Roman replica of the original erected in 477/476 BC in Athens
Height 53.5 cm
When the tyrant Peisistratos seized power over Athens in 550 BC, the aristocratic ruling class felt humiliated. Questionable though its political legitimacy was, however, the tyrannis did lay important foundations for the city’s successful cultural policy. Work began on the Acropolis and the gigantic temple of Zeus.
The tyrant died in 527/528 BC, and power passed to his sons, Hippias and Hipparch. In 514 BC, the social structure of Athens was shaken by an act of violence: Harmodios and Aristogeiton, two men from influential circles, assassinated the tyrant Hipparch. Hippias survived, and the assassins were executed. Four years later, the tyrannis fell. In order to counter despotism effectively, the old aristocratic families developed innovative political models. The idea of the equality of all citizens became the basis for the invention of democracy. The Athenian citizens’ new self-image and self-confidence found expression in a monument. In the final years of the sixth century BC, a group of statues was erected in the market square depicting the tyrant’s assassins as naked heroes and thus symbolizing the triumph over despotism.
The celebrated sculptor Antenor cast the group of figures in bronze. Carried off by the Persians in 480/479 BC, it was replaced by a new group just three years later. The Frankfurt fragment shows the upper body of the younger tyrannicide, Harmodios, from a Roman copy. The right hand held the murder weapon and was raised to strike, as can be seen from the surviving shoulder.