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48.2.David

A well-known tourist landmark near the beach at Apollonas, Naxos - namely a colossal statue lying prone, unfinished, and still within its marble matrix - has been consistently misidentified as either Dionysus, Apollo, or an odd kouros votive, and just as consistently misdated to the late-seventh or early-sixth century BCE. This paper argues that the distinctive image is actually that of an Achaemenid Persian king, and that its unfinished state is perhaps not the result of imperfections in the stone or cracks appearing at the start of its transport, but rather is due to the brief and tenuous nature of the Empire’s sway over the island. The first thorough examination of this sculpture was published in 1937 by Stanley Casson (ABSA 37 [1936/7]: 21-25), and his description remains the best to date. While primarily concerned with quarrying technologies and the process by which such colossal figures were produced, he suggests that this was a divine figure, perhaps Apollo, and concludes that the stylistic and technological evidence is insufficient to pinpoint its period of origin, though he does seem to imply a sixth-century date. Subsequent cursory discussions have largely followed Casson’s lead regarding the work’s abandonment (e.g., Boardman [1991], 19; cf. Burn [1960], 313), with most tentatively suggesting that the statue was meant to be a cult image of Dionysus, the island’s protector and recipient of significant rites near Naxos city. Yet the colossus is by all accounts odd, not conforming to typical styles of either cult statuary or Ionic kouroi of the sixth century BCE. The first half of the present paper considers each supposedly distinctive attribute, most notably the fez-like headgear, the figure’s facial hair, the draped attire, and the precise positioning of its raised arm. The conclusion is that none of these features are unconventional in the context of Achaemenid royal iconography, and the subsequent discussion incorporates a number of parallels, including sculptures from Naqsh-i Rustam, Persepolis, and Behistun (Sekunda, in Curtis and Simpson, eds. [2010]: 255-272). Some further stylistic observations are then offered. The remainder of the analysis concerns the historical implications of this identification. Specifically focusing on the latter half of the reign of Darius I (r. 522-486 BCE), this study suggests that either Darius or his predecessor Cambyses (r. 530-522 BCE) would have been the king depicted, and that tumultuous events on the island perhaps led to the abandonment of work on this figure before its completion. The years immediately following Datis and Artaphrenes’ naval campaign (Hdt. 6.95-96) are the most likely timeframe for commission of the statue, though the possibility of an earlier date, during the reign of the tyrant Lygdamis ([Arist.] Oec. 2.3), is also considered.

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