August 2019

Marble disc with painted representation of a discus thrower

Marble disc with painted representation of a discus thrower

The marble disc A 1168, from the Archaeological Museum of Paros, was found at the cemetery of ancient Paros (Paroikia), laid over the lid of a cremation urn that contained the ashes of the deceased.

Made of parian marble, it depicts a nude athlete, a discus thrower with red-brown colour. Undoubtedly, the details would be attributed with lighter colors, which are not preserved. The two holes were for suspension and testify its votive character.

Similar marble discs have been recovered from the ancient cemeteries of Akanthos in Chalcidice and Ialyssos in Rhodes. Well known is also the physician Aineias’ disc, of unknown provenance, from the National Archaeological Museum.

Most researchers believe that the disc was initially used as a hunting instrument or weapon. Some argue that it has a cult provenance. Homer describes the discus throwing in many episodes in Iliad and Odyssey not only for entertainment and test of the power of men and warriors but also as a measure of length. The discs of the Homer era seem to have no specific form and shape. Archaeological findings have been preserved since the 6th century BC, testifying that the oldest known form is a thick stone disc. At the end of the 6th century BC the use of a thinner bronze disc has been spread. Discus throwing in antiquity is often associated with accidents, resulting in injury and death of people. The fatal accidents are related to mythical figures such as Apollo and Hyacinthus, Hermes and Krokos, Oxylos and Thermios/Alkidokos, Perseus and Akrisios, Telamonas/Pileas and Fokos.

The discus throwing was one of the five sports included in the Pentathlon. The discs were made of stone or bronze, their diameter ranged from 17 to 32 cm, and weighed 4-5 kg. Each athlete took five throws.

We know some famous discus throwers such as Flegyas, who could throw the disc from one bank of Alfeios to the other, and Protesilaos and Favllos, whose throws exceeded 100 ancient feet, that is about 30 meters.

Date: 500-450 BC
Dimensions: Diameter 31 cm

You can see the disc in the temporal exhibition: From the South to the North: Colonies of the Cyclades in the Northern Aegean