The Rampin Horseman , also known as the Rampin Rider, is a fragmented marble statue which depicts a man riding a horse. The sculpture was created in Greece sometime in the middle of the 6th century BCE (Louvre). Due to the location at which the sculpture was located, the Acropolis of Athens , the statue was likely either of religious significance, or a representation of a victor of a horserace.
The Rampin Horseman was one of a very large number of sculptures made in ancient Greece in the general time period in which it was created. The statue was made out of pure marble, and seems to have been painted red and black, as suggested by the remnants of polychrome paint found on the statue (Louvre). Like most other marble sculptures of Athen during this time, the Rampin Horseman was likely created by a single sculptor using a combination of a chisel and small hand drill (Adam 1966, 86-87).
Although the tools and materials used to create the Rampin Horseman are very standard for Greek sculpting, the actual craftsmanship of the statue was very exceptional for its time, and is often attributed to a highly skilled artisan known as the Rampin Master (Louvre). The expectational quality of the piece within Greek craftsmanship is particularly impressive as Greek marble sculptures were already praised as some of the best in the world. The various fragments of the statue were all found at the Acropolis of Athens, but not at the same time. The Rampin Head, as it was known before the rest of the statue was found, was found in 1877 and sold to a man name George Rampin, after whom the sculpture was named, who gave the piece to the Louvre nineteen years later (Louvre).
Local Historical ContextEdit
The approximate date of the creation of the Rampin Horseman, 550 BCE, was a time in which Athens was reach a position of incredible power among Greek cities (Violet 2009, 123). The transition from small township to a city and central trade hub during the 7th century BCE allowed Athens to expand rapidly in terms of wealth, but also in craftsmanship (Violet 2009, 124). The Rampin Horseman was one of many artistic contribution to the Acropolis of Athens that transformed it from a relatively simple city to a symbol of Athenian and Greek culture (Hurwit 1999, 104). Not only does the statue help to express a general trend towards power and affluence in Athens, it also may be a reflection of the internal political environment of Athens around 550 BCE. The Archaic Period in Athens, which encompasses the 6th century BCE, was a time of political turbulence focused primarily around a long struggle between a wealthy oligarchical ruling class, a lower class calling for democracy, and occasional tyrants of varying success (Hurwit 1999, 99-100). During the the years surrounding 550 BCE the powerful ruling class of Athens had brief control of the city between two periods of rule by the tyrant Peisistratos (Hurwit, 1999, 101).
Because many of the statues created on the Acropolis of Athens were commissioned by wealthy families as a sort of propaganda, it is very likely that the Rampin Horseman may too have served a very political purpose (Hurwit 1999, 102). Because of the high expenses of maintaining horses during the time period, equestrian sports such as horse racing were often restricted to the elite classes of the city (Golden 1997, 330-331). Between the tendency of wealthy families to hire sculptors for the Acropolis, the elite status of horse racing, and the period of aristocratic control of Athens, it is very likely that the Rampin Horseman served as a political symbol of aristocratic power.
World Historical Significance
The Rampin Horseman was created during a time in which Athens was benefiting from expansive global trade, and the superior craftsmanship of the piece along with the abundant numbers of its contemporary works is a piece of evidence that exhibits the extent of that increasing flow of resources across the world (Violet 2009, 124). The rise in wealth and power in Athens that the Rampin Horseman helps to illustrate is globally significant not just in the new levels of interconnectivity across Eurasia, but also in that it marks Athens rise to a strong position power in both Mediterranean politics and culture, and well as the culture of large parts of Eurasia.
The expansion of Athens is also a primary factor in the beginning of the Hellenistic Period, which begun shortly after the end of the Archaic Period and lasted almost into the beginning of the Common Era (Bagnall 1981, xvii). This period is one of cultural and political expansion of Greek and especially Athenian culture, politics, and art across most of the Mediterranean and large parts of the world.
Jeffery M. Hurwit, The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era ti the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Roger Bagnall trans. and Peter Derow, trans., The Hellenistic Period (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1981)
Sheila Adam, “The Technique of Greek Sculpture in the Archaic and Classical Periods,” The British School at Athens. Supplementary Volumes 3 (1966): 1-137
Mark Golden, “Equestrian Competition in Ancient Greece: Difference, Dissent, Democracy,” Phoenix 51 (1997): 327-344
William Violet and M. Wayne Alexander, “An Overview of Accounting Develpments in Archaic and Classical Greece,” Academy of Accounting & Financial Studies 13 (2009): 123-131