Museum Home Current Exhibitions Relief with Antiochos and Herakles

May 23, 2012–April 21, 2015 at the Getty Villa

On loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, a stele honoring Prokleides, a military officer in the Athenian army, is on view at the Getty Villa in a gallery (208) devoted to Religious Offerings. Carved in relief above a public decree are figures of Antiochos, the mythical founder of the tribe Antiochis, and his father, the Greek hero Herakles.

Wearing a dignified mantle and resting on his staff (no longer visible, but probably added in pigment), Antiochos faces Herakles, who is depicted as an athletic nude holding a club and lion skin. Both stand inside a small temple that crowns the stele. Their squat proportions, their exaggerated facial features, and the stiff drapery folds are characteristic of reliefs dating to the late 300s. On the lower part of the slab is an inscription recording the honors bestowed on the taxiarch (commander) Prokleides by his loyal soldiers. This is the reference referring to the select infantry corps called the epilektoi, a group of men bound together by their military service, participation in sacrifices and theatrical performances, and membership in the Athenian Council.

Historical Background

Both political art and religious votive, the stele was discovered in 1922 in the foundations of a house in the Athenian neighborhood of Dourgouti. In antiquity, the area was known as Kynosarges and was the site of a public gymnasium and a sanctuary of Herakles. Finds of several other inscriptions mentioning the tribe Antiochis suggest that a shrine to Antiochos was located in the vicinity.

The creation of the Attic tribes was the most important feature of the revolutionary reorganization of Athenian politics that followed the overthrow of the tyrants in 508 B.C. and the development of a democratic constitution. In this system, ten tribes composed of approximately 3,000 citizens and their families were established, and each was assigned the name of a mythical Athenian hero. Antiochos was the namesake of the tribe Antiochis. Drawn from villages in three distinct zones of the Athenian territory—the coast, the inland farming region, and the urban/suburban zone—the tribes represented the entire citizenry of Athens.

Conservation and Documentation

To enhance legibility of the faint letters, Getty Imaging Services teamed with Antiquities Conservation to apply an innovative technique known as Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a two-phase process involving photographing the inscribed slab at varying degrees of raking light. Uploaded to software, the images were combined to create a mathematical model of the object's surface. Within the RTI viewer, the direction and intensity of light was manipulated with filters to enhance areas of interest. In the final composed image (left), the shallow writing appears with unprecedented depth and clarity, revealing several previously undocumented letters along the broken lower edge.

About the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the world's great museums. Although its original purpose was to secure all the finds from the 19th-century excavations in and around Athens, it gradually became the central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all over Greece.

The decree relief is the first loan stemming from the 2011 Framework for Cultural Cooperation between the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, which provides for joint research, conservation, loans, and exhibitions.