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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Jockey of Artemision

Jockey of Artemision

Jockey of Artemision

The Jockey of Artemision is a bronze statue of a boy riding a horse, dated to around 150 BC. It is a rare original bronze statue from Ancient Greece. It is also unique because most ancient Greek bronzes were melted down for their raw materials during periods of warfare and strife. This Greek masterpiece was saved from destruction because it was lost in a shipwreck sometime in antiquity, before being discovered in the modern era.

It was probably dedicated to the Greek gods to honour victories in horse racing competitions. The statue was discovered in 1926 in a shipwreck off Cape Artemision, north of Athens in the Aegean Sea. The first parts of the statue were recovered in 1928, with more pieces were found in 1936 and the following years. The statue was reassembled, and it went on display in 1972. Also found in the same shipwreck were parts of the Artemision Bronze.

This statue was cast in pieces, using the indirect lost-wax process and then assembled with welding. Some parts are missing, such as the rider’s whip and reins, and the horse’s bridle. The image of the goddess Nike is engraved on the horse’s right thigh, holding a wreath in raised hands, which was a brand for racehorses in Ancient Greece. The horse and its rider are sculpted realistically, with the horse springing away in mid-gallop, with its rear feet on the ground and its front legs raised.  The jockey is riding bareback without a saddle, he wears sandals, a short chiton and is looking back over his left shoulder as if looking out for competitors in the horse race.

More on this masterpiece at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens – Photo Gallery

Hellenistic period

This statue was made during the Hellenistic period, which covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence and then dominance of the Roman Empire. The Ancient Greek word Hellas is the original word for Greece, from which the phrase Hellenistic was derived. “Hellenistic” is distinguished from “Hellenic” in that the first encompasses the entire sphere of direct ancient Greek influence, while the latter refers to Greece itself.

During the Hellenistic period, Greek cultural influence and power reached the peak of its geographical expansion. It was dominant in the Mediterranean World and parts of West and Central Asia, even in parts of the Indian subcontinent. It was a time of prosperity and progress in the arts, exploration, literature, theatre, architecture, music, mathematics, philosophy, and science.

The Hellenistic period was characterised by a new wave of Greek colonisation which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa. This colonisation resulted in the export of Greek culture and language. The far-flung local Hellenistic culture represented a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the indigenous Near East, Middle East, Northeast Africa and Southwest Asia cultures.

Jockey of Artemision

  • Name:                Jockey of Artemision
  • Date:                  150–140 BC
  • Material:            Bronze
  • Discovered:       1926
  • Country:            Greece
  • Dimensions:      L: 2.9 metres (9.5 ft); H: 2.1 metres (6.9 ft)
  • Museum:           National Archaeological Museum, Athens

A Tour of the National Archaeological Museum

A Tour of the Museums in Athens

A Tour of the Historical Sites in Athens

Greek Proverbs and Quotes

Reflections

  • What a fantastic story could this statue tell us if it could speak?
  • How old does the boy jockey look?
  • How many of these Greek statues were plundered by various Roman Generals?
  • How many more statues lie in the waters of the Mediterranean?

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“Like a statue, all parts of life must be beautiful.”
– Socrates

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Photo Credit: JOM

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