Doryphoros – Epitome of Ancient Greek Character

October 5, 2013 at 11:33 pm (Art History)

Marble copy of Doryphoros

Marble copy of Doryphoros

The dawn of the Greek Classical Period is commemorated by “a sense of Hellenic identity,” which led to victory over the Persians and a clear delineation between Asian and European cultures (Kleiner 104).  Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (Spear Bearer, ca. 450-440 BCE) celebrates Greek culture in style, iconography and philosophy.

The Spear Bearer, like all statuary of the Classical Period, exhibits the “Severe Style”, a system whose attributes depart greatly from those of the Archaic Period.   Facial expressions are serene and expressionless, in contrast to the “archaic smile” of earlier art.  A natural stance is achieved by contrapposto, or counterbalance of the anatomical parts.  Polykleitos takes this technique to a level that realizes “dynamic asymmetrical balance [or] motion while at rest (111).”  The freedom of the statue is made possible by employing a bronze hollow-casting technique.  Statues created with this method are both lightweight and stable without the use of supports (109).  These stylistic conventions carry over into the iconography of Doryphoros.  Together, they are utilized to embody the perfect human specimen.

The representations of Classical Greece reflect the views of Aeschylus, which reject the barbarous characteristics associated with the defeated Persians.  Utilizing the proportional Canon set forth by Polykleitos, The Spear Bearer “epitomizes the intellectual rigor of Classical art” and its importance in Greek society.  These conventions also reflect the earlier work of Pythagoras, who “believed […] that underlying proportions could be found in all of nature, determining the form of the cosmos as well as of things on earth, and that beauty resided in harmonious numerical ratios (110).”   Finally, the principles serve to emphasize the Greek fascination with the beauty of the human form and the almost godlike importance of humankind.  Of all the artifacts uncovered by historians of Ancient Greece, Polykleitos’ Doryphoros best epitomizes Greek character.


Kleiner, Fred S.  Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.  Boston: Wadsworth, 2010.  Print.


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