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The first view visitors get of the Parthenon after climbing up to the Acropolis.
|"The most magnificent ruin in the world"|
"The most magnificent ruin in the world, both for execution and design.
Though an entire museum has been transported to England from the spoils
of this temple, it remains without rival."
Sir William Gell (1777-1836), English archaeologist and illustrator.
"Let him who denies the sublimity of Grecian architecture
travel to Athens, view the ruins of the Parthenon, and be silent."
Peter Edmund Laurent, Recollections of a classical tour through various parts
of Greece, Turkey, and Italy, made in the years 1818 & 1819.
G. and W. B. Whittaker, london, 1821.
CAUTION: SLIPPERY SURFACE!
The ground between the Propylaea entrance to the Acropolis
and the Parthenon consists of slippery and uneven stone.
Watch your step, especially if it has been raining.
Plan of the Parthenon.
|"Ω ται λιπαραί και ιοστέφανοι και αοίδιμοι, Ελλάδος έρεισμα, κλειναί, Αθήναι, δαιμόνιον πτολίεθρον !"
"Oh You, gleaming and violet-crowned glorious Athens, famous in songs, bulwark of Hellas, city divine!"
Pindar (circa 522-443 BC), Fragments, 76.
More information and images will be appearing
on this page in the near future.
"The Varvakeion statuette"
of Athena Parthenos. Copy
of the statue by Pheidias.
© Konstanze Gundudis
The "Athena Lenormant"
statuette of Athena
Parthenos. 1st century AD.
Found near the Pnyx,
Athens, in 1859.
Head of Athena in the
"Medici style", copied from
works by the circle of
Pheidias. Marble, from an
acrolith statue (of marble
and wood), 2nd century AD.
Late 19th century artist's impression of the interior of the Parthenon
and the colossal statue of Athena Parthenos by Pheidias.
Illustration by Friedrich von Thiersch, published in Charlotte M. Yong, A pictorial history of the
world's great nations, from the earliest dates to the present time, Volume I, page 89.
Selmar Hess, New York, about 1882. At archive.org.
The "Strangford Shield", a fragment of a marble replica of the shield of Athena Parthenos.
From Athens, 3rd century AD.
British Museum. GR 1864.2-20.18 (Sculpture 302). Strangford Collection.
|During the Roman period many copies were made of Pheidias' colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena Parthenos. The "Strangford Shield" is the the only surviving part of one of these replicas. In the centre is a Gorgoneion, the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Only the front of this shield has a relief, the back is blank. Ancient authors indicate that the outside of the original shield showed an Amazonomachy (battle between Greeks and Amazons), and the inside a Gigantomachy (battle between gods and the Giants).
According to Plutarch (Life of Pericles, 13), Pheidias was accused by enemies of Pericles of stealing gold intended for the Athena Parthenos statue, and of impiety for portraying Pericles and himself among the figures of the Amazonomachy on the statue's shield. Having been warned by Pericles to carefully weigh the gold, Pheidias was able to disprove the charge of theft, but he was found guilty of impiety, and died while in prison.
Head of Athena wearing
a Corinthian helmet.
Marble, 2nd century AD.
Copy of a Greek original,
circa 390-380 BC.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Bronze, 520-500 BC.
Athena is often portrayed wearing this type of helmet which covers the whole head, with slits for the eyes and mouth. The goddess usually wears it high on her head so that her face can be seen. This is also how Pericles was portrayed (see gallery page 10).
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Head of Athena of the "Velletri
type", named after a similar
head found in Velletri, Italy,
now in the Louvre, Paris.
Marble, Roman copy of a Greek original, circa 390-380 BC.
The bust of this restored head
is a modern addition.
Altes Museum, Berlin.
See also photos of the statue
of "Athena with the cross-
banded aegis" from Pergamon.
Head of Athena Parthenos.
Marble. 35.5 cm high. Roman Imperial period. Found in Rome in 1885. Once in the Altes Museum, Berlin (Sk 76a), it disappeared at the end of World War II.
photo: © David John
Marble statuette of Athena.
From Leptis Magna, Tripolitana (Lybia). Roman copy of a
5th century BC original.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Athena Promachos. Detail of
a Panathenaic amphora, awarded as a prize to the winner of a chariot race in the Panathenaic games, circa 450 BC. Found in Benghazi, Lybia.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Zeus on his throne gives birth to Athena.
From an Archaic Attic black-figure panel amphora, circa 540 BC, now
in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. See photos at perseus.tufts.edu.
|Athena springs fully armed, except for a helmet, from the head of Zeus.
Present to assist and cheer on with music are (l-r): Hermes, Apollo, Eileithyia (goddess of birth) and Ares. Beneath Zeus' throne is a winged figure, perhaps Nike.
Apollo plays his lyre and Zeus clutches his thunder bolt. Ares carries a shield decorated with the face of the Gorgon Medusa, a symbol which was also to become associated with Athena, and which she is often shown wearing on her breast.
Source: lithograph made by A. Ray for Kaeppelin & Co. Published in Elite des monuments céramographiques: matériaux pour l'histoire des religions et des moeurs de l'antiquité by Charles Lenormant (1802-1859). Leleux, Paris, 1844-1861.
In the numerous versions of this scene on ancient ceramics, various figures are shown beneath Zeus' throne. The small winged figure here has been labelled as "Sphinx", though similar vases more clearly show a winged female in human form.
Birth of Athena on a cylindrical relief on a puteal (well-head), now in Madrid.
The marble puteal is thought to have originally been an altar, made in a
Graeco-Roman workshop. Perhaps from Rome. Height 99 cm, diameter 82 cm.
Madrid Archaeological Museum, Spain. Inv. No. 2691.
Image source: The Acropolis of Athens by Martin Luther D'Ooge, page 148.
Macmillan, New York, 1909. Drawing reprinted from Gardner's Ancient Athens.
|Zeus, enthroned with sceptre and thunderbolt, recovers from having his head split open with a double-headed axe by Hephaistos (left), so that Athena could spring out. Nike Flies to crown the newly-born, fully-armed Athena. To the right are the three Fates: Klotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
"When by the craft of Hephaistos, by the blow of the bronze axe, Athena sprang forth from the crown of her father's head and cried aloud with a mighty shout, and Ouranos (Heaven) and Mother Gaia (Earth) shuddered before her."
Pindar, Olympian Ode 7, lines 36-38.
In other versions of this myth Prometheus, Hermes or Palamaon assist Zeus to give birth to Athena.
"I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia.
Wise Zeus himself bare her from his awful head, arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear
Great Olympus began to reel horribly at the might of the bright-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly
The bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athena had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus was glad.
And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember you and another song as well."
Homeric Hymn 28. To Athena.
The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1914. At Perseus Digital Library.
Hera and Athena, patron goddesses of Samos and Athens, clasp hands in a
relief on a marble stele of 403-2 BC, inscribed with the Samian honorary decree.
The original decree was issued in 405 BC by the Demos of Athens in honour
of the Samians for remaining loyal to them following the defeat of the Athenian
fleet by the Spartans at Aigos Potamoi and the revolt of other allies.
Acropolis Museum, Athens. Acr. 1333. Inscription IG II(2) 1. Width 56 cm.
|Photos, maps and articles: © David John
Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis
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