Ancient Greece Blog

Boxer at Rest

The “Boxer at Rest” (Terme Boxer or Boxer of the Quirinal) is a Hellenistic Greek bronze sculpture of a sitting nude boxer at rest, still wearing his leather hand-wraps. The statue was excavated in Rome in 1885 on the south slope of the Quirinal Hill near the ancient Baths of Constantine, where it is thought to have been displayed.

The Bronze statue Boxer at Rest

The Bronze statue Boxer at Rest at the time of discovery in 1885 on the south slope of the Quirinal Hill in Rome.

Was it made by a Greek sculptor in Rome, or was it brought there by ship as many other sculptures were? The answer is unknown. And who is the boxer? Some have identified him as the Boxer of Quirinal, who won at Olympia for the first time in 336 BC following a grueling career of continuous defeats. Others say he is Polydamas, an athlete of legendary strength born in Tessaglia and then called to the court of Persia by Darius II.

Boxer at Rest, c. 330 BC, now on display at the National Roman Museum, Rome.

The sculpture was buried intentionally in late antiquity, possibly to preserve it against the barbarian invasions that ravaged Rome in the fifth century AD. The Boxer is one of the finest examples of bronze sculptures to have survived from the ancient world. The sculpture is soldered together from eight segments, separately cast through the lost-wax process. The joins have been filed and finished to be almost invisible.

The boxer’s several head injuries are consistent with ancient boxing techniques, in which the head was the main target. The copper inlays, indicating blood, heighten the effect. The artist probably used different tin levels to depict the discoloration from the swelling of blood inside his cheek.

His right eye is swollen, his nose broken, and his ears are swollen from the severity of the blows inflicted, probably causing hearing loss. His scarred lips are sunken, suggesting he also has missing teeth, and there are drops of blood trickling down his right arm and leg. Along with the finely sculpted details of the boxer’s facial wounds, the expression and gaze hint at a deeper trauma beneath his bronze façade. Twisting to the side, his face is a mixture of suffering and confusion.

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