A deified ruler - Alexander the Great as Zeus

UnknownPresumably first century BC

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

This fragment of a finely worked late Hellenistic bronze statuette, comprising head, aegis, and left arm, was meant to be assembled into a figure of the Macedonian king. Despite its small size, the king’s youthful features and anastole (the locks of hair standing up at the center of the hairline) serve to identify him. Several other statuettes are motivally quite close to this one and similarly small in format, allowing us to reconstruct the original appearance of the Berlin piece. The king stood holding a spear in his right hand. Although barefoot, around his shoulders he wore the cloak characteristic of Zeus, father of the gods, and his daughter Athena: this so-called aegis consists of a goat skin edged by snakes and emblazoned with an apotropaic image, the head of the Gorgon Medusa. On the Berlin statuette the gorgoneion sits just under the left shoulder. Cut in the shape of the Macedonian mantle (chlamys), the aegis expresses the claim to divine status – particularly to a connection with Zeus – that Alexander propagated even within his lifetime. The supreme Greek god had appeared to Alexander as Zeus Ammon in the Egyptian oasis of Siwa in 331 BC, and had announced that Alexander was his son. This semi-divine status must have been formative for the young king’s conception and presentation of himself. The Berlin Alexander held a statuette in his left hand, its square base surmounted perhaps by an archaic cult image (Palladion) or a figure of the victory goddess Nike. Like the other closely related statuettes, the Berlin piece reproduces a large-scale sculpture from the late fourth century BC – a statue that commemorated the king’s deification after his death in Babylon in 323 BC.


  • Title: A deified ruler - Alexander the Great as Zeus
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Presumably first century BC
  • Location: From Egypt
  • Physical Dimensions: h14,1 cm
  • Type: Statue
  • Medium: Bronze
  • Object acquired: Acquired in 1898 via the Egyptologist Friedrich-Wilhelm Freiherr von Bissing (1873–1956)
  • Inv.-No.: Misc. 8632
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Sch. || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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