The Charioteer of Delphi is a life-size bronze statue erected in 474 BCE to commemorate a victory in the chariot races of the Pythian games. The statue’s left arm is missing; the reins held in his right hand are no longer connected to his steeds; the headband has lost its silver inlay. Yet the glass eyes and copper eyelashes are remarkably well preserved. The charioteer’s head and gaze are inclined to the side. This is one of the first direct interactions between a work of art and the viewer. He looks at you as much as you at him. The look is piercing.
The statue likely portrays the winning charioteer. However, it may also represent Apollo, the divine patron of the Pythian games. Apollo was the sun-god, having assumed this role from the Titan Helios of earlier mythology. Apollo was a god of many facets: the god whose chariot carried the sun across the sky, the god of music and the leader of the muses, the god of prophecy and poetry, the god of light and truth. Though generally beneficent, Apollo was sometimes dangerous. The horses of the sun’s chariot occasionally ran wild and caused widespread destruction. This has been attributed to Phaethon, the son of Helios, though these may both be manifestations of Apollo.