skip to content
 
head of Hercules, looking down with curly hair and beard

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Farnese Hercules is its sheer size: it stands at 3.15 metres, almost ten-and-a-half feet. This fine example of Roman sculpture shows the Greek hero – he is sometimes known by his Greek name, as the Farnese Herakles – leaning on his customary wooden club, here cushioned by a lionskin. His downcast eyes, together with his pose, suggest that Hercules has been exhausted by his Labours – and it is on account of this that the sculpture has gained another name, the Weary Hercules.

sculpture of naked Hercules, leaning on club with animal skinIn case we were to think that his latest Labour had gotten the better of him, though, there's a surprise in store when we look behind the back of the statue: two golden apples. These apples reveal that, weary or not, Hercules has nevertheless accomplished his assigned task, in this case by holding up the skies in place of the god Atlas. Still, despite his size, the emphasis on his tiredness after the hard work of hefting up the heavens indicates that the Farnese Hercules is a very human hero.

 sculpted hands holding apples

This particular marble statue was found in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, although it is most likely a version of a bronze statue attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippus, who lived in the fourth century BCE. It is not uncommon in ancient Roman art to find sculptors producing 'free copies' of earlier Greek sculptures, but the act of replication and re-display always changes the way the statue is viewed – Hercules might be made very big, or very small. The sheer number of other versions or replicas of the Farnese Hercules suggest it was almost as famous in antiquity as it has been in Western art, since its rediscovery in 1546.

Find the Farnese Hercules in Bay K
View the Farnese Hercules on the online catalogue

Further Reading

  • M. Beard and J. Henderson 2001, Classical Art from Greece to Rome (Oxford University Press): 199–202

 

Every cast tells two stories.
One ancient. One modern.

Admission is free.

 

We are closed

Following Government guidance, we are now closed until further notice and will not reopen on Tuesday 5 January 2021 as planned. Our priority is to protect our staff and visitors.

 

 

Opening hours

Tues-Fri: 11am-2pm
Sat*: Closed
Sun and Monday: Closed

Closed on Bank Holidays

 

Saturday Opening

We are currently closed on Saturdays.

*Please note: We are only open on Saturdays during University of Cambridge term time.

 

Visit us

Museum of Classical Archaeology
Faculty of Classics
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge
CB3 9DA

We do not have an entrance on the road. Find us inside the Sidgwick Site.

 

Join our mailing list

 

 

Get in touch

Tel. +44 (0)1223 330402
Email 

 

Find us on social media:

    

 

 

We're good to go

 

 

Copyright statement

All images and material on our websites are ©Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge unless otherwise stated. Permission is required to reproduce our images.

See also our Copyright Notice and Take Down Policy.