot race was also said to be the event that founded the Olympic Games according to one legend, King Oenomaus challenged his daughter Hippodamia's suitors to a race, but was defeated by Pelops, who founded the Games in honour of his victory.

Racers wore a garment called a xystis. It fell to the ankles and was fastened high at the waist with a plain belt. Two straps that crossed high at the upper back, prevented the xystis from "ballooning" during the race. Like modern jockeys, chariot racers were chosen for their lightness, but also needed to be tall, so they were frequently teenagers.

The chariots themselves were modified war chariots, essentially wooden carts with two wheels and an open back, although chariots were by this time no longer used in battle. The charioteer's feet were held in place, but the cart rested on the axle, so the ride was bumpy. The most exciting part of the chariot race, at least for the spectators, was the turns at the ends of the hippodrome. These turns were very dangerous and often deadly. If a chariot had not already been knocked over by an opponent before the turn, it might be overturned or crushed (along with the horses and driver) by the other chariots as they went around the post. Deliberately running into an opponent to cause him to crash was technically illegal, but nothing could be done about it (at Patroclus' funeral games, Antilochus in fact causes Menelaus to crash in this way), and crashes were likely to happen by accident anyway.

The chariot race was not as prestigious as the stadion (the foot race), but it was more important than other equestrian events such as racing on horseback, which were dropped from the Olympic Games very early on. In Mycenaean times the driver and owner would have been the same person, and therefore the winning driver received the prize. However, by the time of the Panhellenic Games, the owners usually had slaves who did the actual driving, and it was the owner who was awarded the prize. Arsecilas, the king of Cyrene, won the chariot race at the Pythian Games in 462 BC, when his slave driver was the only one to finish the race. In 416 BC the Athenian general Alcibiades had seven chariots in the race, and came in first, second and fourth obviously he could not have been racing all seven chariots himself. Philip II of Macedon also won an Olympic chariot race in an attempt to prove he was not a barbarian, though if he had driven the chariot himself he would likely have been considered even lower than a barbarian. However, the poet Pindar did praise the courage of Herodotos for driving his own chariot. This rule also meant that women could technically win the race, despite the fact that women were not allowed to participate in or even watch the Games. This happened rarely, but a notable example is the Spartan Cynisca, daughter of Agesilaus II, who won the chariot race twice. Chariot racing was a way for Greeks to demonstrate their prosperity at the games. Lycurgus criticized chariot racing by saying that it was not as useful as building city walls or temples.

The Charioteer of Delphi, one of the most famous statues surviving from Ancient Greece. Like modern jockeys, chariot racers were chosen for their lightness, but also needed to be tall, so they were frequently teenagers.

Chariot racing was also an event at other games in the Greek world, and was the most important event at the Panathenaic Games in Athens. At these games, the winner of the four-horse chariot race was given 140 amphorae of olive oil, an extremely expensive prize, as this was more oil than an athlete would ever need in his career. Most of it was probably sold to other athletes. There was another form of chariot racing at the Panathenaic Games, known as the apobotai or the anabotai. This involved jumping out of the chariot and running alongside for some distance (the anabotai) the apobotai apparently also including jumping back into the chariot after running alongside it. In these races there was a second driver who held the reins while the first driver jumped out, but of course neither of these were considered the winner. The first chariot over the line would win, no matter if the driver was in the chariot or out. If the driver crashed, and could still walk, he would win if he crossed the finish line on foot.

Watch the video: Charioteer of Delphi (October 2021).