1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Myron
MYRON, a Greek sculptor of the middle of the 5th century B.C. He was born at Eleutherae on the borders of Boeotia and Attica. He worked almost exclusively in bronze: and though he made some statues of gods and heroes, his fame rested principally upon his representations of athletes, in which he made a revolution, by introducing greater boldness of pose and a more perfect rhythm. His most famous works according to Pliny (Nat. Hist., 34, 57) were a cow, Ladas the runner, who fell dead at the moment of victory, and a discus-thrower. The cow seems to have earned its fame mainly by serving as a peg on which to hang epigrams, which tell us nothing about the pose of the animal. Of the Ladas there is no known copy. But we are fortunate in possessing several copies of the discobolus, of which the best is in the Massimi palace at Rome (see Greek Art, Pl. iv. fig. 68). The example in the British Museum has the head put on wrongly. The athlete is represented at the moment when he has swung back the discus with the full stretch of his arm, and is about to hurl it with the full weight of his body. The head should be turned back toward the discus.
A marble figure in the Lateran Museum (see Greek Art, Pl. iii. fig. 64), which is now restored as a dancing satyr, is almost certainly a copy of a work of Myron, a Marsyas desirous of picking up the flutes which Athena had thrown away (Pausanias, i. 24, 1). The full group is copied on coins of Athens, on a vase and in a relief which represent Marsyas as oscillating between curiosity and the fear of the displeasure of Athena.
The ancient critics say of Myron that, while he succeeded admirably in giving life and motion to his figures, he did not succeed in rendering the emotions of the mind. This agrees with the extant evidence, in a certain degree, though not perfectly. The bodies of his men are of far greater excellence than the heads. The face of the Marsyas is almost a mask; but from the attitude we gain a vivid impression of the passions which sway him. The face of the discus-thrower is calm and unruffled; but all the muscles of his body are concentrated in an effort.
A considerable number of other extant works are ascribed to the school or the influence of Myron by A. Furtwängler in his suggestive Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture (pp. 168–219). These attributions, however, are anything but certain, nor do the arguments by which Furtwängler supports his attributions bear abridgment.
A recently discovered papyrus from Egypt informs us that Myron made statues of the athlete Timanthes, victorious at Olympia in 456 B.C., and of Lycinus, victorious in 448 and 444. This helps us to fix his date. He was a contemporary, but a somewhat older contemporary, of Pheidias and Polyclitus. (P.G.)