The ancient Hellenes were excellent stonemasons, sculptors, and mosaic artisans. They decorated their temples, squares, and parks with representations of famous generals, mythical beings, and most of all: the Gods they lived with every day. We are lucky enough to have much surviving iconography and some of them have become downright famous. Today, we'll take a look at some of these iconic images.

The Pergamon altar (180 - 160 BC)
Pergamon (τὸ Πέργαμον) was a small settlement during the Archaic Period, located in Aeolis, today located 16 miles (26 km) from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus. The main sites of ancient Pergamon are to the north and west of the modern city of Bergama in Turkey. One of the most famous buildings that once stood on the property is the Altar of Zeus and Athena, which used to be located to the south of the theater. Eumenes II constructed it as a memorial of the victory against the Galatians. The Altar has the shape of a horseshoe and its dimensions are 36.44 by 34.20 meters. The high reliefs on the outsides of the altar depict the Gigantomachy. At Pergamon, nothing remains of the altar but its foundations; the rest was removed from the site and shipped to Berlin.

The Fallen Warrior from Temple of Aphaia (c 480-470 BC)
The marbles from the Late Archaic temple of Aphaia, comprising the sculptural groups of the east and west pediments of the temple, are on display in the Glyptothek of Munich, where they were restored by the Danish neoclassic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. Each pediment centered on the figure of Athena, with groups of combatants, fallen warriors, and arms filling the decreasing angles of the pediments. The theme shared by the pediments was the greatness of Aigina as shown by the exploits of its local heroes in the two Trojan wars, one lead by Heracles against Laomedon and a second lead by Agamemnon against Priam. According to the standard myths, Zeus raped the nymph Aigina, who bore the first king of the island, Aiakos. This king had the sons Telamon (father of the Homeric hero Ajax) and Peleus (father of the Homeric hero Achilles). The sculptures preserve extensive traces of a complex paint scheme, and are crucial for the study of painting on ancient sculpture. The marbles are finished even on the back surfaces of the figures, despite the fact that these faced the pediment and were thus not visible. The most famous statue from the temple shows a strong man fallen, heroic to his last breath.

Artemision Bronze (Zeus or Poseidon) (c. 470 BC)
The Artemision Bronze (often called the God from the Sea) is an ancient Greek sculpture that was recovered from the sea off Cape Artemision, in northern Euboea. It represents either Zeus or Poseidon, is slightly over lifesize at 209 cm, and would have held either a thunderbolt, if Zeus, or a trident if Poseidon. The empty eye-sockets were originally inset, probably with bone, as well as the eyebrows (with silver), the lips, and the nipples (with copper). The Poseidon/Zeus is a highlight of the collections in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The sculptor is unknown.

The Siren Vase (480 - 470 BC)
Also called 'Odysseus and the Sirens', or the 'Vase of the Siren Painter', this ancient vase shows Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship as he listens to the song of the Sirens. It currently resides in the British Museum.

Lady of Auxerre

The Lady of Auxerre (7th century BC)
The 75-cm Lady of Auxerre is a Kretan sculpture currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It depicts an archaic Greek goddess during the 6th century, Persephone. A curator from Louvre named Maxime Collignon found the mini statue inside a storage vault in the Museum of Auxerre in 1907. Historians believe that the sculpture was created during the 7th century, when Greece was moving on from its Dark Age.

The (Winged) Nike of Samothrace (2nd century BC)
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 200–190 BC. It is 8 feet (2.44 metres) high. It was created to not only honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery, as though the goddess was descending to alight upon the prow of a ship.

Hermes Statue

Hermes and The Infant Dionysos (4th century BC)
Also known as the Hermes of Praxiteles or the Hermes of Olympus, this statue is an ancient Hellenic sculpture of Hermes and the infant Dionysos, discovered in 1877, in the ruins of the Temple of Hera at Olympia. It is displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. It is traditionally attributed to Praxiteles and dated to the 4th century BC, based on a remark by the 2nd century Greek traveler Pausanias, and has made a major contribution to the definition of Praxitelean style. Its attribution is, however, the object of fierce controversy among art historians.


The Discus Thrower (460-450 BC)
The Discus Thrower, or the Discobolus, is a famous lost Hellenic bronze original. The sculpture of it is still unknown. The Discobolus was completed towards the end of the severe period. It is known through numerous Roman copies, both full-scale ones in marble, such as the first to be recovered, the Palombara Discopolus, or smaller scaled versions in bronze. As always in Hellenic athletics, the Discus Thrower is completely nude.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (280 BC)
The statue of Alexander the Great was discovered inside the Pella Palace in Greece. Coated with marble patina and made of bonded marble, the statue was built in 280 BC to honor Alexander the Great, the popular Hellenic hero who sprawled over several parts of the world and led battles against Persian Armies, particularly in Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela. The statue of Alexander the Great is now among the Greek art collections of the Archaeological Museum of Pella in Greece.

Lacoon and His Sons

Lacoon and His Sons
This statue currently resides at the Vatican Museum in Rome. Lacoon and his Sons is also known as the Lacoon Group and was originally created by three great Hellenic sculptors from the island of Rhodes: Agesander, Polydorus and Athenodoros. This life-size statue is made of marble and depicts a Trojan priest named Lacoon, together with his sons Thymbraeus and Antiphantes, being throttled by sea serpents.