This paper provides an archaeological study of the composition and function of statues of athletes in Hellenistic and Roman times by taking into account archaeological, epigraphic and literary sources. By analyzing different concepts of composition and contexts of these statues with regard to their social historical background, place of disposition and possibilities of impact it should be possible to answer the question, which factors influenced the iconography of statues of athletes. The material is divided in two parts: The first part consists of ʻoriginalʼ and copied statues in marble or bronze, including portrait statues, which were erected for victorious athletes, and statues, which represents Greek athletics in general. The latter occur in the form of copies or new ʻcreationsʼ. Second, statue bases give information about the name and origin, the offices and achievements beside the victories of the athletes, the benefactors and, if in situ, the place where the statues originally were erected.
In the first part of the paper I discuss general tendencies in the disposition of athlete statues proven by my research project as far as they have revealed. Secondly, I will focus on how and why the culture of Greek athletics was presented in gymnasium buildings by sculpture and inscriptions in Hellenistic and Roman times. As there is much evidence for the erection and display of athletes’ statues not only in gymnasia it seems the gymnasium as the most preferred place for presenting athlete statues has been overemphasized by research.