Spectacular Statuettes of Apollo and Artemis Discovered in Rare State of Preservation in Crete
While the size of the find may be small, the quality is great. Archaeologists working in Aptera in Iraklio, Crete, have recently unearthed well-preserved statuettes of the mythical Greek goddess Artemis and her twin brother Apollo.
The Artemis sculpture is cast in bronze and depicts the goddess in the process of firing an arrow. The head of the excavation at the site in Aptera, Vanna Niniou-Kindeli, said that the goddess statuette was found in an excellent state or preservation, with all of her limbs intact.
Detail of the front of the Artemis bronze sculpture. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )
The Artemis statuette is wearing a short chiton (tunic) and even the white material used for her eyes has been preserved. She was found with the bronze base that the sculpture would have stood upon. The Greek News Agent Ethnos reports that the statuette would have measured 54cm (21.3 inches) tall with the base and is 35cm (13.8 inches) tall without it.
Back view of the Artemis sculpture from Aptera, Crete. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )
In Greek mythology, Artemis was the goddess of nature, chastity, virginity, the hunt, and the moon. According to legends, Artemis and Apollo were the children of Zeus and Leto, and soon after her birth, Artemis helped her mother to give birth to her twin brother. Afterwards, she asked her father to allow her to remain chaste for her life – which she chose to devote to hunting and protecting the natural environment.
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The statuette of the Greek god Apollo is arguably less-impressive than that of his sister, but still shows artistic talent. The Apollo sculpture is carved out of marble and measures approximately 54cm (21.3 inches) with the base as well. The International Business Times reports that the Apollo statue has a “rare preservation” of red coloring in some of the creases of the base, suggesting it was painted.
The marble statue of Apollo. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )
In contrast to his twin sister, Apollo was the Greek god of music, healing, light, and truth. Like his sister he was also an archer. Two important tasks given to Apollo were giving the science of medicine to man and moving the sun across the sky each day.
First estimates suggest that the sculptures are from the late 1st – early 2nd century AD. The archaeologists believe that the two figures were probably imported to Crete and originally used to decorate the altar of a Roman luxury residence or were used for decorative purposes at the Roman-era Villa in which they were found.
The base the statues of Artemis and Apollo once stood upon. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )
Vanna Niniou-Kindeli told Ethnos that the statues will be added to the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Chania on Crete. She also emphasized the support of the Region of Crete and the district commissioner Stavros Arnaoutakis in the excavations to the same source.
Artemis was perhaps the more popular twin for devotion, however temples and sites that worshipped both she and her brother Apollo have been found. Last year, Ancient Origins reported that the twins were also discovered to have been worshipped together at a site for divination via hydromancy in Athens, Greece. The combined honoring of the siblings was described as:
“[…] a yin and yang type of dichotomy: Apollo, famous for his pursuit of nymphs, was worshiped as the protector of domestic flocks and herds and the patron of the founding of colonies and cities. While Artemis, who protected girls, seems to recall an earlier time as the goddess of hunting and nature.“
Featured Image: The bronze statuette of Artemis and the marble one of Apollo. Source: Greek Ministry of Culture
Its really amazing to think how as much as things have changed in the centuries since we are still in many ways honoring our heroes, idols, and cultural icons through bronze just like that Artemis statuette. Some of the steps in the process may have been refined and streamlined but ultimately it is much the same as it was. Hopefully we'll see our bronze statues and memorials stand the test of time like work of the ancient Greeks.