• r2-167-10
    Fragment of Helios as charioteer, overview. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Fragment of Helios as Charioteer

5th or 6th C. AD, Late Lydian (Persian)
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Votive Relief
MC 71
B Marble Court
B-Grid Coordinates
E21.40 / N50.20
B MC, above the marble floor.

Helios is shown as a charioteer, swinging his whip over his head with his r. hand. The whip has a short handle and a long corded or braided strap which comes down to the charioteer’s l. ear, then falls on his shoulder. He stands with his back partly against a pillar topped by acanthus leaves, and partly free of it. Almost all of the back of the skull and a little more than half of the back can be seen. The two arms and the whip are also free of the background, resulting in characteristic open work. The body is fat and massive, and the neck is broad and short. The head is squarish, with a small pouting or smiling mouth. The button lips have a small central drilled hole. His forehead is crowned by a series of broad, triangular rays. The body was probably intended to be athletic. To the l. of the figure are cuttings: a horizontal one is at head height; the other, after a dotted drill row, is perhaps the upper rim of a chariot. The back pillar, which is somewhat rounded, spreads at the top to end in three preserved acanthus leaves. It looks as if originally there could not have been more than five.

The tooling is largely with a small stop drill and light chisel. The surface is smoothed. Fingers are indicated by incision.

The strict r. and l. profile views make Helios look like a Byzantine emperor of the 5th or 6th C. He belongs to a well-known group of open-work alabaster sculpture.


Marble, alabaster-like, and yellowish.

Broken at waist of figure and on l. side; part of r. arm broken, and l. arm below the elbow. There are traces of black pigment (water soluble) on locks, nose, and whip.

H. 0.135; W. 0.103; Th. 0.058; H. of back pillar 0.13.
Comparison may be made with a rayed and garlanded round-faced Helios, together with Zeus, on a provincial work from Lykaonia, Budde-Nicholls, Catalogue Fitzwilliam, no. 124, p. 76-77, pl. 41. Cf. also a late Helios recently discovered at Aphrodisias, announced at AIA meetings, Chicago 1974, by Kenan Erim. Cf. L’Orange, Likeness, 28, fig. 9, bronze of Sol-Constantine, similar to Sardis; and 333-343, figs. 5-6, Sol Invictus--Emperor as charioteer. For representations of Sol and Christ as charioteers see Hanfmann, Roman Art 1975, 242, 327, pl. XIV with references to the mosaics in Rome and Hammath-Tiberias. On Helios, see Hoffmann, Helios. Helios with whip appears on Sardian coins under Elagabalus, A.D. 220-222; these will be published in a forthcoming volume in this series by A.E.M. Johnston.
See Also
Published: BASOR206, 29, fig. 18. G. Kleiner thought that not only the head rays but also the floral (acanthus) rays refer to the Sun God, of whom there are many representations in Byzantine manuscripts.