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Kleobis and Biton (The ‘Twins’ of Argos)

Kleobis and Biton - Delphi Archaeological Museum by Joy of Museums
Kleobis and Biton (The ‘Twins’ of Argos)

This pair of identical marble Kouri is the work of an archaic workshop of Argos from 580 BC. This sculptures are over life-size and are are the oldest monumental votive at Delphi. When they were discovered, they were identified as the famous brothers from Argos, Cleobis and Biton. Recently scholars argue that the two Archaic Greek Kouroi may be the half-twin brothers in Greek mythology, known together as the Dioscuri.

An inscription at the base identifies Polymedes of Argos as the sculptor, a Greek sculptor of the Archaic Period (6th century BC). The statues are in a typical Peloponnesian style, massive and muscular with the left foot stepping forward, their hands are bent at the elbows, touching the thighs, and the hands closed in fists. The hair is curly and hangs on the front of the shoulders. Their eyes are large and almond-shaped with high eyebrows, and they bear the typical Archaic smile.

Kleobis and Biton

Kleobis and Biton are brothers from Argos whose story was told in Herodotus Histories, where Solon is asked about the happiest person in the world. In response Solon, an Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet tells the story of two brothers who took their mother to a festival for the goddess Hera to be held in town. When their mother’s oxen could not be found, the brothers yoked themselves to their mother’s cart and drove her many miles to the temple. Arriving at the festival, the mother prayed for Hera to grant a gift upon her sons for their devotion, which the goddess did. Kleobis and Biton fell asleep in the temple and never woke up, which was the gift Hera bestowed on the brothers. To allow them to die in their sleep. To honour the two brothers, the people of Delphi dedicated statues of them to the temple of Apollo, as funeral memorials.

Solon’s advice has been interpreted as that “the uncertainties of life mean that no one can be completely happy” and he reinforced the Greek cultural view which valued a “beautiful death.”

Dioscuri

The Dioscuri were half-twin brothers in Greek mythology. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors and were also associated with horsemanship, due to the idea that they rode the ‘white horses’ of foam that were formed by curling ocean waves. The mythology of the brothers is also found in Roman mythology where they are called Castor and Pollux.

Kouros

A kouros (plural kouroi) is the term given to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures that first appear in the Archaic period in Greece and represent nude male youths. In Ancient Greek kouros means “youth, boy, especially of noble rank”. Such statues are found across the Greek-speaking world. The female sculptural counterpart of the kouros is the Kore.

Reflections

  • Do these statues remind you of Egyptian sculptures more than Greek?

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Kleobis and Biton (The ‘Twins’ of Argos)

  • Title:            Kleobis and Biton (The ‘Twins’ of Argos)
  • Artist:          Polymedes
  • Date:            580 BC
  • Find site:       Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi
  • Material:       Parian Marble
  • Dimensions: H 1.97 m
  • Museums:     Delphi Archaeological Museum

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“Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.”
– Oracle of Delphi

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Photo Credit: JOM

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