Statue of a priest


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

In 526/5 BC Cyprus suffered the same fate as the East Greek cites on the west coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The island was absorbed into the Persian Empire which, since the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, had included Syria and Phoenicia. Freedom of movement within the Persian Empire intensified contact between these areas. Cypriot sculptors became more dependent on East Greek models and influenced by Phoenician taste.

Thus this priest is dressed in Greek fashion in a chiton (tunic) partly covered by a himation (cloak). The short hair, secured by a laurel wreath decorated with rosettes, is also East Greek, as is the smile on the lips. However, the double bank of snake curls on the forehead, and the treatment of the artificially curled beard reflect Achaemenid (Persian) influence.

The large figure, placed in the centre of a series of statues in the front of the main court of the sanctuary, would probably have represented a priest. The cult of the Greek god Apollo was not introduced to this sanctuary before the fourth century BC. Earlier, the principal god seems to have been represented by a male figure in a lionskin, brandishing a club in one hand and a lion in the other. These figures are reminiscent of both the Phoenician Melqart and the Greek Herakles and may be best described as the 'Cypriot Herakles'.


  • Title: Statue of a priest
  • Date Created: -450/-425
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 1.04m
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Subject: king/queen; devotee/worshipper
  • Registration number: 1917,0701.233
  • Production place: Made in Cyprus
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Sanctuary of Apollo (Idalion)
  • Period/culture: Cypro-Classical I
  • Material: limestone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Lang, Robert Hamilton

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