Cleobis and Biton


James Lloyd
published on 16 August 2014
translations icon
Available in other languages: Greek, Serbian
Cleobis & Biton (by James Lloyd, CC BY-NC-SA)
Cleobis & Biton
James Lloyd (CC BY-NC-SA)

Two over-life-size Archaic kouroi (6.5 ft / 2 m) are housed at the Delphi Museum, and date to c. 580 BCE. Their names (Cleobis and Biton) are actually written on their bases, and the sculptor is given as Polymides of Argos: such inscriptions are unusual for this early date. They are ideal representations of strength and masculinity, in the Peloponnesian style.

The myth of Cleobis and Biton is told in Herodotus, 1.31. The two sons carried their priestess mother by cart in place of oxen. They travelled from Argos to the Argive Heraion, some 45 stadia.

Remove Ads

At their arrival they collapse, and their mother prays to Hera that they may die in their sleep - the easiest death for mortals. Herodotus tells this story as part of Solon's answer to Croesus' questioning as to who the happiest man is.

μετὰ ταύτην δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ὡς ἔθυσάν τε καὶ εὐωχήθησαν, ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ἱρῷ οἱ νεηνίαι οὐκέτι ἀνέστησαν ἀλλ᾽ ἐν τέλεϊ τούτῳ ἔσχοντο. Ἀργεῖοι δὲ σφέων εἰκόνας ποιησάμενοι ἀνέθεσαν ἐς Δελφοὺς ὡς ἀριστῶν γενομένων.

After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again; death held them there. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them as being the best of men.

Remove Ads

Herodotus, 1.31.5

(the full passage in translation and original can be found here)

Perhaps, in this case, there is some truth to Herodotus' stories…

Did you like this definition?
Editorial Review This article has been reviewed by our editorial team before publication to ensure accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards in accordance with our editorial policy.
Remove Ads

About the Author

James Lloyd
James' main area of research is ancient Greek music, but he has general interests in mythology, religion, and art & archaeology. A self-confessed philhellene, James keeps at least one eye on the Roman pie.


Greek Serbian

We want people all over the world to learn about history. Help us and translate this definition into another language!

Free for the World, Supported by You

World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide.

Become a Member  

Recommended Books

Sorry, we haven't been able to find any books on the subject.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Lloyd, J. (2014, August 16). Cleobis and Biton. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Lloyd, James. "Cleobis and Biton." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 16, 2014.

MLA Style

Lloyd, James. "Cleobis and Biton." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 16 Aug 2014. Web. 20 Apr 2024.