16th of August 1972: a great day for the artistic and archaeological heritage of Calabria. The Ionian Sea returns to the solid land a pair of bronze statues with a chronology that has been a matter of contention since day one. Two unique warriors from a watery grave, most likely sculpted in Greece in the mid-5th century BCE, rescued off the coast of Riace Marina from a site known as Porto Forticchio. Their discovery is attributed to Stefano Mariottini, an amateur scuba diver who spotted the statues 300 meters off the coast and eight meters underwater. But the episode of the finding had implications that have not yet been completely clarified, like the mystery of the vanished third bronze thought to have gone missing at the time. But the mystery goes on around their date, creators, and which characters they represent. There are in fact twelve accredited hypotheses by scholars from all over the world, all of which are different from one another. This increases the charm and mystery around the two heroes even more.
As for their chronology there are two schools of thought—one holds that the warriors are fifth century B.C.E. originals that were created between 460 and 420 B.C.E., while another holds that the statues were produced later and consciously imitate Early Classical sculpture.
In terms of identifications, there has been speculation that the two statues represent Tydeus (Statue A) and Amphiaraus (Statue B), two warriors from Aeschylus’ tragic play, Seven Against Thebes (about Polyneices after the fall of his father, King Oedipus), and may have been part of a monumental sculptural composition.
Before going on public display in 1981 for the first time as “Statue A” and “Statue B”, the figures underwent a laborious process of restoration in Florence, which took five years. The statues, two life-size bronze statues of naked, bearded warriors, are on permanent display at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria, where they have become ambassadors for the region’s cultural heritage and identity.
Francesca Politi – JUMP TEAM