Acrolith of Cirò

Apollo Aleo

The Acrolith of Cirò, found by Paolo Orsi during the excavations of 1924-1929 in the locality of Punta Alice, the territory of today’s Cirò Marina, is to be counted among the masterpieces of the archaeological museum of Reggio Calabria. An acrolith, a word which is hardly ever used in Greek sources, is interpreted by Latin sources as colossal statue, with head, hands and feet in marble, stone, or ivory, while the rest of the body is made of wood or other materials, and then covered with clothes. 


The ruins and the findings were interpreted by the archaeologists as relevant to the temple of Apollo Aleus in Krimisa.  According to the mythological tradition, the city and the sanctuary were founded by Philoctetes, after the end of the Trojan War. In ancient times, the temple of Apollo in Krimisa was famous for the presence of the fairy arrows of Heracles, that never missed the intended target, and then they were transported by the Crotonian in their own Apollonian city temple.

Acrolito di Apollo Aleo di Cirò

From the archaeological point of view, the remains of the Acrolith of Apollo Aleus are the white marble head, 41 centimetres tall, the feet and the fragmented left hand. All the finds come from the area of the temple, and the dating suggested by the experts  is between 440 and 430 B.C.



There is also a sophisticated bronze wig which emerges from the excavations, and it features a typical hairstyle of the iconography of Apollo. However, the wig is not pertinent to the marble head, and it seems to date back to an earlier period: in all likelihood, it is an element of a previous acrolithic statue, occulted in a sacred pit, a bothros, when it was no longer used. Besides, the marble remains seem to have been placed in a bothros, maybe because they were no longer worshipped by the believers, or in order to protect them from an attack on the sanctuary of Krimisa.

Acrolito di Apollo Aleo di Cirò
Acrolito di Apollo Aleo di Cirò
Testa di Igiea
Marble head of Hygeia, Feneos, archaeological museum
Apollo citaredo collezione farnese
Apollo Citharist, Farnese collection, Naples, archaeological museum

In the reconstruction that we propose for the Acrolith, based on a comparison with the Apollo Citharist of the Farnese collection, located in the archaeological museum of Naples, he is seated, fully clothed, in the act of playing a zither. If we want to integrate the missing elements: a bronze wig, with a similar hairstyle to the wig found in situ, which is not pertinent; eyeballs in bone, ivory or calcite, and the irises realized in glass paste or with hard stones, then a little bronze foil was used to realize the lashes; the left hand gesture tells us that that he supported a zither; the feet and the ankle pertaining to a seated statue show the marks of the rectangular pins that fix the feet on the wooden structure, in addition to little holes used to fix the sandals of the divinity.

Acrolito di Apollo Aleo di Cirò

English translation by Corinna Castrizio.