ParthenonThere are three main types of decorative sculpture which remain of the Acropolis to this day. These are the pediments, the metopes and the frieze.


The pediments are the triangular areas formed by the sloping and horizontal cornices of the roof over the two narrow ends of the temple. Within these were the outstanding sculptures of the Parthenon, colossal statues carved in the round (437-432 B.C.). Each pediment was 28.50 meters long and the figures in the centre rose to a height of 3.30 meters. [1] The east pediment above the temple entrance depicted the birth of the Goddess Athena from the head of her father, Zeus, in the presence of the Olympic gods. The west pediment illustrates the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for the claim of the land of Attica, a legendary fight that resulted in Athena’s victory. [4]


The metopes are above the external colonnades of the temple. They consist of 92 square plaques each approximately 1.35 x 1.35 m., decorated in relief. They alternate with the triglyphs. They were the first parts of the entablature to receive sculptural decoration (445-440 B.C.). They are carved in such high relief that they are almost sculpture in the round. The subjects depicted were drawn from Greek mythology. Most of the metopes show the favourite theme of ancient Greek art, the struggle.

On the east end were scenes of the Gigantomachy, the battle between the Olympian gods and the Giants; on the west the Amazonomachy was shown, the fight between the Greeks and the Amazons, a mythical tribe of female warriors. The north side depicted events of the Trojan War, especially the Sack of Troy. The theme of twenty-three of the metopes along the south side is the Centauromachy. The nine central metopes depict other subjects. The Centaurs, who had been invited to the wedding of the king of the Thessalian Lapiths, became inebriated and when they tried to carry off the Lapith women a hand-to-hand battle ensued.[1]

The Parthenon Frieze

The Frieze of the Parthenon forms a continuous band that encircles the upper part of the main temple. It illustrates the procession toward the Acropolis that took place during the Great Panathenaia, the festival in honour of the goddess Athena. The procession features approximately 378 human and divine figures and 220 animals, of which the main are horses.

The frieze consisted of 115 blocks. It had a total length of 160 meters and was 1.02 meters high. Of the entire frieze preserved today, 50 metres are on display in the New Acropolis Museum, 80 meters in the British Museum, one block in the Louvre while several other fragments can be found in museums in the Vatican, Heidelberg, Vienna and Munich. A fragment usually on exhibit in the Antonio Salinas Museum, in Palermo, was sent to Greece on a temporary loan in 2008. Though it had been hoped the loan would be a semi-permanent one, the piece was indeed returned upon request in 2010 back to the Palermo museum. [2][3]


[1]. The Parthenon Sculptures

[2]. The Parthenon Frieze


[4].The Acropolis Museum

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