Greek Sculptors and Rome


A Greek from South Italy given Roman citizenship in 89 (T 163), Pasiteles was a contemporary of Pompey the Great (106-48) (N.H. 33.156) and the leading sculptor of his day. Pliny tells us what little we know of him:

“Varro also admires Pasiteles, who wrote a five-volume treatise on Noble Works of Art throughout the World. He was born on the Greek coast of Italy and was given Roman citizenship along with the towns there [89/88]. He made the ivory Jupiter in the temple of Metellus at the entrance to the Campus Martius. It so happened that once he was at the docks, where there were wild beasts from Africa, and was peering into the cage of a lion which he was engraving, when a panther broke out of another cage and caused no slight danger to this most diligent of artists. He is said to have made many works, but their titles are not recorded.

Pliny, N.H. 36.39-40

“Varro also praised Pasiteles, who called modelling the mother of sculpture in metal and stone, and who, although he was preeminent in these arts, never made anything before he had made a clay model.

Pliny, N.H. 35.156
His reputation, then, was based equally on his writing and on his metalwork, making him a scholar-artist in the tradition of Xenokrates and Antigonos.

Pliny lists his writings as a source for all four books of the Natural History that deal with art (cf. T 145), but it is doubtful if he read them himself. Most likely, as T 163-64 suggest, he simply followed Varro. As a result, the contents of Pasiteles' treatise have proved quite elusive, and even its title appears in two versions — "Marvelous Works" (T 145) and "Noble Works" (T 163). As Pollitt 1974, 402-04 recognizes, each colors his purpose in slightly different ways. In particular, the latter sounds more thoroughly neo-classical than the former, for sculpture can be "marvelous" (technically adventurous, huge, or whatever) without necessarily being "classic". One senses a man in total sympathy with the Neo-Attic currents of his time, but the connection cannot quite be proved.

The same tantalizing uncertainty exists with regard to his sculptures. Pliny (T 157?, 163) knew of only one by name, and no signed examples have survived — though two generations of his workshop are represented in signed, costively pseudo-classical productions of almost stupefying sentimentality (Stewart 1990, figs. 860-61: athlete signed by Stephanos; Orestes and Elektra signed by Menelaos: Rome, Museo Nazionale Romano (Terme) 8604); his pupil Stephanos reappears in T 167. His own work was surely more lively, as the anecdote in T 163 and another told by Cicero suggest:

“And what about your charming and beloved friend, [the actor] Roscius? Did he lie or did the whole of Lanuvium lie on his behalf? For when he was still in the cradle and was being brought up in Solonium, an area in the territory of Lanuvium, his nurse once woke up suddenly in the night and by the light of a lamp noticed the boy, still asleep, with a snake coiled about him. Terrified at the sight, she sounded the alarm, but his father referred the matter to the soothsayers, who replied that the boy would attain unrivaled eminence and glory. Pasiteles engraved the scene in silver, and our friend Archias has described it in verse.

Cicero, de Divinatione 1.36.79
Yet before one brands him a realist pure and simple, T 164 should give pause. Like Lysistratos (T 133) and other supposed latter-day "realists" such as Corot, Constable, and Rodin, he actually never worked without an intermediary: the aim, as ever, was the illusion of mimesis as representation, not as direct imitation. In this, as in his reverence for the past, his versatility, and his extraordinary attention to finish, he stands in the mainstream of Hellenistic art.

Select bibliography: Overbeck 1868/1959, nos. 1210, 2167, 2202, 2207, 2262-65; Jex-Blake 1896, lxxvii-lxxxii; ThB 26: 271 (Bieber, 1932); RE 18: 2087-89 (Lippold, 1949); Lippold 1950, 386; Borda 1953; Bieber 1961b, 181-82; EAA 5: 984-85 (Homann-Wedeking, 1963); Ridgway 1970, 135-37; Pollitt 1974, 78-79, 353-54, 357, 397, 402-04; Zanker 1974, 49-70; M. Robertson 1975, 600-01; Ridgway 1981, 237-38; M. Fuchs 1982, 77-78; Pollitt 1986, 163, 165, 175, 268; Pollitt 1990, 120; Stewart 1990, 21, 25, 64, 69, 230, 299, 306-07.



Our only source here is Pliny, once again quoting Varro, who makes it clear that Arkesilaos (whose home and parentage are also unknown) was a contemporary of Pasiteles:

“Varro also speaks highly of Arcesilaus, the friend of L. Lucullus, whose clay maquettes used to sell for more among artists themselves, than the finished work of others. He made the Venus Genetrix in Caesar's Forum, which was dedicated in a hurry before it was complete. He was contracted by Lucullus to make a statue of Happiness (Felicitas) for 1 million sesterces, which was prevented by the death of both parties; and that when Octavius the eques ("knight") wanted him to make a krater he produced an archetype in plaster for the price of a talent.

Pliny, N.H. 35.155
There are some minor chronological difficulties here: Caesar's Forum was begun in 51 and dedicated in 46, yet L. Lucullus died soon after his brother Marcus (58); perhaps, then, the Lucullus mentioned at the end is the younger, who fell at Philippi in 42.

The range of Arkesilaos' output shows that he was quite as versatile as Pasiteles:

  • Venus Genetrix, in Caesar's Forum (T 166
  • Felicitas, for her temple at Rome (T 166
  • Nymphs riding Centaurs, in marble, in Pollio's collection (T 167
  • Lioness teased by Cupids, in Varro's collection
  • Plaster models for toreutic work (T 166
Hadrianic coins of the empress Sabina with a Venus labelled "Venus Genetrix" on the reverse have prompted many scholars to see (1) as a close version of the late fifth-century statue type there depicted, the so-called "Fréjus Aphrodite", often attributed to Kallimachos (cf. T 83-84, above). Yet there are alternatives: a fully-draped, diademed Venus on coins of the year 46 itself, holding scales and a scepter, and with a Cupid perched on her left shoulder (Crawford, M., Roman Republican Coinage (Cambridge 1974): 473-75 no. 463), and another on the Altar of the Lares of ca. 7 B.C. (Zanker 1988, fig. 177). The first would make Arkesilaos a total slave to genre-style, the others allow him some individuality; the issue cannot be resolved on the evidence to hand.

“Asinius Pollio, an ardent enthusiast, naturally wanted his art collection to be seen. In it are the Centaurs carrying Nymphs by Arcesilaus, the Heliconian Muses of Cleomenes, the Oceanus and Jupiter of Heniochus, the Appian Nymphs by Stephanus, the Hermerotes by Tauriscus (not the well-known engraver but the native of Tralles), the Jupiter Hospitalis by Papylus, Praxiteles' pupil, and the group by Apollonius and Tauriscus that was brought from Rhodes: Zethus and Amphion, along with Dirce, the bull, and the rope, all carved from one block. These two artists started a dispute about their parentage, alleging that though Menecrates appeared to be their father, their real father was Artemidorus. In the same collection there is a praiseworthy Liber Pater [Bacchus] by Eutychides.

Pliny, N.H.36.33-4
The direction of Pollio's tastes (cf. also T 134) are clear: late classical and Hellenistic marbles with often erotic or Dionysiac themes, carved by leading sculptors, often in the Praxitelean neo-Attic tradition. A marble sea-Centaur abducting a Nereid with Cupids sporting around, in the Vatican, is often mentioned along with (3) on the strength of this passage: in style it strongly recalls the Munich slabs from the "Ahenobarbus Ara" (Stewart 1990, figs. 843-44: marriage of Poseidon and Amphitrite: Munich 239; Nereid on hippocamp). At any rate, both (3) and (4) were evidently quintessentially late Hellenistic in their virtuoso technique and (pictorially inspired?) eroticism. Above all, it seems, Arkesilaos was concerned that his work be both up-to-date and absolutely in accord with current Roman fashion, and profited hugely thereby.

Select bibliography: Overbeck 1868/1959, nos. 2268-70; RE 2: 1168-69 (Robert, 1896); ThB 2: 109-10 (Amelung, 1908); Lippold 1950, 386; EAA 1: 662 (Amorelli, 1958); Bieber 1961b, 150, 181, 184-85; Pollitt 1966, 75, 88-9; M. Robertson 1975, 601; Ridgway 1981, 198-201; Pollitt 1986, 163, 165, 173, 175; Hebert 1989, nos. 336, 376; Stewart 1990, 67, 167, 307-08.

C. Avianius Evander


A freedman of the patrician M. Aemilius Avianius, Evander first appears in 46 as a supplier of decorative marbles to a reluctant Cicero:

“[To M. Fadius Gallus] I had just got back from Arpinium, when a letter from you was delivered to me; and by the same hand I also got one from Avianius, containing this very generous offer, that when he came, he would enter my debt to him on whatever day I pleased. . . But everything would have been easy, my dear Gallus, had you bought only what I wanted, and that only up to the price I was willing to pay. But still, I will not only ratify the purchases you list in your letter, but be gratified by them too; for I fully understand that you bought up things that pleased you (and I have always judged you to be a man of the most refined taste in all such matters) and which you thought were worthy of me, acting not merely from zeal but out of affection too.

Still, I should like Damasippus to stick to his intention. For in fact, out of all your purchases there is not one which I really want. You, though, in ignorance of my principles, bought these four or five statues at a price beyond what I would pay for all the statuary in creation. You compare your Maenads with Metellus's Muses. Where is the comparison? To begin with, I would never have thought those Muses worth so much money, and all the Muses would have agreed. But they would at least have been appropriate to my library and in keeping with my studies: where on earth do I put the Maenads? They are pretty little figures, of course: I know them well, and have often seen them. Had I fancied them, I would have specifically commissioned you to buy statues that were known to me. For I often buy the sort of sculpture that will embellish a place in my palaestra and give it the appearance of a study center (gymnasium). But a statue of Mars? What do I, the advocate of peace, want with that? I am glad you didn't get one of Saturn too, for I would suspect these two of running me into debt. I would rather a Mercury of some sort, for then I might have had better luck in my business with Avianius.

As for the table-support, which you must have intended for yourself, if you like it, keep it; but if you've changed your mind, I will of course keep it. For the money you've spent I must say that I'd much rather have bought a house at Tarracina, so as not always to be a bother to my host there. On the whole I reckon that the fault lies with my freedman, whom I had definitely commissioned to make certain purchases, and also with Junius, whom I think you know, Avianius's friend. I have installed some new sitting-rooms in a little colonnade in my Tusculan villa, and would like to decorate them with pictures; indeed, if anything of that sort gives me any pleasure at all, it is painting.

The transaction is complicated (and the Maenads may not have been Evander's own work, for Cicero says that he had often seen them), but throws much light on the Roman art market in general, and Cicero's tastes in particular. Like the Cossutii (Rawson 1975; Stewart 1990, fig. 861), Evander was both dealer and sculptor, catering to a buyer's market; Gallus had bought the pieces from him, but at too high a price and without considering Cicero's tastes, in particular the decor of his villa. Cicero's exasperation is "barely dissembled under a flurry of courtesies" (D.R. Shackleton-Bailey, Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares II [Cambridge 1977]: 370-3, with excellent commentary), for not only had he given his own freedman precise instructions to the contrary, to no avail, but doubts that another connoisseur, Damasippos, will abide by his promise to underwrite the deal and take the statues in the event that Cicero rejected them.

Evander seems to have escaped unscathed from all this, however, for only a few months later Cicero writes to Memmius as follows:

“[To Memmius] I am on intimate terms with C. Avianius Evander, who is lodging in your family shrine, and particularly so with his patron M. Aemilius. I therefore beg you, more earnestly than usual, to accommodate him with regard to his residence as far as you can without inconveniencing yourself. For he has so many commissions on hand for so many people that it would really pressure him to move back to his old quarters on July 1. Tact inhibits me from preferring my request at greater length.

Epistulae ad Familiares 13.2
Returning some time later to Athens, Evander next attracted the attentions of Mark Antony (perhaps during his state visit in 39). Referring to Horace's remark about a bowl by him, a commentator notes:

“Those who write about characters in Horace say that this Evander was an engraver and modeller of statues whom Mark Antony took from Athens to Alexandria, and who, after his transfer to Rome among the prisoners of war, made many marvellous works.

Porphyrius on Horace, Satires 1.3.90
Arriving back in Rome, then, in the winter of 30/29, he was immediately put to work by Augustus, restoring the head of Timotheos' Artemis (T 90) for the cult-group of the new temple of Apollo Palatinus, which was dedicated the very next year, on Oct. 9th, 28. Thereafter, perhaps exhausted by his peregrinations, he disappears from history.

Select bibliography: Overbeck 1868/1959, nos. 2227-28; RE 2: 2372-73 (Robert, 1896); 6: 843 (Robert, 1909); ThB 2: 278 (Amelung, 1908); Lippold 1950, 381; EAA 1: 936-37 (Guerrini 1958); Schlörb 1963, 64-68 (Artemis); Pollitt 1966, 78, 89; Stewart 1979, 107, 167; Stewart 1990, 33, 230, 274, 308-09.

Numerous other Greek sculptors are attested working for Romans in the first century B.C., most of them either identifiably Attic or affiliated with neo-Attic workshops: cf. Lippold 1950, 386-87; Richter 1951, 41-48; Stewart 1979, 167-69. One or two, like Apollonios son of Nestor, author of the Belvedere torso (Stewart 1990, fig. 856), were craftsmen of the highest order, but most, like his namesake Apollonios son of Archias, who made the Doryphoros herm from the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum (Naples, Museo Nazionale 4885; Stewart 1990, fig. 380-81), were merely humdrum. Yet regardless of their talent or lack of it, the sources still fail to bring them to life; our last example, therefore, comes neither from the Attic school nor (most probably) from the first century B.C., but from the early empire:

Hagesandros son of Paionios, Polydoros son of Polydoros, and Athanodoros son of Hagesandros, of Rhodes.




These three men are the first Rhodians since Chares (T 142-3) to emerge in any sense as personalities, though the Apollonios and Tauriskos apparently adopted by Menekrates of Rhodes (T 167, with Jex-Blake 1896, 206-7 on Pliny's misunderstanding) attain a sort of twilight existence through the recovery of a — now much restored — copy of their Dirke group: see Lippold 1950, 383-4, pl. 135,1; Bieber 1961b, 133-4, fig. 529; M. Robertson 1975, 609; Marvin 1983; Lambrinoudakis 1989 (new version on a Roman cuirassed statue).

As to Hagesandros and his collaborators, controversy still rages concerning the date of their Laokoon and Sperlonga groups (Stewart 1990, figs. 732-44). The former is described by Pliny as follows:

“Furthermore, many have little fame, because despite the distinction of their work, the number of artists involved becomes a barrier to recognition, since no single man monopolizes the credit, nor can several of them be recognized on equal terms. Such is the case with the Laocoon in the palace of the emperor Titus, a work to be preferred to any other painting or sculpture. From one stone the eminent craftsmen Hagesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus of Rhodes made him [Laocoon] and the extraordinary intertwining coils of the snakes, following a plan agreed in advance.

Pliny, N.H. 36.37-8
The arguments (see most recently Simon 1984; Andreae 1988) are far too complicated to address here. Suffice it to say, though, that T 171 and the section following specifically examine the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration; thus, to translate the words de consilii sententia (here, "by common agreement") as "by edict of the [Emperor's] council" and to interpret the similiter ("likewise") that begins the next section as confirming that Titus (or Nero) actually hired the three "in the same way" as earlier emperors had hired other Greeks to embellish the Palatine palaces (so Simon 1984, 646-48; cf. Andreae 1988), is to strain the Latin and ignore the context. Pliny's point remains the simple one that they are all examples of successful collaboration, but for that very reason have slipped from memory, too many names being involved for comfort; he gives no chronological hints whatsoever.

Ostensibly more promising is the epigraphical evidence, recently reexamined by Rice 1986. Identifying Athanodoros with the recipient of an important commission on Rhodes in 42, and Hagesandros with one of the dedicants of a Rhodian family monument ca. 50, she revives an old opinion that the Sperlonga sculptures were carved between 40 and 10, the workshop having migrated to Italy in the meantime. Though this is plausible, and can even be reconciled with the presumed patronage of Tiberius (see Stewart 1977b; Andreae 1988; Stewart 1990, 96-99: he was born in 42), it rests on "one crucial assumption ... [that] there is only one Rhodian sculptor by the name of Athanodoros; he is the one Athanodoros listed in Blinkenberg's catalogue of sculptors working in Rhodes" (Rice 1986, 237). Yet since (as she herself admits, p. 236) the Athanodoros family, like other Rhodians, habitually alternated names over the generations, a homonymous grandson of Athanodoros, working between A.D. 21 (when Tiberius virtually retired to Sperlonga) and 26 (when the cave roof partially collapsed, nearly killing him) cannot be ruled out. Preoccupied with arguing her own case for a Neronian date, Simon 1984 overlooks all these issues entirely.

As to an initial date, the Sperlonga marbles were surely designed for the grotto: a duplicate arrangement on Rhodes or elsewhere, plundered by some unknown Roman, strains all credulity. This in turn excludes a mid Hellenistic date (Richter 1951; more recently, Conticello 1974), indeed any period before the Augustan, when the cave's circular basin was built. "On the cusp" of Greco-Roman sculpture, the three Rhodians' pivotal position has been neatly characterized by Simon:

“This region, comprising Rhodes, Tralleis, and Aphrodisias must be regarded as the center of marble sculpture in the imperial period, surpassing even Attica in quality. The Vatican Laokoon group stands not at the end of the Hellenistic, but at the beginning of the neo-Hellenistic, a movement in which Rhodes and Caria were to play a special part.

[Simon 1984, 672]
Together with the continued impact of their work through Michelangelo and the Baroque even into the modern world (where "punk" versions have already appeared) this makes them worthy candidates with which to terminate this survey.

Select bibliography: Lessing 1766; Overbeck 1868/1959, nos. 2031-37; Löwy 1885/1976 nos. 203, 446, 479-80, 520, cf. 546; Stuart-Jones 1895/1966, 221-22; RE 2: 2046-7 (Robert, 1896); 7: 2199-2204 (Pfuhl, 1912); ThB 15: 470-72 (Amelung, 1922); Lippold 1950, 384-85); Richter 1951, 67-70; EWA 7: 18, 20, 340-42 (Wegner, Adriani, 1958); 12: 191 (Vlad Borelli, 1958); Magi 1960; EAA 3: 1086-87 (Amorelli, 1960); 4: 467-72 (Magi, Bertelli, 1961); 7: 439-43 (Jacopi, 1966); Bieber 1961b, 134-35; Jacopi 1963; Pollitt, 202; Bieber 1967; Blanckenhagen 1969; Conticello 1974 (review by von Blanckenhagen, AJA 80 [1976]: 99-104); Stewart 1977b; Haskell 1981, 243-47; Simon 1984; Conticello 1984; Rice 1986; Andreae 1988; Hebert 1989, nos. 1-5 (Skylla); Pollitt 1990, 114-15; Stewart 1990, 21, 26, 39, 76, 96-99, 212, 215-16, 309-10, 318; Andreae 1991; R.R.R. Smith 1991, 108-11.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: