BHM | Introduction

Note: Provisional introduction.

The Bronze Heracles of Mesene (alternatively referred to as the Weary Heracles of Mesene or the Heracles of Seleucia) was acquired by the Iraq Museum in 1984. The details surrounding its discovery are unfortunately unclear, but it was supposedly found in the ruins of the Greek city of Seleucia on the Tigris. The statue is evidently a copy of the ‘Weary Heracles’ of the fourth century BCE Greek sculptor Lysippos.

Photo via Artstor.

The BHM bears an inscription on each leg: Greek on the right thigh, Parthian on the left. Both inscriptions provide essentially the same information. The statue was taken by the Arsacid king Vologaeses IV from Mesene (also known as Characene), a client kingdom in southern Mesopotamia that had fallen out of the Parthian orbit after Trajan’s invasion in 116/7 CE.

BHM 1 website version

Figure from Pennachietti 1987.

Vologaeses’ campaign apparently reestablished Mesene’s subordination to the Arsacid kingdom. The text states that the king drove out the previous ruler Mithradates and “became master of the whole of Mesene.” He then took the Heracles statue back to Seleucia and dedicated it there in the temple of the god Apollo (Parthian Tir). According to the Greek text, this dedication took place in the year 462 of the Seleucid era, or 151 CE. The Arsacid year of 398 was presumably recorded in the (now illegible) first two lines of the Parthian text.

For scholarly discussions of the statue and its inscription, see (among others) Schmitt 1998: 172.

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