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The Telephos Frieze on the north side of the courtyard: Herakles finds Telephos

Unknown2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

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Exposed in the Parthenion mountains, baby Telephos is suckled by a lioness. His father Herakles finds him while crossing the mountain range, a moment depicted in the relief (preserved only in one slab [...]). The scene, separated from the previous one by a plane tree, is set in a rocky landscape. Herakles leans on his club while the miracle plays out at his feet: the baby Telephos presses himself against the lioness’ body, his little arms outstretched. But Herakles does not watch his son; rather, he looks straight ahead and raises his hand in a gesture of speaking. The figure to whom he was speaking is now lost – but a Roman wall painting from Herculaneum that depicts the same scene suggests it may have been a female figure. It was likely the mountain goddess Arkadia or the mother goddess Rhea Kybele, who protected the babe and sent her lion to feed him. In its pose and rippling muscles, the powerful figure of Herakles recalls the famous and muchcopied statue of Herakles at rest made by Lysippos in the fourth century BC. The hero serves to connect the two friezes of the Altar: in the myth of the Gigantomachy, it is Herakles who ultimately wins victory for the gods, while in the myth of Telephos, Herakles (himself the son of Zeus) becomes father to the mythical founder of Pergamon.

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  • Title: The Telephos Frieze on the north side of the courtyard: Herakles finds Telephos
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE
  • Location: Pergamon / Turkey
  • Type: Frieze
  • Medium: Marble
  • Inv. no.: T.I. 17
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Johannes Laurentius || Text © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Volker Kästner
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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