You are here

Biblical Archaeology Review 48:3, Fall 2022

Where Is It?

Where Is It?

1. Venice, Italy

2. Istanbul, Turkey

3. Caesarea, Israel

4. Paris, France

5. Chios, Greece

Answer: 1. Venice, Italy

These four horses, sculpted from almost pure copper, are on display inside St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The horses previously adorned the basilica’s façade, where they were replaced by replicas in the 1980s.

The horses did not originate in Venice. Before coming to the “Floating City,” they decorated the hippodrome in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The 12th- and 13th-century historian Nicetas Choniates recalls “four gilt-bronze horses” above the hippodrome’s starting posts (Annals 119โ€“120). An earlier, eighth-century text says the hippodrome’s horses came from the island of Chios, Greece, during the reign of Theodosius II (r. 408โ€“450 C.E.). Yet some scholars think the horses might have an even older origin. They date them to the second or third century, possibly having been commissioned by Septimius Severus (r. 193โ€“211 C.E.) for the hippodrome of the city on the Bosporus that was then known as Byzantium.

The horses stayed in Constantinople until 1204, when they were captured during the Fourth Crusade and taken to Venice. They had another international voyage in 1797, when Napoleon took the horses to Paris and set them up on the Arc of Triumph of Carrousel. Their Parisian stay was short-lived, though, and the horses returned to Venice in 1815.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.