Statues of athletes in a palestra
Rome. 1st cent. BCE — 1st cent. CE.
H. 39 cm, L. 39.5 cm.
Inv. No. 1929.Copenhagen, New Carlsberg GlyptotekPhoto by Sergey Sosnovskiy

Statues of athletes in a palestra.

Rome. 1st cent. BCE — 1st cent. CE.
H. 39 cm, L. 39.5 cm.
Inv. No. 1929.

Copenhagen, New Carlsberg Glyptotek
(København, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek)

Private collection, Campana.
Acquired in Rome in 1899. Allegedly found in the Gardens of Sallustius in Rome.
Compare with the Campana relief from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, inv. АТ 3700.

183. Terracotta relief; a palestra

I. N. 1929
H. 0.39; l. 0.395.

Brown clay with remains of blue and violet colours. Mould-made; preserved in one piece. Acquired in Rome in 1899. Allegedly found in the Gardens of Sallustius in Rome.

The relief depicts five statues in an architectural setting: a porticus with six fluted, Corinthian columns, the bases of which are shaped as a double torus. The two columns in the centre are bigger than the others, and a wreath of leaves is hanging between the two capitals. These columns support a triangular pediment with a depiction in relief of two snakelike sea creatures with human torsoes (so-called hippocamps) holding a circular shield. The pediment extends for some length to the left and right of the two supporting columns, so we are obviously not dealing with a naturalistic depiction of a building.

A frontal statue of Hercules, the Roman counterpart to the Greek hero Herakles, stands on a low basis in the central intercolumnium. He is shown as standing, nude and is easily recognizable by his attributes: the lion skin above the left forearm and the club in his right hand. Hercules wears a full beard, and on each side of his head the ends of a ribbon are hanging down. The statue is a copy of a Greek type, the so-called Chiaramonti Herakles, which is thought to have been made in the 4th century B. C. The type is relatively rare in Roman art, and it is possible that a Hellenistic replica — or perhaps the original itself? — stood in one of the numerous Herakles temples in Rome.

A porticus with four columns supporting a plain frieze and an architrave is seen at a level behind (?) the two central columns adorned with horizontal lines. A decorative frieze with arches and small palmettes crowns the slanting tile roof. Statues of athletes are standing on low bases in the four intercolumnia. To the left two pugilists with leather thongs, which functioned as a kind of boxing glove, wrapped around their forearms. An athlete scraping oil off his body is seen to the right and a victor crowning himself with his right hand and holding a palm leaf in his left.

The scene depicts a palestra, i. e. an open courtyard surrounded by portici, where athletes did their training. The presence of Hercules is explained by the fact that he was the legendary founder of the Olympic games and he was worshipped in gymnasia and palestrae from the Classical period onwards. The central part of the relief may be regarded as a rendering of a Hercules temple or as an exedra (a semi-circular niche) in the porticus.

Other relief plaques with the same motif as 183 have been found in the gardens of Sallustius in Rome, and presumably made in the same mould. They probably all come from the same building, perhaps a palestra connected to a bath complex. The area was a large pleasure garden in the north-eastern outskirts of Rome, founded by the historian Caius Sallustius Crispus (86—35 B. C.). The gardens later became Imperial property and continued to be so, until the Goths took Rome in A. D. 410.

For the date and place of origin see 180.

V. Poulsen, Catalogue des terres cuites grecques et romaines. Glyptothèque Ny Carlsberg (1949), no. 104;
LIMC IV (1988) 752—753, s. v. Herakles (O. Palagia).
For a parallel to 183 in Vienna see ibid. 752, no. 452.
Identification of the temple of Hercules: M. T. Marabibi Moevs, BdA 66, 12, s. VI (1981) 47—48.
Variant of 183: C. C. Vermeule, BMFA 65 (1967) 180—181, fig. 6;
see also B. Hedinger, AntK 30 (1987) 77 and Strazzulla 1987, 184—186;
LIMC IV (1988) 796—797, s. v. Herakles (J. Boardman).
Gardens of Sallustius: M. Moltesen, Wolfgang Helbig, bryqqer Jacobsens aqent i Rom
(1987), 126—132.

(сс) 2008. Photo: Sergey Sosnovskiy (CC BY-SA 4.0).
2008. Text: museum label.
© 1996. Description: S. Østergaard. Catalogue Imperial Rome, vol. I. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 1996, pp. 281—282, cat. no. 183.
Keywords: γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines ανακούφιση relief rilievo ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque ρωμαϊκή ἡρακλῆς ηρακλής herakles heracles èracle eracle héraclès hercules ercole herkules hercule terracotta clay argilla terrakotta terrakotte ton terre cuite argile ἱππόκαμπος hippokampos hippocampus hippocamp sea-horse ippocampo cavallo marino hippokamp seepferd hippocampe cheval marin decorativo decorativa decorativi decorative dekorativ décoratif ornemental campana tiles tile reliefs revetment tablet tablets plate plates lastre lastra rilievi campanareliefs campanaplatten plaque plaques revêtement de taenia tainia band ribbon fillet tenia tänie binden tænia ténia ταινία club clava keule massue lion skin pelle di leone löwenhaut haut peau du δέρμα λιονταριού round circular shield scudo rotondo rundschild bouclier rond roof tiling tegola tetto tegole dachziege ziegeldach tuile toit tuiles κεραμίδι κεραμοσκεπή palmette palmetta palm leaf branch frond ramo fronda palma palmwedel palmenzweig palme κλαδί φοίνικα strigilis strigil strigile στλεγγίς στλεγγίδα palestra palaestra porticus corinthian column columns double torus wreath of leaves garland pediment statue hercules statues athletes athlet athlets pugilists boxer boxers with leather thongs caestus cestus athlete scraping oil off his body victor crowning himself from the gardens sallustius inv no 1929