A team of professors and students found the statue in the ancient city of Philippi. (all images via Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture)

A team of three professors and 24 students have unearthed a second-century statue of Hercules in the Ancient Greek city of Philippi. The “larger-than-life” work depicts the bare body of the youthful Roman god and once included a lion, a club, and a wreath, according to the Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture, which announced the discovery in mid-September.

Professor Natalia Poulos of the Aristotle University in Philippi led the excavation with help from fellow professors Anastasios Tantsis and Aristotle Menzos and a group of undergraduate students, post-graduate students, and doctoral candidates.

The larger-than-life statue of Hercules may have decorated a public fountain.

Per a statement from the Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture, the statue was found in a town square and adorned a building that may have been a public fountain.

That building, however, was constructed at least 700 years after the Hercules statue was created, in the eighth or ninth centuries CE during the Byzantine period. The Ministry reported that the practice of including Classical sculptures in Byzantine architecture has been seen in Constantinople.

Philippi — a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2016 — was founded in 356 BCE by King Philip II (the father of Alexander the Great). It was a thriving Ancient Greek city before being taken by the Ancient Romans in 42 BCE, but continued to thrive for centuries, becoming a cultural center during the emergence of Christianity in the region. The archaeological site features a Roman-era forum as well as examples of early Christian churches.

This summer, archaeologists found a fragment of another enormous Hercules statue — a gargantuan marble head — in the famed 60 BCE Antikythera shipwreck off the Greek Mediterranean coast. The head likely belonged to a decapitated Hercules statue at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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