1.8K-Year-Old Hercules Statue Unearthed From 'Small Rome'

Statue of the demigod unearthed in ancient Greek metropolis of Philippi
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2022 10:00 AM CDT

A larger-than-life statue of the mythical hero Hercules has been discovered hiding in the ancient Greek metropolis of Philippi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Researchers with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki uncovered the classical statue, dating back 1,800 years to the Roman period, during excavations on a main street in the city modeled as a "small Rome," per CNN. The depiction of a nude, youthful Hercules was confirmed based on a fragmented club and lion that would've hung from an outstretched left hand, per CBS News. According to legend, Hercules, the son of chief Greek deity Zeus, slayed a lion in the first of 12 trials imposed on him by King Eurystheus. One of his reputed weapons of choice was the club, per Smithsonian.

The statue, wearing a wreath of vine leaves, is thought to have decorated "an ornately embellished structure thought to be a fountain" also found during the dig, per CNN. The structure is much younger than the statue itself, dating to the eighth or ninth century, until the late Byzantine period. Archie Dunn, an expert in Byzantine archaeology who wasn't involved in the excavation, told CNN the statue would've stood "in the middle of the city, at the junction of two major streets." It would've decorated a square in the city, established by Macedonian King Philip II in 356BC, according to a statement from the country's Ministry of Culture and Sports. "This find demonstrates the way public spaces were decorated in the important cities of the Byzantine Empire, including Philippi," it adds. (More discoveries stories.)

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