The Ephèbe of Agde is an antique statue in bronze, 1.4 meters high and dating from the Fourth Century B.C. It was discovered in the bed of the Hérault River, just in front of the Cathedrale of Agde on Sunday, September 13, 1994
This Sunday, September 13, 1994 remains an important date in the heart of its "inventor", Jacky Fanjaud. At that time, he was made a part of GRASPA (Agde Group of Researchers of Subaquatic Archeology and Diving).
As of today, this is the only Greek bronze discovered in France, making it a very important discovery.
Jacky Fanjaud has always been passionate about diving. From the age of 15 or 16, after the war and once it was possible to access the beaches, he was already practicing diving and he went fishing underwater with his friends.
Three months before, an Agathois diving club had been created, on April 2, 1960, and a friend from Beziers, knowing his passion, had advised him to join the club in Agde. He was then 29 years old.
Within GRASPA, he started in making a little bit of everything, at first like an "intern" to show what he knew how to do.
At the beginning, the club had no equipment, no bottles and no compressor. All the members of this young association came with their own equipment until the Commune of Agde allocated them some equipment in the form of a grant which allowed them to buy their first bottle. The club quickly made some discoveries that brought about further help.
In the beginning, coming with his own bottle allowed him an autonomy of 30 minutes for a maximum of 6 to 8 meters of depth. But it was good enough to dive in the Hérault. He was sharing his bottle with his other colleagues for these five-minute diving descents.
At this time, he didn`t find much, unlike his colleagues. Rather than getting discouraged, he dug in his heels and continued to dive.
The Hérault has always been favourable for discoveries as the Greek boats came up the river to tie up. Once in place, some materials and broken amphorae, among other things, were without doubt thrown in the water, from which arose numerous discoveries. They were finding especially Phocaeans, being Greek amphorae from Marseille.
He himself made an inventory of some types of found amphorae, and he identified more than 50 different ones.
Jacky Fanjaud was familiar with all sorts of amphorae as he had seen, drew and classified so many of them, but there his knowledge of archeology came to an end.
He doesn't boast particularly about being an archaeologist; he just loves looking for and finding things.
With his passion and commitment, he made a place for himself in the heart of the club right away. He was there as much as possible, statutory holidays or not. This was a passion for him. He was secretary of the club, then federal treasurer but he also swept the room and he maintained the gear, as did all the others.
The club members numbered 12 and the membership increased only slowly. It was necessary to be sponsored by 2 members of the club and for the candidates to have proved themselves for a period of one year to be admitted, to avoid integrating "doubtful" candidates more interested in pillaging than safeguarding.
"The safeguarding of Agathois archeological assets", that was the reason to be in the club. In these rules he was quite specific that all objects found during excavations should be returned to GRASPA.
One need only to go see the collections of the Museum of the Ephèbe of Agde to realize the richness of the seabeds of our coasts.
The circumstances of the discovery of the Ephèbe
On September 13, 1964, like every Sunday there was an outing in the morning at sea aboard the club boat.
On returning to Agde, he and two of his friends at the club, Raphaël Molla and Aimé Blanc decided to fill their bottles and then to go diving in the Hérault.
After lunch, all three were diving (around 15 or 16 hours).
As usual, they left to prospect on the bottom, sometimes by trial and error, but more often by zigzagging.
At one point Jacky Fanjaud encountered Aimé Blanc and after having noticed, by a hand signal that everything was going well, they each went back to their own side across from each other. At this point in the story it's necessary to note that Aimé Blanc was a man weighing more than 100 kg. He was diving "to the max" to be able to go down and when he passed, he was "working" the bottom.
10 or 15 meters further on, the silt being settled, Jacky Fanjaud saw a spot of verdigris, "not even the size of a coffee saucer." It made him reflect... "That stood out against the backdrop." He went there and in cleaning the silt there appeared to him the mantle (a drapery) on the shoulder of the statue. He continued until he could see the face ....
He was dazzled by the beauty of the figure's appearance, without knowing anything about the value of the object, neither in knowing the source nor being able to date it.
"I was happy because it was beautiful".
There was a big flagstone on the torso (the type of stone that served and still serves as a roof tile) that he pushed off.
"There, that thing that was revealed to me... it was something magnificent...."
"When he was cleared, I raised him gently so not to damage him. You could tell if it would be ok to come out or not. If it wasn't then you'd carry on."
"I cleared him completely. I went quickly to the surface and there I saw the president of the club, Denis Fonquerles, who had just arrived. I asked him to give me an end (a piece of rope), announcing to him that I had found an athlete in bronze" (at that time we weren't talking about Ephèbe).
"I took the end of the rope and I went down again. I was sure of my air reserve. I hooked the bronze and I pulled three times so they could pull him up. Denis Fonquerles set himself to pulling it up gently. I returned to the surface as I had no more air.È
And there, at the surface when I saw him in clearer water, when I saw him rising up to the surface of the water .... with the sun ... that was something marvellous. There, your heart raced. Then we lifted him onto the boat. The hand fell..."
Not having more air in his bottle, Jacky Fanjaud asked Aimé Blanc to quickly go find the hand before any trace of it was lost in the silty depths, which he did.
From that moment, Jacky Fanjaud had always considered Aimé Blanc to have become the "co-inventor" of the Ephèbe.
The following day, the press came and Denis Fonquerles presented the discovery, saying that this discovery had been made by Jacky Fanjaud, a member of the club.
The competent authorities had been told right away and a specialist came from Marseille the following Thursday.
The meeting took place in an Agde restaurant, La Galiotte. During this meeting, the owner of the restaurant, Jules Boudou, who was passionate about antiquity, exclaimed, "That's an Ephebe." (today's designated term for a young man of great beauty).
The name stuck with him ever since.
The statue, now called the Ephèbe, went to a museum in Marseille and there it was preserved from attack by salt while awaiting its restoration. After that it left for Nancy where it was taken into care by a laboratory which made it what it is today.
But in the meantime, six months later, his colleague Raphaël Molla had found the left leg a little farther downriver about 600 meters from the previous discovery.
Jacky Fanjaud likes to say that he attributes this discovery to Raphaël Molla, "inventor" of the leg of the Ephèbe while Aimé Blanc who was the co-inventor of the Ephèbe for the raising of the hand.
After sage reflection, Jacky Fanjaud thinks that this Ephébe must have been placed on a pedestal and that at a given moment he must have been thrown vertically into the water and silted up. A violent flood must have come and we know today the devastating effects of the floods of the Hérault.
"It must have been bent and broken at the level of the ankles. Therefore the pedestal is there where the Ephèbe had fallen. As for the Ephèbe, he was gone, carried away by the current."
The discovery of the leg
Six months later, during this second discovery, Jacky Fanjaud was on the side of the boat while his friend Raphaël Molla was diving.
"This was a very good dive. He also had a very good eye and when he was taking something out, he knew what it was. He came up at a 20 meter distance from the boat and said that he had found a stovepipe... Me knowing Raphäel, I doubted that it was one of those. Quick quick, I scratched, delicately, the pretend stovepipe and then I saw that it was a leg and I noticed the break at the level of the hip. I was then persuaded that this was the leg of the Ephèbe. We were feverish. We hurried to take the leg back to the club as we were impatient to find out. We got to the club and looked at the photo, as the statue of the Ephèbe had already gone. Without a doubt, this was the leg of the Ephèbe."
This leg then went to rejoin the rest of the statue and it was recognized as belonging to the rest of the body. On the other hand, the hand which had been recovered by Aimé Blanc didn't seem to correspond to the body at all.
Despite the fact that Jacky Fanjaud had seen this hand break off and sink, he came to believe this version, this hand was not the one that belonged to the original at its creation.
"This was surely a repair of the times". "At a close look, it seemed to me too big to match the rest of the statue, it was outsized." Despite the doubts, it had been re-added to the body. "But I find that this hand speaks for itself... It must have been coming at a given moment and they remade it into one. "
The pedestal is for him still in place ... "Yes, but where?"
Following this discovery, in the sea, he also found some anchors in wood and in stone, and numerous amphorae. All these discoveries are now on display at the Museum of the Ephèbe in Agde.
His desire for recognition:
"The GRASPA has been a very beautiful adventure for me. Without the creation of the club, I never would have had the chance to discover the Ephèbe. I didn't even imagine that one could discover amphorae in the Hérault. I realized that being young I allowed myself to be a little dominated, today, I would like to say what happened."
Now it's been said.
For more information and to be able to admire the Ephèbe:
Museum of the Ephèbe - Mas de la Clape -34300 Le cap d'Agde
04 67 94 69 60
Jean-Marc Roger/Janet L. Clark