Helios driving his chariot


Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

Troy, in Homer the city of Ilos, later named Ilion by the Greeks, was already a place of mythical and monumental significance in ancient times. At the beginning of the third century BC, acting on a wish of Alexander the Great, Lysimachus, King of Thrace and Macedonia, built a new Doric marble temple for the city’s goddess, Athena. Later it was renovated and given a dedicatory inscription by the Roman Emperor Augustus. The corner block of a metope-triglyph frieze shown here came from the north-eastern corner of the Hellenistic temple to Athena and was found by Schliemann at the start of his famous excavation of Troy. The relief, depicting the quadriga of Helios rising from the sea, was the first of the series of metope scenes on the north side of the temple. The Helios relief quotes an iconographic motif from classical Greek art. From around 500 BC, Greek artists began to link representations of the Olympian gods with a ‘background’ from elemental nature. On the Parthenon in Athens, the birth of Athena on the east gable is framed by the rising chariot of Helios and the sinking of Selene (the Moon goddess). Reliefs with images of the Trojan wars on the northern metopes of the Parthenon were enclosed by similar images. We may probably assume that scenes from the Trojan Wars were also depicted on further metopes from the temple of Athena in Illion. Following classical models, the almost square relief of the metope in Berlin depicts the chariot of the sun god at the very moment when it emerges from the ocean. The hind legs of the horses, whose staggered diagonal forms dominate the picture space, are only just still in contact with a rocky cliff, while their front quarters, with tossing heads and widely-stretching hooves rear up and seem to burst their architectural frame with the dynamism of their movement. Behind the horses, in a fluttering robe, stands the charioteer, Helios, his youthful head, with flowing locks, nimbus and a double rayed crown, breaking through the upper border of the metope. As well as the freely-worked portions of the relief which were lost when the block fell, imagination must supply the ancient paintwork which not only contributed a dimension of colour but also served to indicate the chariot, harness, and reins.


  • Title: Helios driving his chariot
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -300/-200
  • Location: Troy (Hissarlik)
  • Physical Dimensions: w201,2 x h85,8 cm
  • Type: Relief
  • Medium: Marble
  • Inv.-No.: L 21.1
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Volker Kästner || 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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