Attacking Warriors Dodona 510 BCE

Attacking Warrior (Greek, Dodona, 510-500 BCE). Greek bronze. From the Antikensammlung collection in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Brief Identification

This bronze statuette represents a Greek warrior wielding a shield and, by the looks of the stance and arm positioning, what was a spear.  These Greek warriors are called hoplites , and they became a major force in ancient military strategy.  The statuette has been dated to around 510-500 BCE and was crafted by the ancient Greeks.  This heroic representation of the Greek military stood at only 12.8 cm, and was "a finial from a cauldron " according to the Scala Archives.

This piece currently resides at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in Berlin, Germany.

Technical Evaluation

Firstly, this figure is made of bronze, and it was made between 510-500 BCE; this timeframe is at the tail-end of Greece's Archaic age, so bronze was not a rare material anymore.  This piece was a finial to a cauldron, and judging by the flat base that the warrior is standing on, it was most likely placed at the top of the lid and could have been used as a handle.  Given this information, this statuette was probably made from the "lost-wax method" [see Raven-Hart 1958, 87] which involved an artist creating a wax sculpture, surrounding that sculpture with soft clay, heating the two joined materials, and filling the empty clay mold with molten bronze.  Later, once the bronze had solidified, a hammer could easily break the clay, revealing the previously wax model as bronze.  Given the common materials, the Greeks were able to create this using 100% Greek materials, and this was probably a plus when sacrificing to their gods.

Hoplites were fearsome warriors.  Depicted, though the spear is absent, his stance and arm position dictate that not only is he wielding a spear, but he is aiming at the ground.  He has already brought his foe to the ground and he is finishing him off in a routine and efficient way.  The Greeks that made this wanted to depict the utter dominance of their military, but without showing savagery.  Had this warrior swung his shield arm to his left, the increased momentum of the spear would greatly damage his enemy, but since the enemy is grounded, such force is not necessary.  Also, hoplites were the infantry force, and they had multiple people they were assigned to kill at any given mission.  Swinging his shield arm would have left him totally exposed to attack, and by keeping his guard up, it shows the Greek ideal of their hoplites as killing machines.

This statuette was discovered at the Temple of Zeus at Dodona , so it was part of a gift from the ancient Greeks to their patron god, Zeus .  Of course, this item was never really used in the way today's people would use a vessel; since this was a gift to Zeus, functionality came far after design.  Unless tampered with, the entire work sat unused for centuries.  Until archaeologists representing the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies investigated multiple different sites across the Mediterranean and found the Temple of Zeus at Dodona [see Clay 1884, 207].

Local Historical Context

The Archaic period is rich with activity .  Around 574 BCE, Solon becomes a hero to the Greeks (though some did not know it at the time) and paves the way for a democratic society [see Lewis 2009, 123] by ridding Greece of the old Draconian law , freeing the slaves, and giving back forfeited land to those who had lost it.  Solon also gives Greece the first coinage and system of weights and measures.  Pythagoras is born in 569 BCE and contributed to philosophy and mathematics.  In 565 BCE, Pisistratus and his men take the Megarian harbor after years of military shortcomings.  He later becomes tyrant and passes on this position to his son upon his death.  After years of hardship, the Alcmaeonid family, along with many Spartans , remove the tyranny from Athens around 510 BCE, and one member, Cleisthenes , establishes a democracy in 508 BCE.  This greatly influences the rest of the political history of Greece, and gains quite a bit of reverence from the Father of History himself, Herodotus.  He is very interested in Cleisthenes' reasoning, but even more so in his political victory with his family [see David 1986, 3].

That is what was happening when this figure was created; leaps and bounds into the future of society were had...for men, anyway. Since the recent introduction of coinage, most people were probably vying for an artisan job to sell their trade skills, but many people, especially the newly freed slaves, were probably stuck farming.  Though there were no legal slaves, the lack of true egalitarianism in Solon probably left them with just about the same jobs; they were paid this time though.  By that, I mean that the social stratification probably still held true since not even a century had passed since the emancipation of Greek slaves.  There may have been a decrease in this number, but most craftsmen were probably still the same men whose entire lineage was made up of craftsmen.  Whoever made this, it was probably one of those aforementioned people, and the creator was probably well off enough to spare it as a sacrifice to Zeus.  Of course, after giving gifts to the gods, it was said that the recipient gods would be pleased.  Of course, this means the bigger and more expensive the gift, the better!  The gods, especially Zeus, were incredibly similar to the humans that worshipped them, and Zeus very much appreciated the art of war.  The chosen topic for this gift embodies the raw military power that Greece possessed, and it was probably seated on a fine bronze cauldron with the most ornate artwork (probably of military conquest) the artist could muster.  This pleasure was said to be enough to protect the gift givers from harm, so if you consider that remuneration, then they were divinely remunerated.  

World-Historical Significance

The object's significance is that it represented everything Greek all at once.  After plunging through a political struggle and prevailing with radical concepts and strange new ways, the Greeks still retain their traditions of giving tithe to the one that protects them, Zeus.  Of course, the rest of the world does not agree with that at all, they each have their own set of different pantheons of gods, some worship only one god they've name Yahweh .  Some follow a path that worships no gods at all, and one is inadvertently becoming a god himself (Prince Siddhartha ).  These are some of the biggest roots in major conflict, and Greece is ready to fight them.  Their hoplites are the common folk that provide food and trade goods, and they also provide service to the gods that protect them by fighting those who oppose.  These hoplites fought in a specialized formation known for its efficiency and its effectiveness.  In its own language it is "φάλαγξ", which is translated to phalanx , but that does not do it justice.  Before the military formation, it was simply a term that "referred to a long and solid segment of any material".  When applied to military strategy, it forms many warriors into one, single being that was side by side, back to front, shields raised; it was a truly fearsome and looming beast to face in combat.  The phalanx functioned as a unit rather than a multitude of men, and this formation worked for a long time [see Echeverría 2012, 303-305].  This Attacking Warrior represents this spirit, and it was made as a gift to a god whose spirit matched that of his followers.

Of course, giving gifts to gods was not by any means a new idea.  Almost every different culture did the exact same thing, though their gods may not have appreciated the same things that Zeus did.  However, until the Greeks spread their influence to the later Roman Empire and along the Southwest Asian territories via trade and later Alexander the Great , it was the only one of its kind.  They were kind of geographically isolated in a sense; they did not have anyone to fight with but themselves mainly.  This lack of a lot of outside influence allowed them to develop their own Hellenistic style.  


Clay, R.. "Front Matter." The Journal of Hellenic Studies 5: 207-208. 1884. (accessed May 30, 2014).

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Echeverría, Fernando. "Hoplite and Phalanx in Archaic and Classical Greece: A Reassessment." Classical Philology 107: 291-318. 2012. (accessed May 30, 2014).

Lewis, John David. "Solon of Athens and the Ethics of Good Business." Journal of Business Ethics 89: 123-138. 2009. (accessed May 30, 2014).

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