previous next

Sculpture on the Parthenon

The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon 1 also proclaimed Athenian confidence about their city-state's relationship with the gods, whom the citizens regarded as their helpers and supporters. The Parthenon had sculptured panels along its exterior above the columns and tableaux of sculptures in the triangular spaces (pediments)2 underneath the roof line at both ends of the building. These decorations were part of the Doric 3 architectural style, but the Parthenon also presented a unique sculptural feature. Carved in relief around the top of the walls inside the porch formed by the columns along the edges of the building's platform was a continuous band of figures. This sort of continuous frieze was usually put only on Ionic-style buildings. Adding an Ionic4 frieze to a Doric temple was a striking change meant to attract notice to its subject. The Parthenon's frieze depicted the Athenian religious ritual in which a procession of citizens paraded to the Acropolis to present to Athena in her olive-tree sanctuary a new robe woven by specially selected Athenian girls5 (the Panathenaic festival). Depicting the procession in motion, like a filmstrip in stone, the frieze showed men riding spirited horses6, women walking along carrying sacred implements, and the gods gathering together at the head of the parade7 to observe their human worshippers. As usual in the sculptural decoration on Greek temples, the Parthenon frieze sparkled with brightly colored paint enlivening the figures and the background. Shiny metal attachments also brightened the picture, serving, for example, as the horsemen's reins.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: