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A marble statue of a man holding a flat object in his left hand while looking down towards his right hand which is missing some digits. - click to view larger image
Statue of a discus thrower

SOPHIA: What is this statue holding? If you said ‘frisbee’, you’re super close. If you said ‘discus’, you’re even closer because you’re right!

Have you ever thrown a discus? Maybe at your school athletics carnival? Maybe you’ve seen one at the Olympics. This here is a statue of a young athlete from Ancient Greece, getting ready to throw his discus.

Now, I’m guessing at your athletics carnival you probably wore clothes, right? Well this competitor is definitely totally absolutely starkers. His bottom is bare. He’s nikky nakky nekkid! No fig leaves here, people! You get the idea.

Why do you think that is? Did athletes really compete naked? Or is this another way of showing all of the athlete’s muscles for the statue? Guess what! The answer is both!

This statue is actually a Roman copy of an Ancient Greek statue. The original would have been made of bronze, but this one is made of marble. Romans loved Greek culture and often made copies of their art. Lots of the originals have been lost or destroyed and only the Roman marble copies have survived.

If you’ve ever broken one of your parents’ vases and tried to fix it without them knowing (it’s okay, I won’t tell) you’ll probably notice that this statue has been repaired. A lot.

Look at the different types of marble they’ve used to fix it. Almost every bit of it has been replaced or mended, except for the main body and a little bit of the discus. But there were so many copies made of this statue, it was easy to repair it and make it look just like the original.

There’s another really cool statue of an athlete in this exhibition. It’s called the Vaison Diadoumenus statue. See if you can find it. Hint – it’s another nudey rudey. Look at them both and see what’s similar – and what’s different.

This statue shows the athlete before the discus event. The Vaison Diadoumenos statue shows the athlete after he won the competition, so they look a bit different. The Ancient Greeks loved sports and celebrating their sporting heroes. That’s why there are so many statues of them.

Sometimes we idolise our athletes too. But, today, they definitely wear clothes. Much less awkward.

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This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.

© National Museum of Australia 2007–21. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.

Date published: 17 December 2021

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