Hellenistic-Era ‘Dancing Muses’ Statue Unearthed After 22 Centuries

Published December 14, 2023

The newly discovered statue is a rare original piece by Philiskos of Rhodes, a famed sculptor whose work was often replicated.

Dancing Muses Statue Unearthed

Stratonikeia ve Lagina Kazısı / XThe “Dancing Muses” statue depicts a figure from ancient mythology.

In the ancient Greek city of Stratonikeia, Turkey, archaeologists recently uncovered a marvelous relic: the statue “Dancing Muses,” which had been lost for 2,175 years.

Per the Daily Sabah, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed that this is the original “Dancing Muses,” a Hellenistic-period piece that has been replicated many times throughout history across Anatolia and Greece.

Creation of this original work has been attributed to the famous second-century B.C.E. sculptor Philiskos, who was renowned for his ability to convey movement and anatomical accuracy in his artwork.

The unearthing of the original work by Philiskos marks a major cultural discovery for Turkish archaeologists, as it firmly establishes Philiskos’ presence in ancient Stratonikeia.

Known as “the city of eternal loves and gladiators,” Stratonikeia is one of the largest marble-built cities in the world, and the only city-state with two major sanctuaries within it — one dedicated to Hekate, the other to Zeus. Today, it is located in the Eskihisar village in Turkey’s Mugla Province.

Digging Out The Dancing Muses

Stratonikeia ve Lagina Kazısı / XResearchers digging the “Dancing Muses” statue out of the ground.

Archaeologists found this rare sculpture inside a frigidarium — or cold bath — in the Roman baths of Stratonikeia. Unfortunately, the statue wasn’t in perfect condition. While most of the statue is intact, including its body and base, its head and arms are still missing.

Philiskos hailed from Rhodes, a major center for artistic innovation during his time, and records indicate that he mostly created heroes and gods from ancient mythology. The “Dancing Muses” was said to depict one of the muses born from the union of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Philiskos is believed to have sculpted, in total, nine sculptures of the muses.

Archaeologists Cleaning Dancing Muses Statue

Stratonikeia ve Lagina Kazısı / XArchaeologists cleaning off the uncovered “Dancing Muses” statue.

Little information is known about Philiskos, however, as up until now it was believed that none of his original sculptures had survived. Rather, historians have had to rely on written records and references by other artists to understand the true extent of Philiskos’ influence on the ancient art world.

Previously, a replica of his original “Dancing Muses” was discovered in another Roman bath in the city of Perge, and another in Rhodes, indicating just how widespread these replicas were. Finding the original sculpture by Philiskos, however, offers a true glimpse at his technique and influence.

Dancing Muses Statue

Stratonikeia ve Lagina Kazısı / XThe recovered “Dancing Muses” statue, missing its arms and head.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that the statue will be exhibited at the Muğla Museum after restoration work on the statue has finished.

After reading about this newly discovered statue, read about the enormous statue of a man holding his penis that was also recovered in Turkey. Or, read about the farmer in Kyrgyzstan who unearthed a massive 6th-century warrior statue while plowing his field.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Cite This Article
Harvey, Austin. "Hellenistic-Era ‘Dancing Muses’ Statue Unearthed After 22 Centuries." AllThatsInteresting.com, December 14, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/dancing-muses-statue. Accessed June 15, 2024.