Marble statue of a wounded warrior

Period: Mid-Imperial, Antonine

Date: ca. A.D. 138–181

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: H. 87 in. (220.98 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Hewitt Fund, 1925

Accession Number: 25.116


This young warrior, a little over lifesize, stands on a slanting base and leans slightly backward as if to gain momentum for throwing a spear. On the left arm, he once carried a shield of which only the central strap is preserved; it must have been of bronze, for the dowel hole is too small for the support of a heavy marble shield. In the raised right hand, he evidently held a spear, also of bronze, as indicated by the preserved portion of the hand and the glance of the eyes (the iris and pupil are incised). He is nude, except for a mantle that hangs over his left shoulder. On his head is a Corinthian helmet with the strips of the leather lining visible on the sides.
This statue is a Roman copy of a Greek bronze original that would not have needed the curving tree trunk support that connects the plinth and left leg. Though this support must have been an addition made by the Roman copyist, it is noteworthy that the sword suspended from it is of a Greek type. The rendering of the hair as close-lying ringlets, the simplified planes of the body, the strongly marked eyelids, the quasi-parallel folds of drapery, and the complicated pose in momentary action, all point to a date around or a little before the mid-fifth century B.C. for the Greek original.
The original statue, which must have been an outstanding work of its period, may have represented the Greek hero Protesilaos, who ignored an oracle's warning that the first Greek to step on Trojan soil would be the first to die in battle. The plinth of a second Roman copy in the British Museum, London, has a planklike form surrounded by waves, suggesting the statue might represent Protesilaos descending from his ship, ready to meet his fate. However, the Museum's statue was reinterpreted as a dying warrior falling backward, following the discovery of a wound carved in the right armpit. The Roman writer Pliny mentioned a so-called vulneratus deficiens ("falling warrior") as being among the works of the Greek sculptor Kresilas. Other identifications have been suggested to explain the unusual stance and the unique iconography of this statue and of the copy in London, but none has been generally accepted.