As I began my search for an artifact to identify from the Late Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, I looked for a piece that would symbolize a major difference in stylistic change from the previous period. The artifact that captured my attention and satisfied my requirement, was none other than the Falling Warrior from the East Pediment at the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina. The subjects depicted in the pediment represent the warriors from the battles at Troy. The Falling Warrior was created c. 490 BC and is the first sculpted figure at the pediment’s right end. It is constructed of marble and is 1.42m long. It is currently on display at the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany.
While observing the Falling Warrior, one can immediately depict the sense of drama that the sculptor was attempting to create. One can feel the pain and admire the courage and nobility this warrior had during the battle. I believe the sculptor designed the dramatic figure as a tribute to the warriors lost during the battles at Troy. This depiction would have constantly reminded the Ancient Greek people of the patriotic warriors that died for their state and thus promote devotion to the ruling Greek government.
Despite what the political intentions of the sculptor would have been, gazing at the Falling Warrior as an individualized sculpture is a marvel alone. Observing more closely, one can immediately notice the twist in body movement as the warrior tries to raise his body back up. Clinging to the enormous shield and looking downward, one can conclude that the warrior is severely injured. Yet, despite his injuries, he is still not giving up the battle and desperately attempts to survive. Through this agile movement, the sculptor has created a dramatic moment not to be forgotten. The lower leg is positioned in a pushing movement while the upper leg is getting ready to do the same. This shows the attempt of the Falling warrior to use the ground surface as leverage to rise back up. Although the Falling warrior is determined to survive, his injuries obviously lead toward his death.
Attention to detail is significant throughout the sculpture. The feet and toes are bent and in constant movement (pl.1-1). Both calve muscles are flexed indicating use of the lower legs as a pushing factor (pl.1-2). Thigh muscles are also shown clearly joining the movement of the lower leg. While the lower part of the body seems to be in a struggle of survival, the upper body is more concerned with supporting itself from falling (pl.1-3). The forearm muscles are erected while the joining hand is pushing up off the ground. However, the joining bicep is not as flexed and may perhaps indicate an area of pain (pl.1-4). The chest is also very calm while the left bicep is hard at work, supporting the entire upper body by combining forces with the shield. Detail of the double handle is shown fiercely in conjunction with the warriors left hand (pl.1-5). This shows the warrior’s strength, as the size of the shield indicates very heavy armor. The helmet clings to the warriors head and a beard is portrayed as well as the eye in profile view, a common trait of that period.
In comparison to the earlier built, Fallen Warrior at the West pediment at the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, a major stylistic change can be noted. The Fallen Warrior from the West Pediment, built c. 500 BC, one can see the traditional Late Archaic smile that the warrior has. This is a very unnatural behavior that a real falling warrior would not depict. Also very troubling, is the twist that the warrior’s body is in. The right leg is crossing the left leg, which would have been very uncommon, and a troublesome position for a real warrior in pain. At the same time, while performing this twist and continuing to smile, the warrior is retracting an arrow from his chest. These traits are well noted by the later sculptor who pays more attention to natural body movement. In the Fallen Warrior on the East pediment, the twist, and changes in masses depicted is much more likely to occur in reality. Also the constant smile is lost as it probably would have been as the real warrior encountered his death. Clearly, the sculptor has mastered the natural form of representation.
The stylistic difference between the two warriors are very important in determining the period of the Falling Warrior from the East Pediment. Recognizing the factors mentioned above, the Falling Warrior from the east pediment marks the entrance into the Early Classical period. Traditional with this period is the artist’s attempt to achieve perfection of reality in their artwork. Representation of body mass in many sculptures, including the Falling warrior, supports this notion.
Another recognizable aspect is the sculptor’s realization in producing work in accordance with the architectural requirements of the temples. The Falling Warrior not only achieves it’s dramatic sense but also fills in the triangular corner of the pediment. The artist creates a scale for the figures to be fitted into the pediment. Although, the artist believes he has achieved complete perfection, one can see that the navel on the Fallen Warrior has been misplaced. Despite the imperfection, it is clear that a goal of perfection in realism and scale was trying to be achieved.
In conclusion, Speculative identification of the Fallen Warrior from the East Pediment of the temple of Temple of Aphaia at Aegina has proven very helpful in understanding the change in lifestyle that must have occurred between the Late Archaic and Early Classical periods. By means of observation, one can already see that life is becoming less controlled, more relaxed and focused on reality rather than false representations of Ancient Greek life.
Biers R. William.
The Archaeology of Greece. 2nd ed.
New York: Cornell University Press, 1996.
Croix De La Horst, Tansey G. Richard, Kirkpatrick Diane
Art Through The Ages. 9th ed.
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1987.
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