The plaster cast reproduces a Roman marble copy of a lost Greek bronze group known as The Tyrant Slayers. The statue represents two men: the older and bearded Harmodios and the younger Aristogeiton, who had attempted to murder Hippias, the tyrant of Athens. Instead, they succeeded in killing his brother, Hipparchus. Harmodios died during the clash and Aristogeiton was killed shortly after.
After the expulsion of Hippias (510 BCE), Athens honored the heroes by commissioning two bronze statues from the artist Antenor. This group was placed in the agora, where it remained until 480 BCE when it was looted by the Persians. At the end of the Persian Wars, the Athenians entrusted the artists Kritios and Nesiotes with the execution of a new bronze group (477-476 BCE). According to ancient literary sources, the earlier group by Antenor was returned to Athens upon the fall of the Persian Empire.