Bronze torso from an equestrian statue wearing a cuirass. Greek or Roman, Hellenistic Period or Imperial Period (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D). Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From the Met:

The pose of this fragmentary torso suggests that the figure, who wears a short cape and an ornate cuirass of Hellenistic type, was originally riding a rearing horse, the left hand holding the reins while the right wielded a weapon. Dynamic equestrian bronze statues have a long tradition in Hellenistic and Roman art, stemming from Lysippos’ famous group showing Alexander the Great on horseback, which commemorates the Macedonian leader’s first major victory over the Persians at the Granikos River. The Romans sometimes adopted cuirasses of Hellenistic type. This fact, the widespread popularity of the equestrian statue as a public monument in antiquity, and the dearth of preserved examples hamper close dating of the torso. Technical and stylistic considerations lean toward a somewhat provincial, likely Roman, workshop.

The cuirass is decorated with two running friezes in high relief. Arimaspians, a legendary tribe from the distant north, combat griffins in the upper frieze. Sea griffins, dolphins, and palms decorate the lower one. Such potent imagery alludes to victory and the heroic valor of this tribe from across the sea, on the fringes of the world. In Roman times, imagery of Arimaspians was sometimes linked to the Parthians.

Plutarch - Life of Alexander - Chapter 4

In Chapter 4, Plutarch turns to Alexander’s physical appearance and his character.

Physical Appearance

“Alexander possessed a number of individual features which many of his successors and friends later tried to reproduce”

Plutarch names these as a tilt of the neck - ‘slightly to the left’ - and a 'certain melting look in his eyes’. He had fair skin 'with a ruddy tinge that showed itself especially upon his face and chest’.

Plutarch compliments the sculptor, Lysippus, who showed Alexander’s 'physical appearance… most clearly’. This contrasts with the painter Apelles who he criticises for showing the king as 'too dark-skinned and swarthy’.

It isn’t often that Plutarch names one of his sources but here he breaks his habit to mention something he has 'read in Aristoxenus’ memoirs’. Namely, that 'Alexander’s skin was fresh and sweet-smelling… that his breath and… body gave off a peculiar fragrance.’

Why does he mention this? The notes give us the reason. In ancient Greece, a 'sweet smell was regarded as a mark of divinity’. A similar idea exists within Christianity today where a fragrant smell from a dead body is considered to be a sign of the deceased's holiness.

Drawing on the ideas of Theophrastus (who we can see in the painting below, standing between Aristotle and Strato), Plutarch speculates that Alexander’s fragrant smell was caused by 'the blend of elements in his body’ which saw heat mingling with 'moist humours’. Significantly, Plutarch adds that that heat made Alexander 'fond of drinking and energetic’. 

And when Plutarch says 'energetic’ he is referring to Alexander’s 'energy, ambition and also anger’. 

Despite being energetic, the young Alexander also demonstrated 'powers of self-control’. He had little interest, for example, 'in the pleasures of the body’.

He made up for this, however, by 'his passionate desire for fame’ which gave him 'a pride and grandeur of vision which went far beyond his years’.

Not in everything, though. Apart from bodily pleasures, Alexander had little time for athletics - although he did once deign to run a race “If I have kings to run against me” -, boxing and pankration.

Things that he did enjoy were tragic drama, the flute and lyre, poetry reading, duelling and hunting.

A Man of Contradictions
All-in-all, it seems to me that Alexander had a mix of feminine and masculine attributes. He is also said to have occasionally cross-dressed, although we might call the occasions he dressed up as Artemis as early examples of cos-playing. Either way, paragraph 4 shows that Alexander the man really defies easy description or categorisation. This is well worth remembering when we come to his record as king.

I wrote about Alexander the 'cross dresser’ on my blog here 


Picture Credits
Statue of Alexander: Wikimedia Commons (G Dallorto)
Painting of Aristotle, Theophrastus and Strato (Carl Rahl)
Read more about Alexander visit my blog The Second Achilles


London Spy S01E02 (Strangers)

There’s a beautiful statue in the middle of the maze in the Turners’ property. It’s a cast metal copy of the Ludovisi Ares, a Roman marble sculpture of Mars, a 2nd-century copy of a late 4th-century BCE Greek original, probably made by Scopas or Lysippus. The young god is portrayed as a love object, seated on a trophy of arms, with Eros playing by his feet. The sculpture is now displayed at Palazzo Altemps in Rome.

The copy seen in the tv show doesn’t include Eros, replaced by Danny, “the love interest, as well as the innocent/child figure, who is suddenly thrust into a world he has no knowledge of.” Eros not included in the sculpture has another specific meaning, because “the maze symbolizes Frances, who imprisoned Alex in a web of control which didn’t allow any love to reach him.” The same meaning can be given to the fact that the statue’s face is hidden in the foliage, indicating “that Alex’s real self has been hidden from Danny.”

Danny’s gesture of touching the statue’s foot is tender and vaguely erotic: he is literally walking in Alex’s steps, leaving his mark where his lover left his. Later in the episode, this idea reaches its peak with Danny sleeping in Alex’s bedroom, the “loneliest room” he’s ever been to.

The inverted commas indicate the contribution of @jeanmi70. Thank you so much for sharing your interesting insight about this scene ♥


Scopas or Skopas (Ancient Greek: Σκόπας) (c. 395 BC – 350 BC) was an Ancient Greek sculptor and architect most famous for his statue of Meleager, the copper statue of “Aphrodite” and the head of goddess Hygieia, daughter of Asclepius. Scopas was born on the island of Paros. His father was the sculptor Aristandros. Skopas left Paros at an early age and travelled throughout the Hellenic world. Scopas worked with Praxiteles, and he sculpted parts of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, especially the reliefs. He led the building of the new temple of Athena Alea at Tegea. Similar to Lysippus, Scopas is artistically a successor of the Classical Greek sculptor Polykleitos. The faces of the heads are almost in quadrat. The deeply sunken eyes and a slightly opened mouth are recognizable characteristics in the figures of Scopas.Works by Scopas are preserved in the British Museum (reliefs) in London; fragments from the temple of Athena Alea at Tegea in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens; the celebrated Ludovisi Ares in the Palazzo Altemps, Rome; a statue of Pothos restored as Apollo Citharoedus in the Capitoline Museum, Rome; and his statue of Meleager, unmentioned in ancient literature but surviving in numerous replicas, perhaps best represented by a torso in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Pictures 1) Roman marble head of Meleager, after Scopas, on a restored bust (British Museum), 2) Ludovisi Ares. Pentelic marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from ca. 320 BC. Some restorations in Cararra marble by Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1622, 3) Apollo Barberini. The musician god holds in his left arm the “kithara” and in his right one a cup (the right arm and the left front arm were worked separatly). Eyeballs in white stone and lashes in bronze (iris and pupils, lost, were made in colored materials). Probable copy of the cult statue in the temple of Apollo Palatinus in Rome (free reproduction of a work from 4th century BC). 1st–2nd century CE, 4) Pothos, or Desire, was a celebrated and much imitated statue by Scopas. Roman copies featured the human figure with a variety of props, such as musical instruments and fabrics as depicted here, in an example that was in the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani.