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Summary.

Aeschines.

Alcibiades.

Aristotle.

Aspasia.

Demosthenes.

Harmodius & Aristogeiton.

Isocrates.

Miltiades.

Pericles.

Plato.

Socrates.

Themistocles.

Further Reading on Portraiture.

Index of Citations

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Athenian Political Art from the fifth and fourth centuries BCE: Images of Historical Individuals 

Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003

(Section 1 of 14)

· Summary ·

Most portraits of individuals from Classical Greece are best known through copies of the Greek originals, created in late Hellenistic and Roman times, when it became popular to decorate domestic spaces with Greek art works and copies thereof. Intellectuals in these periods particularly enjoyed surrounding themselves with images of their favorite Greek statesmen and writers. Whereas the original Greek portraits, which generally occupied civic spaces, and were often commissioned at public expense, depicted bodies as well as heads, copies more often took the form of busts or herms (rectangular shafts surmounted with the shoulder and head of the depicted individual). In some cases these copies were inscribed with the names of the individuals represented, which has been immeasurably helpful in determining which portraits depict which persons. Some of these inscriptions, however, have been found to be inauthentic, sometimes added in later times. Scholars have looked to the ancient writings as well as to the portraits themselves, for information regarding the ancient contexts and circumstances regarding portraits of historical persons in antiquity.

This article provides basic information about portraits of individuals who played pivotal roles in the Athenian Democracy. The lists of extant portraits are not comprehensive, but include the most useful portraits, whether originals or copies, that represented these individuals:

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(Section 2 of 14)

· Aeschines ·

Read about the evidence
Christodorus (Ecphr. in Gr. Anth.).
 
Plot on a Map
Constantinople.
Naples.
London.

Evidence: The only indication of a statue of Aeschines in ancient literature is Christodoros’ mention (Ecphr. in Gr. Anth. 2.13 ff.) of a bronze statue of Aeschines in the Zeuxippos at Constantinople. He remarks that the figure seems “… to contract his bearded cheeks as if about to take up the fight in the bustling assembly” (trans. Richter 1984, 73). The hollowed cheeks are barely perceptible in the Naples portrait of Aeschines (the only full portrait of him) [2]. Yet the nine other copies of a portrait type identified as that of Aeschines reflect the sober, calm characteristics one might expect of this fourth century orator. Two herm portraits (in London [1] and the Vatican [3]) are reliably labelled with Aeschines’ name ( ΑΙΣΧΙΝΗΣ ).

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Bitolia Macedonia (in text as “Bitolia”).
Macedonia.
Herculaneum.
Tivoli.

  1. London 1839: A marble herm found in Bitolia, Macedonia.
  2. Naples 6018: A marble statue found in the “Villa of the Papyri,” Herculaneum (image).
  3. Vatican 297: A marble herm found in the “Villa of Cassius,” near Tivoli (shown here).

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(Section 3 of 14)

· Alcibiades ·

(statesman/general, ca. 450-404 BCE)

Evidence:

Read about the evidence
Athenaeus (Ath.).
Thucydides (Thuc.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
Plutarch (Plut. Alc.).
 
Plot on a Map
Samos (in text as “Samians”).
Ionia, Ionian coast (in text as “Ionian coast”).
Olympia.
Thasos.
Athens.

Pausanias (Paus. 6.3.15) provides the only evidence for a statue of Alcibiades set up during his life: he mentions that a bronze statue of Alcibiades was dedicated by the Samians, ca. 410-407 (when Alcibiades had a fleet along the Ionian coast), in the Temple of Hera (probably at Olympia). He was also the subject of several paintings displayed at Athens, probably during his lifetime. Athenaeus reports that when Alcibiades returned to Athens from Olympia, he set up two paintings, by Aglaophon of Thasos, on the Acropolis: (1) personifications of the “Olympic Games” and the “Pythian Games” placing wreaths on Alcibiades’ head and (2) the personification Nemea seated, with beautiful Alcibiades on her lap (Ath. 12.534D). The paintings probably celebrated Alcibiades’ victory in the chariot race at the 91st Olympiad (in 416 BCE, cf. Thuc. 6.16.12). The painting with Nemea may be that mentioned by Plutarch and Pausanias (Paus. 1.22.7), or perhaps there was more than one painting. Plutarch notes that “When Aristophon painted an allegorical picture which showed Nemea embracing Alcibiades people were delighted and came in crowds to look at it. But the older generation were offended at this too; they thought it a sight fit for a tyrant’s court and an insult to the laws of Athens” (Plut. Alc. 16.7).

Read about the evidence
Pliny (Plin. HN).
Plutarch (Plut. Alc.).
Athenaeus (Ath.).

Alcibiades’ general appearance was well known in antiquity, as he was praised by several writers for his beauty (Pliny HN 36.28; Plut. Alc. 1.3). Specifics regarding his appearance are noted by Plutarch (Plut. Alc. 1.4), that his neck was bent, and Athenaeus (Ath. 12.534C) that he usually wore his hair long.

Read about the evidence
Dio Chrysostum (Dio Chrys. Orat.).
Pliny (Pliny HN).
Pliny (Plin. HN).
Plutarch (Plut. Alc.).
Athenaeus (Ath.).
Christodoros (Christodoros Ecph. in Grk. Anth.).
 
Plot on a Map
Rome.
Melissa Phrygia (in text as “Melissa”).
Phrygia.
Constantinople.

Other statues are recorded by Dio Chrysostum (Orat. 37.40), who notes a portrait of Alcibiades sculpted by Polycles, and a another one that was changed into the portrait of Chalkopogon (L. Domitius Ahenobarbus), a Roman. Pliny records a statue of Alcibiades in a chariot, sculpted by Phyromachos (or Pyromachos) (Plin. HN 34.80), and another by Nikeratos (Plin. HN 34.88). Alcibiades was also popular among the Romans. Pliny discusses the placement of statues of Pythagoras and Alcibiades in the corners of the Comitium in Rome when, during a Samnite War, Pythian Apollo commanded that a portrait of the bravest of the Greeks and one of the wisest men, be erected in a conspicuous place (Plin. HN 34.26). Pliny also tells a story of the young Alcibiades, shown as Eros with a thunderbolt, in the Portico of Octavia in Rome (Plin. HN 36.28). As R.R.R. Smith notes (Richter 1984, 83), this story may have been confused with that told by Plutarch and Athenaeus about Alcibiades’ golden shield that depicted Eros armed with a thunderbolt (Plut. Alc. 16.1; Ath. 13.534E). The emperor Hadrian was said to have erected a statue of Alcibiades (in Parian marble) on the Tomb of Alcibiades at Melissa, in Phrygia (Ath. 13.574F), while Christodoros (Ecphr. in Grk. Anth.) mentions a statue of Alcibiades, shown as a counsellor, in the Zeuxippos at Constantinople. None of these portraits may be recognized in the extant portraits, nor in a group of eight portraits formerly thought to have been the Alcibiades type (Richter 1965, 106, figs. 499-50).

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Sparta.

A Roman mosaic portrait, labelled ΑΛΚΗΒΕΙΑΔΗΣ , found at Sparta, shows a youthful image of a beardless man with long, wavy, black hair, wearing a himation.

Plot on a Map
Aphrodisias.

A marble tondo, found at Aphrodisias in 1981, only preserves the lower part of the face. It depicts a beardless man, consistent with the mosaic image.

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(Section 4 of 14)

· Aristotle ·

(philosopher/scientist/teacher, 384-322 BCE)

Read about the evidence
Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.
Olympia.

Evidence: Ancient written sources attest a variety of statues of Aristotle set up in antiquity. That at least one was commissioned during his life time is suggested by Aristotle’s own will, which directed his executors to oversee that completion and erection of portraits (perhaps of Aristotle and his relatives) commissioned by Gryllion (Diog. Laert 5.15). While a location for Gryllion’s works is not noted, Theophrastos’ will ordered the replacement of a portrait of Aristotle in the sacred enclosure of the Lykeion (school) (Diog. Laert. 5.51). Alexander the Great, among Aristotle’s other students, honored him with portraits. A headless herm, inscribed “Alexander set up this portrait of the divine Aristole, the son of Nikomachos, fountain of all wisdom” (IG II2, 4261) was found in the Stoa of Attalos in the Agora at Athens. Pausanias describes a statue of Aristotle at Olympia, which bore no inscription, although Pausanias asserted it was set up by a student or a military man (Paus. 6.4.8).

Read about the evidence
Juvenal (Juv. Sat.).
Christodoros (Ecphr. in Grk. Anth.).
Cicero (Cic. Att.).
Baronius (Annal. Ecclesiast.).
Sidonius Apollinaris (Sid. Apoll. Epist.).
 
Plot on a Map
Constantinople.

Aristotle’s portraits were clearly popular among the Romans. Juvenal noted that “no garden is perfect unless it contains a portrait of Aristotle or one of Pittakos” (Juv. Sat. 2.5-6; trans. Richter 1984, 96). A bronze portrait of Aristotle in the Zeuxippos at Constantinople may have been a Greek original. In Ecphr. in Grk. Anth. 2.161 ff., Christodoros describes it as near that of Aeschines, showing Aristotle with clasped hands, puckered face, and mobile eyes, as if he was deliberating. Other portraits of Aristotle noted by Roman authors were probably copies of one or several Greek originals: Cicero saw one in the house of Atticus (Cic. Att. 4.10); the followers of Karpokrates, a gnostic, noted that he liked portraits of Aristotle (Baronius, Annal. Ecclesiast.); while Sidonius Apollinaris (Epist. 9.14) cited an undraped right arm as a characteristic of Aristotle’s portraits.

Read about the evidence
Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.).
Aelian (Ael. VH).

Several ancient authors, in describing Aristotle’s appearance, noted the conspicuousness of his short hair and many rings on his fingers (Timotheos in Diogenes Laertius 5.1 and Aelian in Ael. VH 3.19). Timotheos adds that Aristotle’s calves were slim, and Aelian that “he had a mocking expression on his face” and spoke with a lisp (trans. Richter 1984, 95). An anonymous Vita (biography) describes him as small, bald, paunchy, stuttering, and lustful. Most of these features are imperceptible in the existing head portraits of Aristotle. Yet one portrait type of the philosopher was successfully identified by F. Studniczka, on the basis of a drawing by Rubens of a lost miniature portrait, inscribed ΑΡΙΣΤΟΤΕΛΗΣ , that once belonged to F. Ursinus (the drawing, in Codex Capponianus 228, is preserved in the Vatican: see F. Studniczka, Das Bildnis des Aristoteles [Leipzig 1908] 15 ff., pl. 2.2). More than twenty copies of this type are now known, of which several follow.

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Aphrodisias.

  1. Vienna Aristotle: a marble head.
  2. Terme 8575: a marble head.
  3. Louvre MA 80bis: a marble head variant (shown here).
  4. An inscribed tondo, found at Aphrodisias in 1981, is unfortunately headless.

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(Section 5 of 14)

· Aspasia ·

(courtesan/intellectual, ca. 460s-410s?)

Evidence: No portraits of Aspasia are attested by ancient sources. Yet a herm in the Vatican is inscribed with her name: ΑΣΠΑΣΙΑ [1]. The herm is surely a Roman copy, seemingly of a fifth century original that may have been modified with a fourth century hairstyle (the so-called “melon coiffure”). Experts continue to believe that the inscription is original (because of the letters and placement of the inscription, at the bottom of the shaft), and that it refers to the famous Aspasia associated with Pericles and Socrates. Although the simple demeanor of the woman depicted in this expressionless portrait does not correspond to stories about Aspasia’s beauty and charm, nor her wit, the general appearance of the portrait, as well as details, such as the prominent lids, suit a fifth century date for the original which would correspond with the life time of Aspasia; this may have been a posthumous portrait that attempted, retrospectively, to evoke the image of a mature woman from the fifth century BCE

Extant portraits:

  1. Vatican 272: A marble herm, inscribed ΑΣΠΑΣΙΑ at the bottom, surmounted with a veiled female head (shown here).

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(Section 6 of 14)

· Demosthenes ·

(orator/speechwriter, ca. 384-322)

Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut. Vit. X Or.).
Suda.
Pausanias (Paus.).
Plutarch (Plut. Dem.).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.
Rome.

Evidence: Several written sources attest portraits of Demosthenes, of which only one was certainly Greek. Ps.-Plut. Vit. X orat., Demosth. 874a mentions a statue of Demosthenes sculpted by Polyeuktos and commissioned by the Athenians 42 years ago his death (i.e., in 280), in the Agora of Athens, near the Altar of the Twelve Gods. Even the accompanying inscription, an elegaic couplet, is transcribed in this source: “If thy strength had only been equal to thy purposes, Demosthenes, never would the Greeks have been ruled by a Macedonian Ares” (trans. R.E. Wycherley, Agora 3, no. 698). Plut. Dem. 30.5-31.1 adds that this statue was bronze, that it showed Demosthenes with interlaced hands, and tells a story about a soldier who placed gold inside the hands of the statue, and returned later to find the gold intact, hidden by the leaves of a neighboring tree; the people responded that this illustrated the incorruptibility of Demosthenes (a comparable story is reported in Suda s.v. “Demosthenes” [delta, 455]). Pausanias also saw this statue, which he noted after those of the Eponymous Heroes (Paus. 1.8.2-4). The original portrait sculpted by Polyeuktos is thought to be that copied in at least 50 known examples (most found in Rome), three of which include the body. The identification of these monuments as copies of Demosthenes’ portrait hinges on a small bronze bust, inscribed ΔΗΜΟΣΘΕΝΗΣ (“Demosthenes”) on the chest, found in 1753 in the Villa of the Papyri, Herculaneum [1], together with similar busts of Zeno, Epicurus, and Hermarchus. (This and other important copies are listed below.) The copies consistently depict a man in his fifties, with a wrinkled, oval face, a furrowed forehead, bushy eyebrows, thin cheeks, a long, pointed, slightly aquiline nose, deep set eyes, short, curly hair, and a tidy beard, a closed mouth with thin lips crowned by a thick mustache. The worried, tight-lipped visage reflects the severe expression and harsh character that were said to have been part of Demosthenes’ appearance (Plut. Dem. 1.3.6.)

Read about the evidence
Cicero (Cic. Orat.).
Phrynichus (Phryn. Epit.).
Christodoros (Christod. Ecphr. in Grk. Anth.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
 
Plot on a Map
Tusculum.
Smyrna.
Pergamum.
Constantinople.
Kalauria.

Roman copies of a portrait of Demosthenes are attested by Cicero (Cic. Orat. 110), who saw a bronze portrait in the Villa of M. Brutus at Tusculum. Polemon of Smyrna dedicated a bronze statue of Demosthenes in the Asklepieion at Pergamum (in the time of Hadrian), according to Phrynichos, Epit. p. 421 ed. Lobeck). Christodoros in Ecphr. in Grk. Anth. 2.23 ff., cites a bronze statue in the Zeuxippos at Constantinople. He provides no factual description, so it is unclear whether this statue was Polyeuktos’ original, a copy thereof, or another statue. Pausanias records a monument of Demosthenes—he does not specify whether it was a statue, a grave stele, or other—in the enclosure of the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Kalauria, where Demosthenes took poison to avoid capture by the Macedonians, and consequently met his end (Paus. 2.3.2-3).

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Constantinople.
Eski-Shehr.
Dorylaion.
Campana.

  1. Naples 5467: a small bronze bust, labelled ΔΗΜΟΣΘΕΝΗΣ .
  2. Oxford Demosthenes: a marble head purchased in Constantinople, said to have come from Eski-Shehr (Dorylaion).
  3. Cyrene Demosthenes: a marble head.
  4. Copenhagen NCG 436A: a marble statue, said to have been found in Campana, in the 18th century (shown here)
  5. Vatican 2255: a marble statue from the Villa Aldobrandini (image).
  6. Yale Demosthenes: a marble head.

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(Section 7 of 14)

· Harmodius & Aristogeiton ·

(“Tyrannicides” = slayers of Hipparchos, brother of the Athenian tyrant Hippias, in 514)

Read about the evidence
Herodotus (Hdt.).
Thucydides (Thuc.).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.

Background story: Aristogeiton and his youthful lover Harmodius catapulted themselves to the status of civic heroes in 514 BCE when they killed Hipparchos, brother of the Athenian tyrant Hippias. The murder was actually instigated by amorous intrigue: Harmodius had been wooed by Hipparchos, but had rejected him in favor of Aristogeiton, at which point Harmodius and Aristogeiton planned to kill Hipparchos and the tyrant, Hippias, during a procession through the Agora in Athens. Although the lovers failed to kill Hippias (thus the tyranny continued) and were caught and killed themselves, they were glorified posthumously, when the tyranny was finally overthrown in 511/10. (For more on this story see Hdt. 5.55, 6.109, and 6.123, as well as Thuc. 1.20 and 6.54-9.)

Read about the evidence
Pausanias (Paus.).
Pliny (Plin. HN).
 
Plot on a Map
Naples.
Baiae.
Rome.

Evidence: After Hippias’ tyranny was brought to an end, ca. 510, Antenor was said to have sculpted a statue group of Harmodius and Aristogeiton that was erected in the Agora (Paus. 1.8.5, Plin. HN 34.70). When this original statue group was stolen by the Persians in 480 (but returned later, by Alexander the Great, according to Arrian, or by Seleukos I, according to Valerius Maximus), the Athenians comissioned Kritios and Nesiotes to make new ones, which were duly set up in 477/6 (Marm. Par. Ep. 54.70; Paus. 1.8.5, Plin. HN 34.70). There is no evidence regarding the appearance of the Archaic original, and it seems that it is the second statue group that was copied in later monuments. The extant copies show an active group: nude, clean-shaven Harmodius thrusting a sword forward in his upraised left hand, and bearded Aristogeiton extended a rock in is left arm, over which a chlamys, or cape, is draped. A composite group in Naples [1] preserves almost complete bodies of both figures, and a head of Harmodius. It has been restored on the basis of a plaster cast of part of Aristogeiton’s head that was found in sculptor’s studios at Baiae (see G. Richter, AJA 74 [1970] 296, pl. 14). A good copy of Aristogeiton’s head is also to be found in the Conservatori, Rome. Several other marble copies of each figure are also known. The group is also represented in several vase paintings [2] and seems to have been quoted in other battle scenes.

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Kyzikos.

  1. Naples 6009/6010: Roman copy (marble, with restorations in plaster) (shown at the top).
  2. Boston ?: Image of Harmodius and Aristogeiton on a red-figure oinochoe fragment (shown here).
  3. London ?: Image of Harmodius and Aristogeiton on the shield device of Athena Parthenos, from a Panathenaic vase, dated 378-370.
  4. The reverse of an electron stater from Kyzikos, dated 477/6, showing the Tyrannicide group, profile to the right.

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(Section 8 of 14)

· Isocrates ·

(orator/speechwriter/teacher, 436-338)

Read about the evidence
Pausanias (Paus.).
Plutarch (Plut. Vit. X Or.).
 
Plot on a Map
Eleusis.
Athens.

Evidence: Written sources attest at least three different statues of Isocrates that were erected in the fourth century: two at Athens—a victorious equestrian statue on the Acropolis, which showed him as a boy (Heliodoros in Ps.-Plut., Vit. X Or. 839C) and a standing bronze statue set up by his Isocrates’ adopted son, Aphareus, on a column in the Olympieion (Paus. 1.18.8 and Ps.-Plut., Vit. X Or. 839B); and one at Eleusis set up by Timotheus, the son of Conon (Ps.-Plut. Vit. X Or. 838D). The latter bore the following inscription: “Timotheus dedicated this statue of Isocrates to the goddesses, as a sign of his affection and his admiration for his friend. It is the work of Leochares” (trans. Richter 1984, 151). On the basis of this inscription, the statue may be dated to the period from 370 (the onset of Leochares’ career) to 356 (Timotheos’ expulsion from Athens). There was also said to have been a painted portrait in the Pompeion at Athens (Ps.-Plut. Vit. X Or. 839C). Of these portraits only the one attributed to Leochares may be certainly ascribed to Isocrates’ lifetime.

Read about the evidence
Christodorus (Christod. Ecphr. in Grk. Anth.).
 
Plot on a Map
Constantinople.

Christodoros mentions a bronze statue that may have been either an original or a Roman copy, in the Zeuxippos at Constantinople (Ecphr. in Grk. Anth. 2.256 ff.).

Plot on a Map
Berlin.

Despite the fact that at least three sculpted portraits of Isocrates are attested by ancient written sources, the material evidence provides only one certain portrait of Isocrates (noted below), which is in the style of the late fourth century, and therefore might copy the portrait set up by Aphareus rather than the presumably earlier one set up by Timotheos. It shows Isocrates with a receding hairline and a medium-length beard, but at a younger age than he would have been at the time either of these monuments were erected. A portrait in Berlin [2] may represent a loose copy of the same original.

Extant portraits:

  1. Albani 951: a small marble bust, inscribed ΕΙΣΟΚΡΑΤΗ[Σ] .
  2. Berlin Isokrates: a marble head.

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(Section 9 of 14)

· Miltiades ·

(statesman/general, before 550-488)

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Pausanias (Paus.).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.

Evidence: Demosthenes states that the Athenians did not set up a statue of Miltiades until long after his death (Dem. 23.196). Demosthenes refers only to publicly commissioned statues at Athens, yet it is possible that a statue of Miltiades may have been privately commissioned during his lifetime. Of the four portraits of Miltiades noted in ancient written sources, the posthumous ones to which Demosthenes referred are most likely that seen in the Prytaneion and/or that seen in the Theater of Dionysos. A portrait of Miltiades and one of Themistocles shown with it in the Prytaneion at Athens later had their names changed to those of a Roman and a Thracian, according to Pausanias (Paus. 1.18.3). Miltiades was also said to have been paired with Themistocles in the Theater of Dionysos at Athens, where the two were shown with Persian prisoners (Sch. Ael. Arist.=ex recensione G. Dindorf, vol. 2.46.181 ll. 131 ff., 3.535 f., Sch. to 161.13).

Read about the evidence
Pliny (Plin. HN).
Pausanias (Paus.).
 
Plot on a Map
Delphi.
Marathon.
Athens.

A portrait of Miltiades seems to have been set up at Delphi only a few decades after his death: Miltiades was included among other military heroes, Eponymous Heroes, and gods/goddesses in the Marathon group, by Pheidias, dedicated probably in the 460s at Delphi as a tithe from the spoils of Marathon (Paus. 10.10.1). Pliny notes also that Miltiades appeared with other Athenian generals, Callimachus and Cynaigeiros, and the Persians Datis and Artaphernes, on the painting of the Battle of Marathon, by Panainos, in the Stoa Poikile, Athens (Plin. HN 35.57). (The painting has elsewhere been attributed to Mikon and Polygnotos: Paus. 1.15.3; Paus. 5.11.6).

Plot on a Map
Ravenna.
Delphi.
Attica.
Oxford.

Extant portraits of Miltiades include an inscribed marble herm, now in Ravenna [1] (and possible copies after the same original; the herm seems to copy a late Classical original created in the style of the early Classical period, i.e. the era in which Miltiades died. If, however, it copies an actual early Classical original, that may have been Pheidias’ image of the general set up at Delphi) as well images on bronze coins of Roman Attica (which seem to illustrate the groups of Miltiades and Themistocles with Persian prisoners from the Theater of Dionysos) [2], and doubtfully a mounted archer on an Attic vase in Oxford [3].

Extant portraits:

  1. Ravenna Miltiades: a marble herm, inscribed ΜΙΛΤΙΑΔΗΣ , with an epigram (in Latin and Greek) (shown here).
  2. Bronze Attic coins from the Roman period: an illustration of Miltiades, wearing a crested helmet and a cuirass, with a Persian prisoner and a trophy, facing Themistocles, similarly depicted (Head 1911, 390).
  3. Oxford 310: a depiction of a mounted Oriental archer on a red-figure kylix painted by Paseas (ca. 520-510) is inscribed Μιλτιάδης καλός , “Miltiades is beautiful” (see ARV2 163.8). As Richter points out, while it is possible that Miltiades was represented at this time, it is far too early for any image of him to have been an individualized portrait Richter 1984, 169. Such “labels,” which were commonly added by Attic vase painters to their works in the sixth century, seem to have designated youths who were admired for their beauty; a younger Miltiades might have been the target of this painter’s admiration.

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(Section 10 of 14)

· Pericles ·

(statesman/general, ca. 500-429)

Read about the evidence
Pliny (Plin. HN).
Pausanias (Paus.).
Dio Chrysostum (Dio Chrysost. Orat.).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
Pliny (Plin. HT).

Evidence: Plutarch casually notes that several artists created portraits of Pericles, but provides no details (Plut. Per. 3.2). Plin. HN 34.74 reports that Kresilas created an idealizing portrait of Pericles, which is thought to be that copied in extant examples (see extant portraits, below). Pausanias saw a statue of Pericles on the Athenian Acropolis (Paus. 1.25.1; Paus. 1.28.2), which scholars have tried to connect with Kresilas’ portrait (Athens EM 6258 is a fragmentary statue base from the Athenian Acropolis that is signed by Kresilas, and has been unconvincingly connected with the portrait of Pericles). There is little evidence for the rumor (reported by Dio Chrysost. Orat. 12.6) that Pheidias secretly included the image of Pericles, fighting with an Amazon, on the shield of his Athena Parthenos type. Yet scholars have wondered if a particular figure fighting an Amazon on the Str“angford Shield” (London 302) might represent Pericles, because he holds his hand as if to conceal his image (which is nonetheless clearly visible) as described in Plut. Per. 31.4 (see Voutiras 1980, 98-109; Robertson 1975, 316; and Metzler 1971, 213-22). Pliny, HN 35.137 includes a painting of Pericles among the works of Aristolaus, an artist of the second half of the fourth century BCE.

Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
 
Plot on a Map
London.
Athens.

A high classical portrait type of Pericles is known from five copies, of which two (in the Vatican [3] and London [2]) are inscribed with his name. This portrait type is idealizing: it shows Pericles with a trim, curly beard, mustache, and lush, curly hair emerging from beneath his Corinthian helmet, which is tilted back on his head. The style of the type matches that of the high classical period, so it probably copies Kresilas’ original, which would have dated to the 420s. The image evoked by these copies matches the overall appearance of Pericles noted by ancient writers: he was described as austere and aristocratic and his appearance was compared to that of the tyrant Pisistratus (Plut. Per. 7.1). Plutarch (who called Pericles “the Olympian”) explains Pericles’ customary helmet as follows: “… [he was] in other respects perfectly formed, only his head was somewhat longish and out of proportion. For which reason all the images and statues that were made of him have the head covered with a helmet, the workmen apparently being willing not to expose him. The poets of Athens called him ‘Schinocephalos’, or squill-head…” (trans. Dryden) (Plut. Per. 3.2). Plutarch’s story probably developed as a response to portraits of Pericles and, particularly as the helmet became a customary accoutrement in images of generals (compare Riace Warrior B, for example), it is unlikely that Pericles’ anatomy actually sufferred in this manner.

Extant portraits:

  1. Berlin 1530: a marble head (shown above).
  2. London 459: a marble bust, inscribed [Π]ΕΡΙΚΛΗΣ .
  3. Vatican 269: a marble bust, inscribed ΠΕΡΙΚΛΗΣ ΞΑΝΘΙΠΠΟΥ ΑΘΗΝΑΙΟΣ , “Perikles, son of Xanthippos, the Athenian” (shown here).

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(Section 11 of 14)

· Plato ·

(philosopher/teacher, ca. 427-348/7)

Read about the evidence
Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.).
Pliny (Plin. HN).
Olympiodoros (Olymp. Vit. Plat.).
Cicero (Cic. ad Brut.).
Christodoros (Christ. Ecphr. in Grk. Anth.).
 
Plot on a Map
Tusculum.
Constantinople.

Evidence: The only reference to a statue of Plato that was set up in the fourth century (but not necessarily during Plato’s lifetime) is a quote from FavorinusMemorabilia, that Mithradates set up a statue of Plato in the Academy, inscribed as follows: "Mithradates, the Persian, the son of Orontobates (?), dedicated to the Muses a statue of Plato, made by Silanion" (Diog. Laert. 3.25). This statue must date some time after the founding of the Academy in 386, and Pliny dates Silanion’s career to the 320s (Pliny, HN 34.81-2). It is likely that the copies mentioned by later writers copied this original: Olympiodoros said that portraits of Plato were set up everywhere (Olympiodoros, Vita Plat. p. 1.32 [ed. Westermann]); Cicero had a statue of Plato in his Villa at Tusculum (Cic. ad Brut. 6.24); and Christodoros cited a statue of Plato in the Zeuxippos of Constantinople (Christ. Ecphr. 97 in Grk. Anth. 2.97 ff.).

Plot on a Map
Berlin.
Bonn.
Dresden.
Strasbourg.
Leipzig.
Karlsruhe.
Athens.
Memphis.

One portrait type of Plato has been identified, of which there are at least 20 copies. The type is in the style of the middle of the fourth century and is conceivably the type created by Silanion. The identification of this type as a portrait of Plato was made on the basis of an inscribed herm in Berlin, which was purchased in 1884; it has been corroborated by a double herm in the Vatican, which pairs the same portrait type with that of Socrates. Two headless seated statues of Plato, labelled ΠΛΑΤΩΝ and ΠΛΑΤΩ , have also been found. The seated statue, half life-size, is now lost, although plaster casts remain in Bonn, Dresden, Strasbourg, Leipzig, and Karlsruhe. Anton Hekler successfully combined this seated figure with the cast of a head, from Athens, of the Plato type. The standing statue of Plato, from Memphis, may be a Hellenistic invention, a Hellenistic copy of an otherwise unknown type, or a Hellenistic variant of the known Plato type.

Read about the evidence
Simplicius (Simp. Phys.).
Epictetus (Epict. Diss.).
Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.).
Seneca (Sen. Epist. 59).
Apuleius (Apul. de Plat. et eius dogm.).
Olympiadoros (Olymp. Vit. Plat.).

The portrait of Plato copied in the extant examples, conveys the general good looks and some specific characteristics of Plato’s appearance noted by ancient writers. The copies of the head share the characteristics of a domed skull, broad forehead, small, closely-set eyes, slightly aquiline nose, and protruding lower chip and rounded chin. Simplicius describes Plato’s finely shaped nose, the beauty of his eyes, and the breadth of his body (Simp. Phys. 4.14), while Epictetus simply notes that he was strong and good looking (Epict. Diss. 1.8.1). Two horizontal and two vertical furrows on the brow of the portrait type convey Plato’s serious nature, which might be hinted at in Amphis’ note that Plato frowned with his eyebrows lifted high, presumably to give him a dignified appearance (Diog. Laert. 3.28). Some ancient writers mention that Plato’s broad chest gave him his name, and that his original name was Aristocles (Diog. Laert 3.4; Seneca, Epist. 59.30; Apuleius, De Plat. et eius dogm. 1.1; Olympiodoros, Vita Plat. p. 1.28 [ed. Westermann]).

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Geneva.
Athens.
Memphis.

  1. Berlin 300: a herm labelled ΠΛΑΤΩΝ .
  2. Vatican 128: a double herm (now split) with Socrates.
  3. Geneva, private collection: A marble head said to have come from Athens.
  4. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam 15: a marble head.
  5. Thasos 177: a head of Plato.
  6. A seated statue (now lost), inscribed [Π]ΛΑΤΩΝ .
  7. The lower part of a Hellenistic standing statue from an exedra at the Sarapieion, Memphis, inscribed ΠΛΑΤΩΝ on the plinth.

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(Section 12 of 14)

· Socrates ·

(philosopher/teacher, 469-399)

Read about the evidence
Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.
Naples.

Evidence: Only one statue of Socrates is mentioned in ancient literature. Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert. 2.43) explains that the Athenians immediately felt remorse for having condemned Socrates to death, so that they honored him with a bronze statue, created by Lysippos, that was placed in the Pompeion. But Lysippos’ career was much later than the death of Socrates so this work could not have been erected immediately after Socrates’ death, as Diogenes suggests; this statue might have dated more realistically to the middle of the fourth century. A plethora of copies, in the round, in paintings, and in other media, attest at least two definite types. Some, which are classed as “Type A,” are thought to copy a portrait set up soon after Socrates’ death by his friends, as suggested by Richter (Richter 1984, 199), perhaps for the Mouseion of Plato’s Academy at Athens. Others, which are classed as “Type B,” may copy the later, somewhat idealized portrait created later by Lysippos. Indeed the latter group (Type B), show stylistic characteristics attributed elsewhere to the style of Lysippos. They are securely identified as portraits of Socrates on the basis of an inscribed herm in Naples. Although no Type A copies are inscribed, they are identified as portraits of Socrates on the basis of physiognomic comparison with Type B portraits.

Two painted portraits of Socrates are noted by ancient writers: Lucian, in the Death of Peregrinus 38, mentions that several painters treated the subject of Socrates dying among his disciples; and Joannes Barboukallos mentions a painted portrait of Socrates in an epigram (Grk. Anth. 16, no. 327).

Read about the evidence
Plato (Plat. Sym.).
Cicero (Cic. de Fato).
Xenophon (Xen. Sym.).

Ancient sources, both written and visual, provide a consistent view of Socrates’ physical form. His appearance was often compared to that of a Silenos, with regard to his stocky, broad-shouldered body (Plat. Symp. 215a ff.; Xen. Symp. 5.7), thick neck (Cic. De Fato ch. 5), protruding belly (Xen. Symp. 2.19), baldness (Sidon. Apoll. Epist. 9.9.14; Lucian, Dialog. mortuorem 20, Menippi et Aeaci 417), prominent eyeballs (Xen. Symp. 5.7), broad nose with wide nostrils and large mouth with thick lips (Xen. Symp. 5.7).

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Baalbek.
Ephesos.
Athens.
Naples.

  • Type A:

  • Type B:

    Plot on a Map
    Baalbek.
    Ephesos.
    Athens.
    Naples.

    • Heads or herms in the round:

      1. Naples 6415: an inscribed marble herm.
      2. Terme 1236: a marble head.
      3. Boston 60.45: a small marble head, perhaps from a herm (shown here).
      4. Louvre MA 59: a marble head (image).
      5. Vatican ?: inscribed marble herm labelled ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ (image).
    • Figures in the round:

      1. Copenhagen, NCG 415C: (image).
      2. London ?: a marble statuette.
    • Mosaics and paintings:

      Plot on a Map
      Baalbek.
      Ephesos.

      1. Mosaic from Baalbek (now in the Beyrough Museum): mosaic medallion with a bald, bearded figure, inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ , among the seven sages (see Richter 1965, 118, fig. 571).
      2. Painting at Ephesos (1 c. A.C.): painting found in 1963 in a Roman house at Ephesos with a seated figure inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ (see Richter 1965, 119, fig. 563a).
    • Gems and coins:

      Plot on a Map
      Athens.
      Naples.

      1. Roman gemstones, e.g. a carnelian in Athens, inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ (see Richter 1965, 119, fig. 570).
      2. Bronze contorniate, inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ , in Naples (once in the collection of Fulvius Ursinus).

Other variants:

Plot on a Map
Pompeii.
Apamea.
Cologne.

  1. Naples 6128: Bronze relief of Socrates and Diotima, from Pompeii (perhaps a combination of types A and B).
  2. Mosaic from Apamea: mosaic with a bald, bearded figure, inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ , among the seven sages (see Richter 1965, 118, fig. 569).
  3. Mosaic from Cologne (now in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne): mosaic with a figure inscribed ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ (see Richter 1965, 118, fig. 572).

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(Section 13 of 14)

· Themistocles ·

Read about the evidence
Thucydides (Thuc.).
Nepos (Nepos Them.).
Diodorus (Diod.).
Plutarch (Plut. Them.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
 
Plot on a Map
Melite.
Magnesia.
Piraeus.
Athens.

Evidence: Several ancient writers mention statues of Themistocles at Athens. Plutarch saw a small statue of Themistocles in the Temple of Artemis Aristoboule, Athens, which was built by Themistocles near his house in the deme of Melite (Plut. Them. 22.1-2) . Others refer to a monument (perhaps a tomb) of Themistocles in the market place at Magnesia, where he settled, and eventually died, after his ostracism from Athens (Thuc. 1.138.5; Nepos Them. 10.3; Diod. 11.58.1; and Plut. Them. 32.3). Pausanias also mentions a grave of Themistocles (not necessarily with a portrait) near the Piraeus harbor, but in the same context refers to a painting representing Themistocles, dedicated by his children, in the Parthenon (Paus. 1.1.2). Another painting of Themistocles is mentioned by Philostratos the Elder (Imagines Themistokles 433, ed. Kayser): it is said to have shown Themistocles addressing the Persians. Note also Aelius Aristeides’ mention of statues of Miltiades and Themistocles in the Theater of Dionysos at Athens.

Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut.).
Thucydides (Thuc.).
 
Plot on a Map
Magnesia (in text as “Magnesian”).
Ostia.

Although there are several headless herms inscribed with Themistocles’ name, there is only one extant portrait of him, a herm in the Museum of Ostia [1], which is inscribed ΘΕΜΙΣΤΟΚΛΗΣ . A Magnesian coin from the Roman period is thought to represent a statue of Themistocles heroized [2]. Ancient writers do not describe Themistocles’ appearance but the Ostia portrait convincingly evokes the character of Themistocles that they describe. Plut. Them. 2.1, 3.3, for example, describes Themistocles as impetuous, sagacious, and enterprising, while Thucydides (Thuc. 1.138.6) describes him as brilliant and shrewd.

Extant portraits:

Plot on a Map
Magnesia.

  1. Ostia Themistokles: an inscribed marble herm portrait.
  2. A Roman coin from Magnesia with a statue that perhaps represents the heroized Themistocles (Head 1911, 581).

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(Section 14 of 14)

· Further Reading on Portraiture ·

  1. John Boardman, Greek Sculpture. The Late Classical Period (Thames & Hudson, London 1995) 103-13.
  2. J.D. Breckenridge, Likeness: A Conceptual History of Ancient Portraiture (Evanston 1968).
  3. R. Brilliant, Portraiture (Cambridge, Mass. 1991).
  4. G.M.A. Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks (New York 1965).
  5. G.M.A. Richter, rev. R.R.R. Smith, The Portraits of the Greeks (London 1984).
  6. Paul Zanker (Alan Shapiro, trans.), The Mask of Socrates. The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity (Sather Classical Lectures 59) (Berkeley 1996).

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