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A youth falls to his knees struggling in vain to reach the arrow lodged in his back. Although large portions of the statue are now missing, it represents an excerpt from the slaughter of the Niobids, the children of Niobe. In Greek mythology, Niobe, a mortal woman, offended the goddess Leto by bragging that she had fourteen children whereas Leto had only two. Leto punished this offense by sending her children, the gods Apollo and Artemis, to kill all of Niobe's children. This life-size Roman statue copies one figure from a group of statues carved in Greece in the late 300s B.C. that depicted the entire myth. The original group was probably brought to Rome as booty by conquering Roman generals. This sculpture was very popular with the Romans, who reproduced the entire group, but also used single figure excerpts, like this statue, as decoration in villas. The unknown sculptor of this statue saved a great deal of marble and labor by carving the portions of the statue that stuck out--the arms and the right foot--from separate blocks of marble and attaching them with dowels. This original piecing process has been somewhat obscured by later, but still ancient, repairs and retouching of the statue.

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