Hellenistic Structures > Ex Voto of the Attalids

Ex Voto of the Attalids


The Ex Voto of the Attalids refers to a notable dedication made by the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon, a powerful Hellenistic kingdom in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). This dedication is particularly significant due to its artistic and historical value. Here’s an in-depth look at the Ex Voto of the Attalids:

Historical Context

  1. The Attalid Dynasty:

    • The Attalid dynasty ruled the city of Pergamon from approximately 282 BCE to 133 BCE.
    • The kingdom was founded by Philetaerus and later expanded under his successors, notably Attalus I and Eumenes II.
  2. Cultural and Artistic Patronage:

    • The Attalids were known for their patronage of the arts and culture, turning Pergamon into a major center of Hellenistic culture.
    • They constructed impressive buildings, sculptures, and monuments that reflected their power and cultural sophistication.

The Ex Voto Dedication

  1. Purpose:

    • The ex voto dedication was a religious offering made to commemorate a significant event, typically a military victory or a divine favor received.
    • In the case of the Attalids, it was often to celebrate their military successes and to honor the gods, particularly Athena, who was considered the protector of Pergamon.
  2. Location:

    • The most famous ex voto of the Attalids was located on the Acropolis of Athens, near the Parthenon.
    • This strategic placement underscored the Attalids’ respect and homage to Athens, the cultural and intellectual center of the Greek world.

Artistic Features

  1. Sculptural Group:

    • The dedication included a group of sculptures that depicted the gods, heroes, and the defeated enemies of the Attalids.
    • The sculptures were created in the Hellenistic style, known for its dynamic compositions, realistic details, and emotional expressions.
  2. Depictions of Battles:

    • The most notable sculptures depicted battles between Greeks and their enemies, such as the Galatians (Gauls), who were defeated by Attalus I.
    • These battle scenes symbolized the triumph of civilization (Greeks) over barbarism (Galatians).
  3. Artistic Excellence:

    • The sculptures were crafted by some of the finest artists of the time, demonstrating the high level of artistic skill and the aesthetic values of the Hellenistic period.
    • The attention to detail, movement, and anatomy in these sculptures were meant to inspire awe and reverence.

Historical Significance

  1. Political and Diplomatic Statement:

    • The ex voto was a political statement showcasing the power and legitimacy of the Attalid dynasty.
    • By placing the dedication in Athens, the Attalids aligned themselves with the legacy of classical Greece, reinforcing their cultural and political connections.
  2. Religious and Cultural Integration:

    • The dedication highlighted the religious piety of the Attalids, showing their devotion to the gods and their role as protectors of Hellenic culture.
    • It also integrated the cultural achievements of Pergamon with the broader Greek world.


  1. Influence on Hellenistic Art:

    • The Ex Voto of the Attalids influenced subsequent Hellenistic art, particularly in the depiction of dynamic battle scenes and the realistic portrayal of figures.
    • It set a standard for monumental dedications and the use of art as a means of political propaganda.
  2. Archaeological Discoveries:

    • Fragments of the sculptures from the Attalid dedication have been discovered and are now housed in various museums, including the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
    • These fragments provide valuable insights into Hellenistic art and the cultural exchanges between Pergamon and Athens.
  3. Cultural Heritage:

    • The dedication is part of the rich cultural heritage of the Hellenistic period, illustrating the interconnectedness of the Greek world through art, politics, and religion.
    • It continues to be studied and admired for its artistic and historical significance.

In summary, the Ex Voto of the Attalids is a significant cultural and historical artifact that exemplifies the artistic excellence and political acumen of the Attalid dynasty. It highlights the role of monumental art in celebrating military victories, honoring the gods, and reinforcing the cultural identity of Hellenistic kingdoms.


Roux, G., (1952) "La terrasse d'Attale I a Delphes," BCH 76, pp. 141–196, 184–185

Queyrel, F., (2003),Les portraits des Attalides: Fonction et representation, Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises d'Athènes et de Rome 308, Paris.

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