Comparative Guts

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Roman marble version of a dying Gaul

the original was part of a major sculptural display on the Athenian Acropolis of Attalid Greeks fighting Gauls in Asia Minor, Gods fighting Giants, Greeks fighting Amazons, and Greeks fighting Persians in the Persian Wars, c.200 B.C.

Naples Dying Gaul
Photo: Mary Harrsch, CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

In c. 200 BCE Attalos I, the Hellenistic king whose capital was at Pergamon, responded positively to an Athenian appeal for help against Philip V of Macedon. Almost certainly in that context, the Athenians agreed that Attalos could put along the south side of the Acropolis a monument marking the Pergamene victories over the Gauls in the later third century. This monument showed a series of great battles, mythological and historical – Gods against Giants, Greeks against Amazons, Greeks against Persians, and Attalos’ forces against Gauls. The sculptures were two-thirds life-size, and this has meant that, although the original statues are lost, marble copies of them from Rome have been identified. One of the features of these sculptures, seen here in an image of a dying Gaul, is the willingness to show the wounds of those who have been defeated. But although we are shown blood spurting from the wounds, here again, as in the earlier representation of Sarpedon, the wounds themselves are neat incisions, and blood is all that is to be seen. Nothing of the innards of the body is ever shown.