|Collection:||Delphi Archaeological Museum|
|Title:||Metopes of the Sikyonian Treasury|
|Findspot:||Excavated at Delphi. The metopes were found in 1894, in and around the Sikyonian Treasury (boar: on the foundations, facing down; Europa, Cattle and Argo fragments: between the Sikyonian and Knidian Treasuries; Ram: in front of the east end of the Siphnian Treasury).|
|Summary:||Mythological subjects: Dioskouroi and others|
|Original or Copy:||Original|
|Date:||ca. 570 BC - ca. 550 BC|
|Dimensions:||L. ca. 0.87+ m, H. ca. 0.58 m, D. ca. 0.16 m, D. of relief ca. 0.08 m|
Included among the numerous architectural fragments built into the foundations of the later Sikyonian Treasury (
The metopes were decorated with mythological scenes. Identification of the figures was aided by painted inscriptions in the field. The five well-preserved metopes include:
1) A boar, presumably the Kalydonian. The large, powerful body, shown in profile, takes up the entire metope (broken on the right). Its size is emphasized by comparison with the small dog beneath its torso. Its ferocious nature is indicated by the bristling hair along its spine. It charges to the right. Hunters and perhaps the rest of a pack of dogs (a fragment of a second dog exists) must have occupied an adjacent metope. A probable inscription and traces of black paint on the bristles and the pupil of the eye were noted at the time of excavation.
2) A woman on a bull, presumably Europa on Zeus. The bull is shown in profile, moving right. It occupies the full width of the metope (broken on the right; head of bull missing) but is not out of scale with respect to the woman. The treatment is generally similar to that of the boar, though the distinctive features of each animal are represented. The fleshiness of the bull's neck is indicated by narrow, parallel folds which are modeled over the sagging skin of the throat and chest. The woman rides with both legs on the right side of the bull. She clutches his neck with her left hand and his rump with her right. Her dress is smoothly rendered with minimal modeling; detail is provided by the stripes of incised and painted pattern. A second, folded garment draped over her arm is decorated with similarly patterned stripes.
Idas following Kastor and Polydeukes (names inscribed) with cattle, the booty of a raid (broken at the left; presumably the figure of Lynkeus, brother of Idas, was shown here). The three extant figures are represented in nearly identical scale, dress and pose, despite the difference in their status and roles (Idas and Lynkeus were mortals, and in most accounts at odds with the Dioskouroi). Each wears a belt, boots and a cloak pinned over the right shoulder. The three appear to be driving the herd, which is shown three deep. The cattle are depicted in profile, except that those in the most forward plane turn their heads ninety degrees to a fully frontal position. The turned heads and the representation of the legs in parallel, successive planes combine to give an impression of extraordinary depth. The impression is increased by the position of the figures in front of the cattle. Again the legs are shown in profile, but the torsos and heads (faces destroyed) are represented in three-quarter view.
4) The ship Argo with two musicians, including Orpheus (inscribed) on the right, and the Dioskouroi on horseback on either side (Polydeukes inscribed, on the left). (Several fragments preserve the left and right sides of the metope; the missing section in the middle probably included one other figure in the boat. The right side has been trimmed to fit behind the triglyph.) The left fragment includes the prow of the ship, which is shown in profile. At the right edge of the metope the ship is cut abruptly in mid-section. Another fragment, which does not belong to this slab, demonstrates that the ship continued on another metope. The French suggest that it may have continued onto a third, thus raising the possibility that one side of the building was illustrated by a single subject (the short ends of the structure carried three metopes; however, the position of the various metopes within the frieze is not known). All figures are shown frontally, the lyre players who stand in the boat as well as the Dioskouroi on horseback outside it. One interpretation has the boat on shore, with the Dioskouroi on land. A second interpretation has the boat afloat, with the Dioskouroi represented as apparitions in their role as protectors of ships at sea. Note the treatment of the horse's mane like human hair, long beaded tresses which fall to either side of the neck.
A sheep with a woman, possibly Helle on the Golden Ram. The upper right quarter of the metope preserves a woolly sheep, with the arm of a woman (well preserved only at the wrist, which is adorned with a bracelet) holding onto its neck. The upper part of her body must lean far forward, thus in a posture close to that of Europa on the bull. The head of the sheep is broken away. A woman riding a sheep recalls the story of Helle and Phrixos, children of Athamas, who were saved from being sacrificed (ordered by a false report of the Delphic oracle) by a Golden Ram, who carried them away.
Two theories are current regarding the identity of the monopteros. One, which holds that the structure was a Sikyonian dedication, is based on the type of stone, the style and technique of the metopes and, to some extent, on the subject matter. The other, which holds that it was the dedication of a West Greek city, is based on the use of carved metopes in the building, the prominence of the Dioskouroi as subjects in the decorative scheme and on certain iconographical details.
Sikyonian dedication: The architectural fragments of both early buildings (there are blocks from a second building as well as from the monopteros) reused in the foundations of the Sikyonian Treasury are cut from the same soft limestone, which is said to match stone from a quarry near Sikyon. This lends support to the idea that, at least in the archaic period, material from dismantled dedications within the sanctuary remained the property of the original dedicator, available for reuse by them if desired. If Pausanias's identification of the Late Archaic treasury as Sikyonian is correct, the earlier buildings would be as well (
West Greek dedication: According to this theory, any connection between the monopteros and the later Sikyonian Treasury cannot be proven. Ridgway argues that the development of the use of carved metopes is linked more closely with Magna Graecia than with the Peloponnese or with Delphi itself, and that therefore the monopteros was more likely commissioned by a West Greek city. She stresses, however, that the commissioner and the builder of a monument need not be the same. De la Genière and Szeliga have independently taken up this line of argument, attributing greater importance to the prominence of the Dioskouroi in the reliefs. De la Genière argues that the building was a dedication of the West Greek city of Lokroi Epizephyroi, where the cult of the Dioskouroi was especially celebrated following the battle of the Sagra. Szeliga focuses attention on the Argo metope(s), where he thinks the Dioskouroi are represented as protectors of ships and sailors. Though he emphasizes the East Greek origin of this cult, he believes the frequent appearance of the Dioskouroi in West Greek architectural decoration and the importance of their cult in the West Greek colonies point to this region, perhaps Sicily in particular, as the source of the Delphic monopteros. He further suggests that this aspect of the Dioskouroi is directly related to Apollo as protector of the colonies, for whom the dedication was ultimately intende
Condition Description: Five substantially preserved metopes, and fragments of several others. The figures were identified with painted inscriptions. The surface condition varies, and is excellently preserved in some fragments, but very worn in others.
Inscription: Painted names; see the Description.
Associated Building: Delphi, Older Treasury (Monopteros) of the Sikyonians