The Agora area has proven extremely fertile in terms of Hellenistic sculpture finds. Athens and the Agora in particular, became transfigured into a cultural centre of great importance for the eastern Mediterranean, and the proliferation of votive offerings and works of art exhibited in the Agora temples and its open air spaces between the various buildings came as a natural consequence. Unfortunately, the best examples of this artistic output, cast in marble or bronze and described concisely by Pausanias, have not survived. In contrast to the masterpieces of the 5th cent. BC, very few of these Hellenistic artworks are considered of superior quality.
One of the most exceptional creations dating to this period is a relief depicting a scene from the childhood of Dionysus, a votive offering of Neoptolemos from Melite dated to around 330-320 BC. Rather later, in the 4th cent. AD, this relief was added to the collection of the owner of a school of philosophy, known as House Z. In the 6th cent. AD, when the operation of such institutions was banned, the relief was destroyed by Christian zealots, who chiselled off the faces of all the figures. The scene is set in a cavern –in analogy to reliefs depicting the god Pan– were a group of Olympian gods, led by Zeus, observe Hermes handing over the infant Dionysus to the Nymphs of Mt Nyssa who will be responsible for his upbringing.
Of particular interest is a collection of reliefs bearing the figure of the Mother of the Gods: she is depicted seated, flanked by her faithful lions, sometimes inside a naiskos. These are liberal reproductions of the renowned devotional statue, a work of Agorakritos or Pheidias, which was housed in the Metroon.
We should also mention the famous Tanagras (a.k.a. Tanagra figurines), terracotta statuettes depicting females from the early Hellenistic period; originally these were crafted in Tanagra of Boeotia but soon became began to be produced throughout the Greek world, especially in Alexandria and Athens. An exquisite example of this type is a headless figurine depicting the goddess Aphrodite holding a mirror in her hands.
The quality of pottery artefacts deteriorates rapidly during the Hellenistic period. Following the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great the pictorial styles all but disappear. Some of the rare painted vases belong to the so-called Acropolis North Slope style. The entire surface of these wares is covered with black glaze, while any decoration, floral, geometric and (more rarely) pictorial, is implemented with superimposed colours, mostly white. The most important, perhaps, vase of this style comes from the Agora area, an enormous kantharos dedicated to Artemis and Dionysus. Its pictorial theme is Artemis as a huntress. 


1. Agora Museum Ι 7154. Votive relief of Neoptolemos from Melite. Zeus oversees the entrusting of the infant Dionysus to the Nymphs. 330-320 BC. Stewart, A., Greek Sculpture. An Exploration (Yale 1990), fig. 581-583.
2.  Agora Museum S 922. Relief depicting the Mother of the Gods seated inside a naiskos and accompanied by two human figures. 4th cent. BC. Copy of the ivory statue of the goddess (a work of Agorakritos or Pheidias). Camp, p. 119, fig. 68).
3.  Agora Museum Τ 139. Aphrodite figurine in the Tanagra style. Late 4th cent. BC. Bol, P.C. et al., Die Geschichte der antiken Bildhauerkunst II. Klassische Plastik (Mainz 2004), fig. 424.
4.   Agora Museum. Kantharos of the West Slope style dedicated to Artemis and Dionysus, depicting the goddess hunting. 280 BC.

The project "Virtual Reality Digital Collection 'The Ancient Agora of Athens'" has been co-funded in a percentage of 80% by the European Regional Development Fund and in a percentage of 20% by state funds in the framework of the Operational Programme "Information Society" of the 3rd Community Support Framework.

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