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Farnese Bull, Photo: Michael Lahanas

The Farnese Bull is a massive sculpture attributed to the Rhodian artists Apollonius of Tralles and his brother Tauriscus. It is widely consisidered the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity. The original produced in Rhodes was transported to Rome, as Pliny the Elder reports.

It shows the history of Dirce, Amphion and Zethus

Amphion became a great singer and musician after Hermes taught him to play and gave him a golden lyre, Zethus a hunter and herdsman. They punished King Lycus and Queen Dirce for cruel treatment of Antiope, their mother, whom they had treated as a slave. Dirce was tied to the horns of a bull as revenge.


A Roman copy of the sculpture was found in 1546 in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. It is now located at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli in Naples.

More than forty versions exist in various sizes, one example is a relief found in Naxos. Additional figures have been added to the original composition which probably was produced for Attalos II Philadelphus and Eumenes II of Pergamon.. It was probably the Roman Cassius Longinus who obtained violently this sculpture from Rhodes and later in Rome it was taken by Marc Antonius who gave it Asinius Pollio. The Caracalla Baths copy was probably produced during the period of the Emperor Claudius.with an additional figure of Antiope with some similarities with Venus Genetrix believed to represent the Emperors mother Antonia Augusta. Since the Emperor had a brother Germanicus it is possible that he and his brother and mother are represented by Amphion, Zethus and Antiope.


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