The chryselephantine statues

The head of the chryselephantine statue that probably depicts Apollo
© Ephorate of Antiquities of Phocis, Ministry of Culture and Sports

In antiquity, as is often the case nowadays, votive offerings to the gods were considered sacred and thus it was forbidden to sell or transform them. The ex-votos which were destroyed or damaged were usually buried close to the sanctuary. This is what happened probably in the mid-5th century, when a fire destroyed several precious ex-votos which were then buried in pits, along the Sacred Way, opposite to the Halos. Some of those probably constituted a gold-and-ivory group depicting the Apollonian triad, namely Apollo, Artemis and their mother, Leto. 

Scholars have related these finds to the sumptuous ex-votos of Croesus, king of Lydia, which Herodotus so eloquently describes. This identification is however uncertain; the only certain fact is that they constitute magnificent works of art of the mid-6th century B.C., made in Ionian or Corinthian workshops. 
The portrait of Apollo bears the distinctive mild archaic smile. His eyebrows are arched and his inlay eyes are almond-shaped. His hair is made of gilded silver, whereas the two broad curls flanking the head and falling on the shoulders are made of gold.  On the torso were fastened gold or silver pieces of jewellery, whereas the naked parts of the body were made of ivory. Only the front part of the feet is preserved, as the rest was covered by the garment. The god held in his hand either the gilded silver bowl or the silver cup displayed in the same window case. 
The work has been attributed to a Corinthian workshop, along with some of the miniature ivory plaques with relief decoration, which probably decorated the back of the god's throne. One of those plaques depicts a scene from the Argonauts' expedition: the sons of Voreas, Zythes and Kalais, persecute the Harpyiae who tormented the soothsayer Phineas; the latter, in exchange, gives them advise on how to reach Kolchis. Another remarkable scene from the fragmentary plaques is that of the departure of a warrior on a chariot.

The sweetness in the expression of Artemis, who bears a golden tiara and rosettes in the place of earrings, points out to Ionian art, probably of Samos. Two large rectangular golden lamellae probably ornated the garment of the goddess. They were decorated with depictions of real and mythological animals: a gazelle, a lion, a bull, a deer, a pegasus, a griffin, a sphinx. As in the case of Apollo, the eyes and eyebrows were inlayed. To the same statue probably belonged the left hand with a golden bracelet. Apart from the third large head, representing Leto, there are exhibited also five smaller ivory heads and body parts of other statues. 
Furthermore, additional golden decorative elements are preserved, among which the plaques with depictions of Gorgo, Pegasus and griffin, as well as rosettes, anthemia and floral items stand out. 
The group is completed with leaves of gold in the form of curls, parts of garments, tiaras and a necklace with lion heads. In the same window cases, more finds from this dump are depicted, such as four bronze sphinxes on Ionian capitals, parts of a flute made of bone, parts of a gilded silver bowl (phiale), bronze handles of cauldrons, two of which are in the form of a siren with open wings, a base of a bronze incense burner (it bears an inscription which has been related to Croesus), several plaques made of  bone which decorated a wooden furniture or item, two clay sphinxes opposing each other, three clay female heads as well as several bronze arrow heads and iron spears' tips. 

Text: Dr. Athanase Sidéris, Archaeologist
Editing: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian
Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian