Monday, November 28, 2016

The South Side of the Parthenon

The Parthenon is a former temple located on the Athenian Acropolis above the city of Athens, Greece. This building was dedicated to the goddess Athena, and the people of Athens considered her as their patron. Construction for this magnificent temple began in 447 BC, during the same time when the Athenian Empire reached the peak of its power. The Parthenon was completely built in 432 BC. What distinguished this temple are a series of marble panels that can be seen outside of the building. The metopes on each side of the building (western, eastern, southern, and northern walls) are carved with sculptural decoration, each has its own subject, and each subject represents an historical battle. 

The south side of the building, compared to the others is the best preserved. This side depicts the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, also known as the Centauromachy. The battle was between the Lapiths, an Aeolian tribe and a legendary people of Greek mythology, and the centaurs, half-human, half-horse creatures. Centaurs have the head, arms, and the torso of a human man, and the body of a horse. The Centauromachy was caused by the Centaurs’ attempt to abducted Hippodamia at her wedding. She was a mythological figure in Greek history, and the daughter of Atrax. Hippodamia married Pirithous, king of the Lapithae. In addition, Centaurs also attempted to abducted all of the female and young male guests that were in attendance. 

Legendary Athenian king Theseus, who was a friend of King Pirithous, assisted him and his men in this epic battle against the Centaurs. King Theseus was the son of Aethra and the sea god, Poseidon. Prior to becoming king of Athens, Theseus battled thieves, monsters, and murderous brigands. Similar to Perseus, Cadmus, and Hercules, Theseus was considered a powerful figure because he overcame every challenge he encountered. He was a founder of Athens, and won the approval of the Athenian citizens who saw in him as a hero, a wise ruler and relentless warrior. He led King Pirithous to victory by destroying the Centaurs.

The Centauromachy in the Parthenon metopes along with the other Parthenon marbles were sculpted under the supervision of Phidias, an ancient Greek sculptor, painter and architect, and his assistants. Very little is known of Phidias’ life, however it is known that he had a vision from the gods before working on the Parthenon. Powerful Greek statesman, public speaker and general of Athens during the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, Pericles established programs in Athens and placed Phidias as the head of all artistic endeavors. Along with working on the Parthenon metopes, he is also known for: The Athena Promachos, The Lemnian Athena, The Athena Promachos, The Amazzone Ferita and The Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

The Parthenon building has wear and tear over thousands of years, but this is not due entirely to exposure to the elements during its existence. After Athens was occupied by the Ottoman Empire in 1456 CE, the Parthenon was converted to a mosque. In the 17th Century, Poland and Austria joined forces to reclaim parts of Europe conquered by the Ottoman Empire. This was the period after Turk forces attempted to invade and control Vienna in 1683. In an effort to retake a portion of Greece in 1669, General Francesco Morosini, a sixty-four-year-old veteran, led an army of warriors and mercenaries into Greece. General Francesco Morosini was motivated by shamed after losing the Venetian colony of Crete to the Ottoman Empire.  

Morosini was well aware of the army of Turk forces at the Parthenon. Along with that, explosives were also held inside the building. Morosini and his men struck the Parthenon on September 26, 1687, which detonated the gunpowder and cause a massive explosion. The Acropolis burned for two days, and approximately 300 people died from it. The Turks surrendered and Morosini was able to regain control this area. In the course of a few months, Morosini stole multiple remaining marble statues, and artifacts from this historical building. 

The Parthenon was later used for religious purposes such as: A Christian church, a Catholic church, and a mosque. With each religious group using this space, the architecture of the site changed as well under the supervisor of the Catholic church, they installed a spiral staircase, and multiple tombs underneath the Parthenon. Jacques Carrey, a French painter and draughtsman created a series of drawings of the Parthenon in 1674. In addition to attractions in Greece, he executed over 500 drawings of towns, antiquities, ceremonies in Asia Minor, and Palestine between 1670 and 1679. 

Approximately 65% of the original sculptures, including the South Metopes from the Parthenon, survived and are located in museums across Europe. Almost a majority of the original sculptures can be seen at the Acropolis Museum in Athens or the British Museum in London. Since the 1980s, Greece government has augured against the British Museum Trustees’ legal title to the original Parthenon sculptures, and demanded that they return them back to Greece.


"Ancient Greek Art." Parthenon Metopes. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Collection Online. British Museum., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Marble Metope (XXXI). Digital image. British Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
"How Do We Know That Carreys Drawings Can Be Trusted?" How Do We Know That Carreys
Drawings Can Be Trusted? N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
"Theseus Adventures." Theseus Adventures. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
"Parthenon Metopes (Sculpture)." Perseus Tufts Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.