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

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, Thetis?

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, detail of Automedon with chariot team

Reconstruction drawing of the left half of the East Frieze (large)

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, Achilles? with Antilochos? on ground

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Siphnian Treasury East Frieze, Apollo?

Collection: Delphi Archaeological Museum
Title: East Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury
Context: From Delphi
Findspot: Excavated at Delphi
Summary: Council of the Gods and Trojanomachy
Material: Marble
Sculpture Type: Architectural
Category: Statuary group
Placement: East frieze
Style: High Archaic
Technique: High relief
Original or Copy: Original
Date: 530 BC - 525 BC
Dimensions: L. 6.2 m, H. 0.64 m
Scale: Under life-size
Region: Phocis
Period: High Archaic
In Group: Delphi, Siphnian Treasury sculpture

Subject Description:

The East frieze is divided into two scenes. On the left a Council of the Gods depicts two groups of seated divinities facing each other. On the far left is Ares; enough of the painted inscription beside him remains to make his identity certain. In front of him sit two females. The first is usually identified as Aphrodite on the basis of a very fragmentary inscription. Brinkmann, in his restudy of the painted names, believes the inscription is retrograde and restores it as Aos, the Dorian form of Eos. The next goddess is probably Artemis, seated just behind a youthful god, almost certainly Apollo. In front of him, one of the central figures set somewhat apart, is probably Zeus. The inscriptions naming these last three are lost, though under the right foot of Zeus, on the plinth, is an inscription which appears to name Achilles. It must refer to a figure lost in the gap which occurs here. Only the fingertips of the figure to the right of Zeus remain; they touch his knee. It has been suggested that they belong to Thetis, who pleads for the life of her son Achilles. However, neither the gender of this figure nor the number of figures (one or two) which occupied the lacuna in this long block is certain. To the right of the gap are Athena and Hera, both clearly identified, and a third goddess whose name has not survived.

The scene on the right, occupying slightly more than half the length of the East frieze, shows a battle centered around the corpse of a warrior. Several inscriptions are preserved clearly enough, among them Aeneas (second from left) and Nestor (far right), to ascertain that the fight involves Greeks and Trojans. The corpse is most frequently interpreted as that of Sarpedon and the warriors as Aeneas and Hektor (name lost) versus Menelaos and Patroklos (name lost). However, Brinkmann has noted that not enough of the third letter of the *M*E... inscription remains to restore "Menelaos" with any certitude and he revives the suggestion of "Memnon". The central figures would then be the Ethiopian king Memnon (ally of Troy) and Achilles fighting over the body of Antilochos son of Nestor, as recounted in the epic Aithiopis. The companion of Achilles might then be Ajax and the charioteers Lykon (rather than Glaukon) and Automedon, respectively.

Though the subject is somewhat obscure, the argument is bolstered by the fragmentary inscription under the corpse, the presence of Nestor and particularly the inclusion of Eos and Achilles in the Council scene, if the restorations of these names are correct. It is likely that the two scenes on the East frieze are related. The presence of Eos within the context of such a select group of gods makes more sense if she is there in her capacity as mother of one of the central figures, in this case Memnon. Her pendant on the right would then be Thetis, mother of Achilles. This restoration would place the mothers of the protagonists in positions of equal advantage in watching over their sons, whose fate hangs in the balance — literally — according to Brinkmann's reconstruction. To the right of Zeus he restores Hermes holding a scale (metal attachment), weighing the souls of Memnon and Achilles. To the right of Hermes, he restores Poseidon to balance Zeus. For a full development of this argument, information on the fragmentary epic, a review of other hypotheses and a reconstruction of the lacuna in the Council scene, see Brinkmann 1985, 110ff. and fig. 85. For an analysis of how the East frieze fits into the sculptural program of the Siphnian Treasury as a whole, see Watrous 1982

Form & Style: The friezes on the north and east sides of the Siphnian Treasury share a remarkably similar style, distinctive from that on the south and west sides. It is characterized by the close juxtaposition of many figures, boldly modeled and carved in many degrees of depth. The sense of three-dimensionality is enhanced by the frequent use of foreshortening, particularly of objects such as shields and chariot wheels but also sometimes of the figures themselves. The constant overlapping of bodies, especially on the north side, adds to a sense of the scene extending back into space, as on an actual battlefield. The compositional structure of the east is different. The shorter overall space is divided into two scenes, each of which is more intimate in nature than the battle on the north. Yet the depiction of the chariot teams in three-quarter view, for example, has much the same effect of breaking through the back plane. The three-quarter quadriga is conventional in vase painting by this date, although not in sculpture. Other elements, often noted, also link this master to the artistic medium of painting: the addition of many details in paint as well as in metal, the technique of identifying the figures with labels, the act of "signing" the work itself. There is ample justification for assuming this artist was a painter as well as a sculptor. His name is not known, though the surviving portion of the inscription on the north frieze that claims responsibility for the north and east sides is welcome corroboation of the evidence provided by the style. The artist is known as Master B, since his was the lesser commission in a sense, i.e. the back of the building and one of the sides. He may have been less senior than Master A. In any case, his style can reasonably be called more "advanced" in that it incorporates the latest artistic developments and pioneers them in architectural relief. Many of these developments took place in Athens and it is often suggested that he may have worked there, though he need not have been from there himself.

Date Description: See Delphi, Siphnian Treasury sculpture

Condition: Nearly complete

Condition Description: The majority of the east frieze is extant. The only major gap occurs in the left-hand block, where one or two figures (traces of one are preserved) from the Council of the Gods scene are missing. The heads have sustained the greatest damage; the degree of preservation is otherwise very high. Details were added in and metal (now missing, although the holes for the attachment of the metal parts indicate their original positions) and paint (overall, including names of the figures inscribed on the relief field and on the plinth beneath). Traces of paint (red, blue and yellow) were clearly visible at the time of excavation. Remains of the painted inscriptions which identified the various figures can often still be made out, especially under optimal lighting conditions. For more on Brinkmann's recent study of this, see the subject description. Heavily weathered in some areas, especially along the top of the frieze.

Inscription: See the subject description for the inscribed names of the various figures.

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

Sources Used: GuideDelphMu 1991; Stewart 1990, 128f.; Brinkmann 1985, 77ff.; Hurwit 1985, 295ff.; Simon 1984a; Watrous 1982; Boardman 1978a, 158; Ridgway 1977, 269ff. and elsewhere; Robertson 1975, 152 ff.; FdDelph 4.2, 57-171