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Full leg, head of Cerberus

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Frontal view of legs

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Cerberus Metope: Full figure

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Side view of lower torso and leg

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Detail of head

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Torso and arm

Collection: Olympia Archaeological Museum
Title: Olympia Cerberus Metope
Context: From Olympia
Findspot: Excavated at Olympia
Summary: Herakles and Cerberus
Material: Marble
Sculpture Type: Architectural
Category: Statuary group
Placement: East Metope 5
Style: Early Classical
Technique: High relief
Original or Copy: Original
Date: ca. 470 BC - ca. 457 BC

H 1.60 m (approximately square)

Scale: Under life-size
Region: Elis
Period: Early Classical
In Group: Olympia Metopes

Subject Description:

The eleventh metope, last but one on the East side, represents what is usually considered the final Labor, that of bringing Cerberus from Hades. Because of the difficulty of the task, Herakles is usually accompanied by Hermes or Athena or both of his patrons. In the Olympia metope, Hermes occupies the right side of the metope, as indicated by his right foot and the outline of his legs. His purpose was to charm the monstrous dog, who usually hid in a corner. Here only Cerberus' forepart is represented, as Herakles struggles to pull him out. The dog has been collared and the two are on their way out of the Underworld, the deed nearly completed. The beast is presented in normal canine form, completely unexaggerated except perhaps by size. Earlier representations give the dog two or three heads. The earliest preserved images can be traced only as far as the sixth century, though the literary references extend back to Homer (Hom. Il. 8.364ff.). The story is repeated in literature throughout the Greek period.

Condition: Fragmentary

Condition Description:

A large number of fragments comprising the figure of Herakles have been preserved. A large fragment from the lower right corner with the head of Cerberus and feet of Hermes has also survived.

Associated Building: Olympia, Temple of Zeus

Sources Used:

Stewart 1990, 142 ff.; Brommer 1986; Boardman 1985a, 33ff.; Mallwitz & Herrmann 1980, 161ff.; Robertson 1975, 276 ff.; Ashmole 1972, 27 ff.; Ridgway 1970; Ashmole & Yalouris 1967