Croesus and Callinus, by Emily Ubik

This statue, known as the “Anavysos kouros,” dates to c. 530 BCE. It was found in a grave near Phoinikia, Greece at the beginning of the 20th century. The material used to make him was marble. His size is that of a full grown man. He is life-like.  He possesses no beard, but is the embodiment of youth, appearing naked. The base of his statue (found separately from him) is inscribed, “Stay and mourn the death of Croesus, whom raging Ares destroyed in the front ranks of battle.” Since he died in battle, it might be that Croesus was not a beardless youth at all, but this is how he will be remembered.

Croesus was someone who had “the bright honor…to do [and die] in battle,” as described by the 7th century BCE Greek poet Callinus of Ephesos:

A man, as he dies, should make one last throw with his spear.

It is a high thing, a bright honor, for a man to do battle …

and death is a thing that will come when the spinning destinies make it come …

[A]ll the populace is grieved for the high-hearted warrior after his death; while he lives, he is treated as almost divine.

Croesus had not “fled from the fight.” He sacrificed himself in battle and was honored in death. The statue captures him in his prime, at the height of his glory. As Neer states, “a man who dies in battle remains young forever.” Croesus is depicted as such.

The language of Callinus aligns perfectly with that of the artist. Indeed Croesus is represented as “almost divine.” As Richard Neer states, the purpose of the kouros is to display “radiant beauty, to preserve it forever.”[1] The statue reflects the same honor that Callinus described in his poem.

[1] Neer, Richard T. Greek Art and Archaeology. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012, pp. 153-156.