Torso of the hero Diomedes

A free-standing sculpture of a torso and part of the thighs of the Greek hero Diomedes. The figure is naked except for the cloak of the hero, fastened at the left shoulder by a circular chlamys brooch. The garment covers part of the collar bone and the left side of the chest, trailing down both his front and back towards the arm, with which he would have held it. The weight of his body falls over the right leg, with the left leg slightly flexed. This pose gives naturalism and a certain dynamism to the piece. In the art world it is known as "contrapposto". It gives a feel of movement to sculptures and contributes to breaking the law of frontality.

Both the back and torso are practically free of draping, thus allowing the anatomy of the figure to be seen clearly and perfectly: the spine and buttocks, the chest, abdominals and pelvis. The artist has chiselled these anatomical details of the figure with great skill, especially in the frontal area.

Given the position and the type of cloak, this piece can be compared with other sculptures of Diomedes, like that preserved in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The imperial coins of the city of Argos show a character carrying a statuette in the same attitude as the figure in the Louvre. The episode thus depicted is known from Book X in Homer’s Iliad. During the Trojan War, Diomedes and Ulysses stole the Palladium, the representation of the goddess Athena endowed with magical powers and protector of the city. The National Archaeological Museum in Naples and the Glyptothek in Munich contain the best and most complete depictions of the hero.

Reflecting on these statues brings to mind the school of Polykleitos. The reproduction of the work in the coins of Argos, and the worship of Diomedes in this Greek city, would indicate that the origin of this type of statuary, sometimes attributed to Nauckydes, would be the Peloponnese. However, of the works preserved in museums, the treatment of the eyebrows, the nose and the eye, recalls that used for the characteristics of the Athena of Velletri, which is exhibited in the Louvre next to the sculpture of Diomedes, which was made around the 440 or 430 BCE. This Athena is attributed to the sculptor Kresilas, but it is really a Roman work in marble based on an original Greek bronze attributed to the sculptor. This work and other sculptures of Kresilas, to whom the creation of Diomedes in bronze is attributed, formed the base from which the Romans made copies in marble.


Kresilas was a Greek sculptor from the 5th century BCE, a contemporary of Phidias. A native of the city of Kydonia, in Crete, he worked professionally in Athens. The portrait of Pericles called "The Olympian" a bronze statue which was located in the Acropolis and represented him standing in an attitude similar to that seen in the Riace Bronzes, can be attributed to him. The style of Pericles’ “The Olympian” is similar to that of the Athena of Velletri, whose eponymous statue is conserved in the Louvre Museum. It is also comparable to the style of the sculpture of Diomedes with a Spear, examples of which can be found in the Glyptothek in Munich and again in the Louvre.

He is also the author of a Wounded Amazon made for a contest organized in 440-430 BCE for the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and which was finally won by Polyclitus. The Wounded Amazon type is known for its many copies which are difficult to attribute to the different competitors. A statue of a wounded and dying warrior described by Pliny the Elder is also attributed to Kresilas. Perhaps this is the same as the «bronze statue of Diitrefes, wounded by arrows» which Pausanias saw in the Acropolis in the 2nd century. A base dated from 450 BC in effect carries the inscription: "Hermolycus, son of Diitrefes. Work of Kresilas ". A Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), a cow votive for Demeter Chthonia and an ex-voto for Athena Tritogeneia are also known.


In Greek mythology, Diomedes was an Achaean hero, son of Tydeus, King of Aetolia, and of Deipyle, daughter of Adrastus, King of Argos. It was in this city that the hero was born, grew up and of which he later became king. He was one of the most feared Greek warriors of the Trojan War. He carried warfare in his blood: his father, ally of Polynices, son of Oedipus, had fallen in battle before Thebes. Subsequently, Diomedes and the other sons of the “Seven Against Thebes”, launched their forces against Thebes. These sons, the “Epigoni”, were better than their fathers in battle and managed to make the Thebans flee before bringing down the walls of the city.

Later, Diomedes was one of the numerous Greek kings who tried to win the hand of Helen. Along with all the other suitors and following the request of Odysseus, he swore to Menelaus, the suitor elected to marry Helen, that he would come to the assistance of the husband if any wrong was done to him in regard to the marriage. Diomedes kept his promise and travelled to Troy with a great number of ships. In the course of the ten years of the siege of the city he was a mighty hero second only to Achillles and the great Ajax. However, according to Helenus, a son of Priam, who had the gift of prophecy, Diomedes was the strongest of all the warring Greeks and aroused more fear than Achilles. He often collaborated with Odysseus, and was the perfect partner in times of trial. Like the latter, Diomedes was one of the favourites of the goddess Athena. She made sure that he was able to kill many Trojans including the renowned archer, Pandarus, in the tenth year of the war. Diomedes seriously wounded Aeneas and did not fear the gods who fought on the side of the Trojans. He challenged Apollo, wounded and vanquished Ares, and even struck a spear into one of the arms of Aphrodite, an immortal, but not one of the most skilled in warfare.

Diomedes participated in furtive military forays along with Odysseus while they were in the Greek camp. In one of these incursions, the Trojan Dolon was killed, as was King Rhesus along with twelve of his men, Thracian allies of the Trojans. Glaucus of Lycia had more luck: when face to face in battle with Diomedes, they discovered that their grandfathers, Oeneus and Bellerophon, had been great friends. They decided then and there not to fight each other but to interchange their armour, which meant that Diomedes received the golden armour of Glaucus worth ten times more than his own armour of bronze.

Diomedes carried out many more acts of bravery with and without the help of Odysseus. Together they stole the Palladium, the statue of Athena in Troy, which was necessary for the Greek victory. He also accompanied his friend to Lemnos to bring back the archer Philoctetes.

After the Trojan War, Diomedes returned home, although, forced by Aphrodite, who had not forgotten the spear that had pierced her flesh, he had to renounce the throne of Argos. He reached the south of Italy and founded the city of Argyrippa or Arpi. During the trip home, many of his companions had been turned into aquatic birds by the intervention of the goddess of love, irritated by his attitude. Diomedes realized that he had little to gain by forming alliances with the enemies of Aeneas who wished to expel the Trojan from their land. He realized that he should not anger Aphrodite yet again, and so decided to make peace with her son.

The Romans brought two important innovations to the world of sculpture: portraiture and historical reliefs, neither of which existed in the Greek world.

However, they followed Greek models for a great part of their production of sculpture, which in Rome formed the base but combined with the Etruscan tradition. After the first contacts with Greek classicism through the colonies of Magna Graecia, in 212 BCE the Romans conquered Syracuse, an important Greek colony in Sicily, the home of a great number of Hellenic works. The city was sacked, and its artistic treasures were carried off to Rome, where the new style of these works soon took the place of the Etrusco-Roman tradition prevailing up to that time. Cato himself denounced the sacking and the decoration of Rome with the Hellenic works, as he considered this a dangerous influence on the native culture, and he deplored the fact that Romans welcomed the statues of Corinth and Athens, at the same time ridiculing the decorative tradition of the ancient Roman temples. However, this reaction in opposition was in vain. Greek art had dominated Etrusco-Roman in general, to the point where Greek statues had become one of the most prized objects of booty in war and were put on show in the triumphal processions of the conquering generals.


- Diomedes. Marble copy of the original Attic of 450 – 430 BCE., presumably by Kresilas. National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Naples.
- Diomedes, Roman copy of a statue by Kresilas, c. 430 BCE. Glyptothek, Munich.
- Diomedes. 2nd – 3rd century AD. Roman copy of an original Greek classical piece, 430 – 370 BCE. Louvre Museum, Paris.


- BOARDMAN, John. La Sculpture grecque classique. Thames & Hudson. Paris. 1995. pp. 206 and 214.
- GRIMMAL, Pierre. Diccionario de mitología griega y romana. Paidos.
- HARD, Robina. El gran libro de la mitología griega. La Esfera de los Libros. Madrid. 2008.
- MULLER-DUFEU, Marion. La Sculpture grecque. Sources littéraires et épigraphiques, éditions de l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Beaux-Arts histoire. 2002.
- RICHTER, Gisela M. A. Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks. Yale University Press. 1970. p. 72 and following.

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