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The Sculptors


I preface the entries for individual sculptors by three Roman "histories" of the art and one critical comment that place the literary evidence in its context and sometimes help to explain its shortcomings (T 1-4). In particular, the classicistic leanings of the Roman writers should be obvious, and account for the great imbalance in our evidence as a whole: scanty for the archaic period, voluminous and varied for the classical, and scanty again for the Hellenistic. In sum, our perspective upon the creators of what was arguably the world's most vital sculptural tradition is essentially a Roman one. This is regrettable, but not to be denied; epigraphical and other sources may amplify the picture somewhat, but cannot really correct its distortions.

The only comprehensive chronology to survive is Pliny's, which is restricted to bronze-workers:

“An almost innumerable multitude of artists achieved fame for smaller statues and images; but preeminent among them is Phidias the Athenian, celebrated for the Olympian Jupiter (in fact of ivory and gold, though he also made bronze statues). He flourished in the 83rd Olympiad, about the 300th year of our city [448-445] and at this same time his rivals were Alcamenes, Critias, Nesiotes, and Hegias; later, in the 87th Olympiad [432-429] were Hagelades, Callon, and the Spartan Gorgias; again, in the 90th [420-417] there were Polyclitus, Phradmon, Myron, Pythagoras, Scopas, and Perellus. Of these Polyclitus had as pupils Argius, Asopodorus, Alexis, Aristides, Phryno, [Dino], Athenodorus, and Demeas of Cleitor; and Myron had Lycius. In the 95th Olympiad [400-397] flourished Naucydes, Dinomenes, Canachus, and Patroclus; in the 102nd [372-369] Polycles, Cephisodotus, Leuchares, Hypatodorus; in the 104th [364-361] Praxiteles and Euphranor; in the 107th [352-349] Aetion and Therimachus. Lysippus was in the 113th, the time of Alexander the Great [328-325], and also his brother Lysistratus, Sthennis, Euphron, [Eucles], Sostratus, Ion, and Silanion — concerning him it is remarkable that he became famous without a teacher; he himself had Zeuxiades as pupil; — and in the 121st [296-293] Eutychides, Euthycrates, Laippus, Cephisodotus, Timarchus, and Pyromachus. Then the art ceased, but revived again in the 156th Olympiad [156-153] when there were the following, far inferior it is true to those listed above, but still artists of repute: Antaeus, Callistratus, Polycles of Athens, Callixenus, Pythocles, Pythias, and Timocles.

Pliny, N.H. 35.49-52
Besides its narrow chronological range, this list contains a number of "adjustments" and several egregious errors. Its original compiler was presumably an extreme neo-classicist at work soon after Ol. 156 (156-153), perhaps Apollodoros of Athens (ca. 180-110) whose Chronika, dedicated to Attalos II of Pergamon, ended in 144 B.C. He could either find no dates prior to 450 or, more likely, simply ignored them in order to justify the inaugurative role he gives to Pheidias. Furthermore, he also wrote off most of the Hellenistic period, and only grudgingly admitted the neo-classical sculptors of his own day into the "canon".

In fact, other sources show that Kritios, Nesiotes, and Hegias/Hegesias (Ol. 83 = 448-445) are placed a generation too late (cf. T 3, 34, etc.); Hageladas (cf. T 25), Kalon, and Gorgias flourished not ca. 430 but ca. 500; and Myron and Pythagoras (Ol. 90 = 420-417) actually belong around 470-440 and 480-450, respectively. By contrast, the classical and neo-classical sculptors, where identifiable, seem correctly placed but for Skopas (Ol. 90 = 420-417), who worked around 350, and Phyromachos (Ol. 121 = 296-293), who was active in the late third or early second centuries. Skopas (if not a homonymous ancestor of the late classical master) remains a puzzle, but Phyromachos' inclusion may have been prompted by his appearance in the Hellenistic lists of great masters (e.g. T 115); once again Pliny's source either knew nothing of his real date and very "baroque" style, or simply ignored them in order to save his preconceived scheme.

Aside from the central chapters of Natural History 34 and 36 (many extracts from which will appear below), the only other historically-organized accounts of the sculptors are by Cicero and Quintilian. Like Pliny, both apparently drew upon Hellenistic sources which saw the classic (as represented by the andrianta of Polykleitos and the agalmata of Pheidias) as the apex of Greek sculptural achievement. Both their accounts cover painting as well, and were included only as analogies to the development of oratory:

“For who among those who pay attention to the lesser arts is not aware that the statues of Canachus are too stiff to imitate natural truth? Those of Calamis are also hard, though more supple than Canachus'; even Myron's have not yet fully attained true naturalness, though at that stage one would not hesitate to call them beautiful; still more beautiful are those of Polyclitus, now in my view indeed quite perfect. A similar systematic development exists in painting ... and the same sort of thing happens in all the other arts ...

Cicero, Brutus 18.70

“The same differences [as in painting] exist among the sculptors. The statues of Callon and Hegesias are rather hard and closest to the Etruscans', but already Calamis is less stiff, and Myron made ones that are more supple still. In precision of detail and appropriateness Polyclitus surpassed all others, but although most critics hand him the victor's palm, to avoid making him faultless they hold that he lacks gravity. For while he gave the human body a form so appropriate that it surpassed reality, he is felt not to have done justice to the impressiveness of the gods. He is also said to have shunned subjects of maturer years, daring nothing beyond fresh-cheeked youths. But those qualities lacking in Polyclitus are attributed to Phidias and Alcamenes. Phidias is regarded as better at representing gods than men, and indeed in ivory he would have no peer even had he made nothing but his Minerva at Athens or Olympian Jupiter in Elis, whose beauty is said to have added something to the traditional religion, so much did the majesty of the work equal that of the god. Lysippus and Praxiteles are said to have best attained true naturalism. For Demetrius is blamed as too extreme in this respect, being more fond of likeness than beauty. Turning to the various oratorical styles...

Quintilian 12.7-9
Both authors supplement the abrupt opening of T 1 by a "hardness scale" proceeding from the "primitive" archaic style of ca. 500 to the classic of ca. 450. In contrast to Pliny's, the relative chronology seems quite sound: on Kanachos and Myron, see T 26-27, 43-45. Quintilian's further remarks on fourth-century sculptors and "naturalism" perhaps reflect an attempt to reconcile the pro-Pheidian view of sculptural development with that proposed by the early Hellenistic critic Xenokrates (T 40, 42, 43, 62, 124, 145-46), who saw his teacher Lysippos as the supreme master of the art. See the thorough commentary by R.G. Austin, Quintiliani Institutionis Oratoriae, Liber 12 (Oxford 1948): 135-152.

Taking T 1-3 together, then, it is clear that by the mid first century A.D., and probably much earlier, observers had divided Greek sculptural development into four periods: "primitive" (to ca. 450), "classic" (from ca. 450-300), "degenerate" (ca. 300-150), and "resurgent" or neo-classic (from ca. 150 on). This scheme is exactly congruent with that proposed in the later first century B.C. for Greek and Roman rhetoric by Cicero and Dionysios of Halikarnassos (in the prologue to On the Ancient Orators: cf. T 61), and so once again is probably derived, like so much ancient art criticism, from late Hellenistic and Roman republican classicistic rhetorical theory (see esp. Schweitzer 1932/1963, 144; Preisshofen 1978; Gabba 1982, 46). Its devastating effect upon our knowledge of the two periods thus proscribed hardly needs to be rehearsed afresh; less well appreciated, though, is that its baneful influence still persists today, for whereas archaic sculpture was admitted to the status of "art" a century ago, Hellenistic sculpture, despite valiant attempts at rehabilitation, is still generally underrated, even at times openly scorned, by historians still hobbled by the prejudices of the past.

Yet even where the sources are most informative, for the classic period, they by no means furnish a complete and reliable mercator-map of personalities and styles, and thus a rock-solid basis for attributions. The reasons for this lie partly in the diverse interests of writers and copyists, partly in the often-overlooked fact that even in antiquity, to distinguish the styles of even first-rank artists was recognized as extremely difficult:

“For not even sculptors and painters, unless they undertake an extended course in connoisseurship, scrutinizing the styles of the old masters at length — not even they can readily identify them and confidently say that this statue is by Polykleitos, this by Pheidias, this by Alkamenes, and that that painting is by Polygnotos, that by Timanthes, that by Parrhasios. So it is with literature ...

Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Demosthenes 50
Compare here Pliny, N.H. 36.27-8. Dionysios was not so trained yet in T 61 etc. is regularly to be found characterizing individual sculptors' styles to illustrate his investigations into rhetorical style. The fact that he was able to let slip such a confession should be borne in mind as one approaches these last few chapters. How far are we entitled either to treat the judgements of the Greeks and Romans as gospel, or indeed to assume that our eyes can be significantly more discriminating than theirs, particularly when we have enormously less evidence at hand with which to train them?

Select bibliography: Stuart-Jones 1895/1966, xxix-xxxviii; Jex-Blake 1896, xiii-c; Schweitzer 1932/1963, 141-58; Lawrence 1948; Jucker 1950, 126-40; Becatti 1951a, 22, 57, 103-5, 181-85; Pollitt 1974, 60-63, 73-84; Preisshofen 1978; Zanker 1978; Gabba 1982, 46; Alsop 1982, 200-202; Bruneau 1982; Gallet de Santerre 1983, 9-97, 196-214; Pollitt 1990, 1-9; Stewart 1990, 19-24.

The Archaic Period

Daidalos, Son of Eupalamos or Metion, of Athens



Though the place-name dadarejode or daidaleonde is known from the Knossian Linear B tablets (ca. 1400 B.C.), the first mention of the artist Daidalos ("Cunning-Worker") is in Homer's description of the Shield of Achilles:

“And the renowned smith of the strong arms made elaborate on it
A dancing floor, like that which once in the wide spaces of Knossos
Daidalos built for Ariadne of the lovely tresses.
tr. Richmond Lattimore

Thereafter, the sources are silent till the fifth century, when an Aeschylean satyr-chorus describes a lifelike series of masks on a temple, "wrought by superhuman skill":

“Look and see if possibly
This image could be more like me.
Wrought by Daidalos, it only lacks a voice!

Aeschylus, POxy 2162, lines 5-7
Many classical and later authors elaborate upon this theme, and a few offer other (sometimes conflicting) judgments and miscellaneous information about his innovations:

“The sanctuary of Athena Chalinitis is by the theater [of Corinth], and near it is a naked wooden image of Herakles, said to be by Daidalos. All the works of this artist, though somewhat uncouth to look at, nevertheless have a touch of the divine in them.

“Daedalus invented carpentry, and with it the saw, axe, plumb-line, drill, glue, and isinglass; but Theodorus of Samos discovered the square, plummet, lathe, and lever.

Pliny, N.H. 7.198
Though the "Daedalic" style in Greek seventh-century sculpture owes its name wholly to nineteenth-century wishful thinking, Pausanias lists several more of Daidalos' supposed works, and other sources added others as the desire to attribute obviously primitive statues to the legendary virtuoso took hold:

“Of the works of Daidalos there are two in Boeotia, a Herakles in Thebes and the Trophonios at Lebadeia. There are also two other xoana in Crete, a Britomartis at Olous and an Athena at Knossos. There too is also Ariadne's Dance, mentioned by Homer in the Iliad, carved in relief on white stone. At Delos, too, there is a small xoanon of Aphrodite, its right hand damaged by time, and instead of feet its lower part is square. I am persuaded that Ariadne got this image from Daidalos ... I know of no other extant works of Daidalos; for those dedicated by the Argives in the Heraion and those brought to Gela in Sicily from Omphake have disappeared in the course of time.

Elsewhere, Pausanias mentions Dipoinos and Skyllis of Crete and Endoios of Athens as his pupils (Paus. 2.15.1; T 28), disregarding the chronological impossibility this entails; other genealogically inclined writers compound the confusion by adding yet more dates and names.

These and other sources enable one to trace Daidalos' supposed career in broad outline. The grandson of the legendary king Erechtheus of Athens, maker of extraordinarily lifelike statues, architect, woodworker, and inventor, Daidalos fled after killing his nephew to Knossos where among other achievements he built the Labyrinth for king Minos. After aiding Theseus' escape, however, he and his son Ikaros were imprisoned, but escaped after Daidalos made waxen wings for both of them. While Ikaros flew too close to the sun and crashed, his father was able to reach Sicily, and worked there under the protection of king Kokalos till his death.

This historically-intractable farrago of "evidence", heavily tinged with Athenian cultural chauvinism, has prompted a structuralist analysis by Frontisi-Ducroux 1975; critique in Gnomon 51 (1979): 42-8. Philipp 1970 seeks a kernel of historical truth, arguing from the fifth-century sources and their later imitators:

“Nothing to get scared about, old man:
Daidalos' works all seem to move about
And his statues to speak; clever chap, that one!

Euripides, Eurystheus Satyrikos fr. 372 ed. Nauck (2nd ed.)

“It is said about Daidalos that he made statues that walked of their own accord. This seems impossible to me, that statues should move about spontaneously. The truth is this: in those days the sculptors of gods and men made the feet joined together and the arms hanging by the sides. Daidalos first made one foot striding forward, which is why men said, Daidalos has made this statue walk ...

Palaiphatos, De Incredibilibus 21 (ed. Festa)

“The composition (rhythmos) of the ancient statues of Egypt is the same as those made by Daidalos among the Greeks.

Diodoros 1.97.5
Philipp suggests two possible explanations. Either the connection of Daidalos with the invention of "walking" statues is preclassical, and T 11 offers a rationalistic critique developed in the fifth to fourth centuries, or T 10-12 echo an original fifth-century observation about changes of posture in "primitive" sculpture, which was soon grafted onto the vaguer legend of Daidalos' seemingly alive mimemata (T 6) without regard to chronological niceties. Marginally favoring her second hypothesis are the well-known Greek love of attaching major advances in techne to famous names (cf. T 8), and more specifically, the fact that the conservative Pindar describes the invention of walking statues as Athena's gift to the children of Helios (Pind. O. 7.50-53, 464 B.C.) : if Daidalos were already accepted as their inventor by his time, Pindar would probably have credited him instead. Perhaps, then, this aspect of the Daidalos legend offers further testimony of a burgeoning historical consciousness about art in fifth-century Greece, presumably sparked by the creation of the classical style itself. Plato, (Plat. Meno 97d and Plat. Hipp. Maj. 282a also suggests as much, and a late source even reports Aischylos as saying that "the old statues, though simply made, are thought divine; while the new, though superbly wrought, have less of the divine in them" (in Porphyry, de Abstinentia 2.18).

Most recently, Boardman has suggested a more specific explanation still: that "it was the memory of the role of travelling Cretan artists at this decisive point in the history of Greek sculpture that determined that it was to a Cretan Daidalos that these innovations should be attributed" (Boardman 1980b, 47). Though this is certainly compatible with the scheme outlined above, and the emigration of several of the Daidalidai to Greece was definitely remembered (T 15), Daidalos the legendary virtuoso was in any case the obvious candidate regardless of historical truth; furthermore, this theory disregards the pro-Athenian and anti-Cretan bias of the sources on Daidalos himself, which as earlier remarked, prefer an Attic ancestry and send him to Sicily, not Greece, from Crete.

Select bibliography: Overbeck 1868/1959 nos. 67-142; Stuart-Jones 1895/1966, 3-7; RE 4:1994-2007 (Robert, 1901); ThB 8: 280-3 (Amelung, Thiersch, 1913); Schweitzer 1932/1963, 127-41; Picard 1935-1971 (vol. 1): (Picard/Manuel) 77-84; Lippold 1950, 18-20; EAA 3: 16-17 (de Franciscis, 1960); EWA 7: 34-5 (Amandry, 1963); EWA 11: 140ff (Paribeni, 1966); Philipp 1968, 50-54, etc.; Philipp 1970; Davaras 1972, 41-3; Frontisi-Ducroux 1975; M. Robertson 1975, 34, 59, 107; Boardman 1978a, 26, 76, 82, 170; Boardman 1980b; Papadopoulos 1980; Donohue 1988, 179-88, 194-96, and passim; Pollitt 1990, 13-15; Stewart 1990, 106-08, 240-43.

Contemporaries of Daidalos and the Daidalidai

Smilis, son of Eukleides, of Aegina


Smilis is almost as problematical as Daidalos. His name was primarily associated with the ancient wooden statue of Hera in Samos; as usual, Pausanias gives the fullest account:

“Some say that the men who sailed in the Argo built the sanctuary of Hera in Samos, and that they brought the image from Argos. But the Samians themselves think that the goddess was born on the island by the river Imbrasos, and under the willow which even in my time still grew in the Heraion. That this sanctuary at all events is among the very oldest might be inferred not least from the image: for it is the work of Aeginetan Smilis, son of Eukleides. This Smilis was a contemporary of Daidalos, though less famous than he ... and it is not clear if he visited other places than Samos and Elis. But he did travel to these, and it was he who made the image of Hera in Samos.

The form and rich kosmesis of this statue is certified by the Samian temple inventories and attested by representations in other media (Stewart 1990, figs. 14-15). In addition:

“The statue of Samian Hera, as Aethilos says, was a wooden beam at first, but afterwards, when Prokles was ruler, it was humanized in form... Olympichos in his Samian History relates that the xoanon of Hera in Samos was made by Smilis son of Eukleides.

Aethlios and Olympichos, ap. Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 40, 41
Aethlios of Samos (
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