The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details








Athens, Greece (Place Found)


300–200 B.C.



Object Number:



81.5 × 70 × 66 cm (32 1/16 × 27 9/16 × 26 in.)

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Object Description

Known as the Elgin Throne, this rare surviving example of Greek marble furniture was once in the collection of Lord Elgin at Broomhall House in Scotland. The throne has a high, curved back, and solid sides. The seat of the chair is polished from use. Lion legs flank the front of the throne; above these are double volutes forming the armrests. A broad horizontal band in relief runs from leg to leg around the back of the chair; this serves as the ground line for scenes carved on both sides. On the left side, in flat relief, is a depiction of Theseus—nude and with shield and helmet—killing the queen of the Amazons. He stands above the fallen queen about to strike a blow as she covers her head. The scene on the right side is a depiction of two nude swordsmen about to attack. Recognizable by their poses, they are the tyrannicides ("tyrant slayers") Harmodios and Aristogeiton, two Athenian aristocrats who tried to kill the despotic ruler of Athens in 514 B.C.

On the back of the throne in low relief are two symmetrical olive-wreaths—symbols of honor or victory. A partial inscription running along the upper edge of the back names Boethos. The man’s identity is unknown, and the inscription is not preserved well enough to determine whether Boethos made or dedicated the chair. The placement of the words is unusual. On other chairs like this, inscriptions are usually carved on the front in order to be easily seen when the chair is unoccupied. The location of this inscription, combined with the two olive wreaths in relief, suggests that the rear of the chair was meant to be visible.

The throne may originally have been placed in a public space in Athens, where it would have served as a seat of honor. The decoration on the sides of the chair appears to be connected with this official function. The two complementary figural scenes depict tales of Athens' liberation, one historical and one mythological. In 514 B.C., Harmodios and Aristogeiton, during a failed attempt to assassinate the tyrant Hippias, killed his brother Hipparchos. The image of the tyrannicides on the throne reproduces famous bronze statues of the pair by Kritias and Nesiotes (active about 500-460 B.C.). In 477 B.C., this sculptural group was erected in the Athenian Agora, where it commemorated the city’s liberation from despotic rule. The statues are now known only from Roman copies. Marble copies of the tyrannicides were commissioned by the Roman emperor Hadrian (ruled A.D. 117-138) for his villa in Tivoli, Italy.

The other scene on the throne most likely depicts the Athenian hero Theseus battling an Amazon during a legendary invasion of the city. The Amazons were a mythical tribe of women warriors who were descended from the Olympian god Ares and a nymph living in the region of the Caucasus. According to the myth, Theseus crushed an Amazon invasion of Athens. Images of Theseus and other heroes defeating Amazons were prevalent in Athenian art. The most prominent depictions of these battles were on the Parthenon, the temple of Athena on the Acropolis in Athens. Such scenes also adorned the shield of the Athena Parthenos, the colossal gold and ivory statue that stood inside the temple.

before 1792

Found: Athens, Greece (first recorded by Louis François Sébastien Fauvel (in a notebook dating between 1786-1972) in the church Sotira Licomedou, Philhellene Street, Athens)

by 1805 - 1841

Thomas Bruce, 7th earl of Elgin, 1766 - 1841 (Broomhall, Scotland), by inheritance to his son, James Bruce, 1841.


James Bruce, 8th earl of Elgin, 1811 - 1863 (Broomhall, Scotland), by inheritance to his son, Victor Bruce, 1863.


Victor Bruce, 9th earl of Elgin, 1849 - 1917 (Broomhall, Scotland), by inheritance to his son, Edward Bruce, 1917.


Edward Bruce, 10th earl of Elgin, 1881 - 1968 (Broomhall, Scotland), by inheritance to his son, Andrew Bruce, 1968.


Andrew Bruce, 11th earl of Elgin, born 1924 (Broomhall, Scotland)

- 1974

Robin Symes, Limited, founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1974.

Exhibition of Greek Art 3000 B.C. - A.D.1938 (January 1 to December 31, 1943)
  • National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh), 1943
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Glasgow), October 5 to October 31, 1943
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999

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Benndorf, O. Archaeologische Zeitung, 1869, p. 106, n. 2.

Michaelis, Adolf. "Ancient Marbles in Great Britain. Supplement I." Journal of Hellenic Studies 5 (1884), pp. 143-161, pp. 146-48, no. 5; pl. 48.

Gardner, E. A. Handbook of Greek Sculpture. (London: 1897), p. 182, fig. 3.

Smith, A. H. "Lord Elgin and his Collection." Journal of Hellenic Studies 36 (1916), pp. 163-372, pp. 286, 294.

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Seltman, Charles. Exhibition of Greek Art, 3000 B.C.- A.D. 1938, exh. cat. (Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1943), no. 296.

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Seltman, Charles. "Two Athenian Marble Thrones." Journal of Hellenic Studies 67 (1947) pp. 22-30, pp. 22-27; figs. 1-2; pls. 6a, 7.

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Frischer, Bernard. The Sculpted Word: Epicureanism and Philosophical Recruitment in Ancient Greece (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 250-60, figs 32 and 34.

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Palagia, Olga. "The Elgin Throne and the Tyrannicides." In Γλυπτική και κοινωνία στη ρωμαϊκή Ελλάδα: καλλιτεχνικά προϊόντα, κοινωνικές προβολές. Παυλίνα Καραναστάση, Θεοδοσία Στεφανίδου-Τιβερίου, Δημήτρης Δαμάσκος, eds. (Thessaloniki: University Studio Press, 2018), pp.67-74.