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Alexander and His Successors


Lysippos is credited with creating the image of Alexander the Great that artists have perpetuated for centuries: a man of vigor, fit and lithe, clean-shaven, with long, windswept hair. “Only Lysippos,” wrote the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, “brought out his real character . . . his manly and leonine quality.” Lysippos seems to have worked exclusively in bronze, adapting earlier Classical images of gods and heroes and turning them into dynamic depictions of the charismatic young ruler.

Alexander’s early death in 323 BC left his domain in the hands of his generals, who divided the empire among themselves and emulated his style of leadership. Like Alexander, rulers of Hellenistic kingdoms commissioned portraits designed to express their power and authority. Their likenesses combine individual traits with idealized features, resulting in the distinctive genre of ruler portraiture that emerged in the Hellenistic period. Statues of rulers were also erected as public honors by cities seeking or acknowledging favor. Today, the fragmentary condition of most of the surviving sculptures makes identification of individuals difficult.