February 2019

Fragments of an acrolithic statue of Athena in the Medici type

The statue was made in the acrolithic technique that is, its exposed members (head, hands, feet) were of marble and it had a wooden core.

Other elements as the garments were usually made of wood painted or covered by metal or even were real ones of fabric.

The preserved fragments of the statue are the head together with the neck and the top of the breast (total height: 69,5 cm), part of the right hand (length: 40 cm) and the right leg (height: 176 cm).

Initially, in the 2nd c. AD when the statue was made, the figure depicted the goddess Athena in the Medici type. The prototype of this type can be traced to a colossal cult statue of the 5th c. BC, whose sculptor belonged to the Pheidias circle. Later, at the end of the 2nd or in the early 3rd c. AD, it was reworked into a portrait of the empress Julia Domna.

On the head the helmet was decorated with a central crest possibly in the form of a sphinx (only its base is preserved) and two nested side crests as indicated by the sockets on both sides. At the back beneath the helmet the slightly wavy hair covers the neck. Αt the front of the helmet there are eleven holes for inserting decorative elements possibly in the form of the front halves of mythical beasts. Two sockets on the sides of the helmet and above the ears were probably used to hold the raised cheek-pieces of the helmet. The holes in the ear lobes demonstrate that the goddess was wearing metal earrings. The small holes on the forehead and cheeks were made for inserting curly hair (probably made of metal or stucco) in order to reform it into a portrait of Julia Domna with characteristic hairstyle covering parts of her cheeks.

The fingers of the hand were bent to hold a spear. The right leg is covered with a chiton, while the back and the inner side of the leg carry sockets or wedge-shaped grooves to bound the leg to the wooden core by using special clamps.

The statue was found along with other sculptures, mainly portraits of emperors, in a luxurious complex that was excavated to the north of the Ancient Agora of Thessaloniki and probably belonged to a temple intended for the imperial worship.

You can see the statue at the permanent exhibition: Thessaloniki, Metropolis of Macedonia.