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Choragic Monument of Lysicrates

Choragic monuments defined

Pronunciation: [kuraj´ik, –rAj´–, kO–] (key)

[Gr.,=of the choragus, the chorus leader], small decorative structures erected in ancient Greece to commemorate the victory of the leader of a chorus in the competitive choral dances. The best known is that of Lysicrates (c.335 B.C.), still standing in Athens, a graceful circular structure showing one of the early uses of Corinthian columns.

lysicrates_mon.jpg (45607 bytes)"Following Lysicrates Street the tourist will come upon the little garden which surrounds the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. This is a small marble rotunda dating from the 4th cent. B.C. which served as support for the bronze tripod given as prize to the choragos Lysicrates in 353-334 B.C. The chorus leaders in ancient Greece were rich citizens who paid for the training of the dance-choruses which performed in dramatic productions. The chorus under Lysicrates' patronage won its victory tripod in the Dionysiac contest. The modern Street of the Tripods follows an ancient street of the same name which finished at the Theatre of Dionysos, and which was bordered with similar choragic monuments displaying other tripods as symbols of victory.

The Lysicrates monument owes its preservation to the French Capuchin monks who bought it in 1669, and incorporated it in their monastery.

The monument is a pseudo-peripteral tholos, (2,80 m. in diameter and 6.50 m. in height). The cella is decorated with what seem to be six half-columns with Corinthian capitals, standing on the round base of three steps. These are really whole pillars, joined by slabs serving as walls for the cella, crowned by friezes decorated with tripods in relief.

The colonnade is surmounted by an architrave with three bands, carrying on the upper part the inscription : "Lysicrates, son of Lysitheides, from the dame of Kikynna, choragos". "The Akamantid tribe carried off the victory in the boy's choirs, Theon was the flute-player, Lysiades of Athens the choir-master, Evainetos the archon" (335-334 B.C.). Above this there is a frieze showing Dionysos seated on a rock caressing a panther, in the centre of a group of young satyrs who are Serving him with wine from two bowls. Other satyrs brandishing thyrses, torches and clubs, are castigating two Tyrrhenian pirates, who leap into the sea, already half changed into dolphins. This subject, taken from the Homeric Hymn to Dionysos, was also perhaps the subject of the cantata performed by Lysicrates' chorus. At the peak of the cylindrical-conical roof, made of a single slab of marble decorated with overlapping false tiles and corbels and finished with a cluster of acanthus, stood the tripod won by Lysicrates."

…from a guidebook of Athens.

A Brief History of Lysicrates Monument

C56-sm.jpg (26536 bytes)Going up the hill, towards the Acropolis you will see the monument of Lysicrates. He was a very wealthy citizen of ancient Athens, who sponsored many theatrical performances in the theater of Dionysus, a common practice by the rich people of that time. In 344 B.C, one of the performances he had sponsored, was awarded the first prize and Lysicrates received the honors; in memory of this honor, he financed and built this monument. That, however, was only the beginning of the monument's long story. In 1658, a Capuchin monastery was founded on the site by French monks and in 1669 they proceeded buying the monument from the Turks. Lord Byron resided there as a guest during his second visit to Greece. In 1818, friar Francis planted in its gardens the first tomato plants in Greece. In 1829, the monks gave the structure to a foreign traveler, but it proved to be too heavy for him to take it away. Later, Lord Elgin, after stealing the beautiful marble sculptures from Parthenon, wanted to do the same with Lysicrates monument. Fortunately the monks had wised up by that time and stopped him.


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This page was last modified on 18 November 2005