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Siphnian Treasury East Pediment, figures facing left chariot team

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, right third of frieze, east pediment above

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Siphnian Treasury East Pediment, Zeus (central figure)

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, left third of frieze, east pediment above

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Siphnian Treasury East Pediment, chariot team on left

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, central third of frieze, east pediment above

Collection: Delphi Archaeological Museum
Title: East Pediment of the Siphnian Treasury
Context: From Delphi
Findspot: Excavated at Delphi
Summary: Struggle between Apollo and Herakles for the tripod
Material: Marble
Sculpture Type: Architectural
Category: Statuary group
Placement: East pediment
Style: High Archaic
Original or Copy: Original
Date: 530 BC - 525 BC

H at apex of pediment: 0.74 m, L 3.83 m

Scale: Under life-size
Region: Phocis
Period: High Archaic
In Group: Delphi, Siphnian Treasury sculpture

Subject Description:

The East (i.e. rear) Pediment of the Siphnian Treasury depicts a local Delphic legend: the struggle between Herakles and Apollo for the oracular tripod. According to Apollodoros (Apollod. 2.6.2), Herakles consulted the oracle in order to rid himself of a disease. The affliction was brought on by his murder of Iphitos, done in a fit of madness. When the priestess refused to provide Herakles with a response, he started to make off with the tripod. Apollo appeared, they struggled and Zeus intervened. Other sources relate the episode with slight variations, especially with respect to the presence of other divinities in support of Apollo or Herakles. Zeus is not always mentioned, though he is a central figure in the Siphnian Pediment.

The central portion of the pedimental composition is well preserved, largely because the lower part of the figures were carved in one piece with a projecting "bench" along the tympanum wall. The upper wall stepped back so that the upper part of the figures could be carved in the round. In the center is Zeus, recognized as such by Ridgway who noticed the tip of a beard on his shoulder. In older accounts the figure is identified as Athena. He intervenes physically between the two adversaries. Apollo, on the left, clutches the feet of the tripod as Herakles, on the right, strides away with it over his shoulders. Both wear short chitons, as Apollo also does on the North Frieze. On the left of Apollo a goddess of approximately the same scale, probably Artemis, backs him up. Behind her, two figures of smaller scale face outward, toward the chariot, whose team of horses is partially preserved. The chariot itself is wholly missing and was probably made of metal. The kneeling attendant is well preserved, and beyond him are slight remains of a reclining figure in the corner.

On the right of Herakles, there was no supporting figure like that of Artemis. Rather, a pair in smaller scale, like those on the left, face outward. In front of them, i.e. in a plane closer to the front of the pediment, are a pair of rearing horses, and moving right, a striding male. These last three have been tentatively identified as Athena, Iolaos and Hermes, respectively, all of whom are mentioned in one or another of the literary accounts. The hole on the shoulder of the female figure may have been for the attachment of an aegis. However, the smaller scale in comparison with that of Artemis, her placement behind the horses and her pose with back to Herakles all appear to distance her from the hero and to link her more closely with the figures on the right. To what degree the figures left and right of Artemis and Herakles are directly related to the struggle over the tripod is unclear.

Date Description:

See the entry: Delphi, Siphnian Treasury sculpture.

Condition: Fragmentary

Condition Description:

The three massive blocks comprising the tympanum are all extant. The torsos of the central figures have survived, as have the heads of Artemis and Herakles, which have been reattached. Some remains of the reclining figure in the left corner, the kneeling figure, the heads of the left pair of horses (otherwise much restored), and the striding figure at right have also survived. Heavily weathered, though much detail is still apparent.

Technique Description:

Lower part of figures carved in very high relief but generally attached to background (the lower half of the pedimental back wall steps forward, creating a bench-like element behind the central figures); upper part of figures carved fully in the round.

Associated Building: Delphi, Treasury of the Siphnians (IV)