Monday, 11 February 2013

The Siphnian Treasury at Delphi

The Samians who had fought against Polycrates, seeing that the Lacedaemonians were about to leave them in the lurch, also abandoned the campaign and sailed to Siphnos. They were in need of money, and the Siphnians at that time were at the height of their prosperity, they were richer than any other of the island peoples, having gold and silver mines so productive that a tenth part of their output was enough to furnish a treasury at Delphi not inferior in value to the most splendid to be found there. The remainder of the yield was shared out each year amongst the islanders themselves. When they began depositing money in their treasury at Delphi, they asked the oracle if it was possible that their present posterity could last for any length of time.” (Herodotus.III.57)

Because of Herodotus' association with a historic event we can date the construction of the Siphnian Treasury to c.525 BCE, a crucial fixed point in Archaic chronology. The elaborate Ionic building was the first structure built entirely of marble in mainland Greece; the east frieze is the earliest known representation of the gods seated in formal assembly on Olympus as described in the Iliad; and one of the first Greek buildings to to fill the corners of the pediment with reclining figures.

Further reading
The Sculptural Program of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, L.V.Watrous, American Journal of Archaeology, vol.86, no.2 (Apr. 1982) pp.159-172