Parthenon, Greece    ...............................     Architecture Around the World

A sampling of Parthenon Sculptures/Elgin Marbles at the British Museum
British Museum, London, England

British Museum - Official Website

2002 Photos

The Parthenon in Athens has a long and complex history. Built nearly 2,500 years ago as a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, it was for a thousand years the church of the Virgin Mary of the Athenians, then a mosque, and finally an archaeological ruin.

The building was altered and the sculptures much damaged over the course of the centuries. The first major loss occurred around AD 500 when the Parthenon was converted into a church. When the city was under siege by the Venetians in 1687, the Parthenon itself was used as a gunpowder store. A huge explosion blew the roof off and destroyed a large portion of the remaining sculptures. The building has been a ruin ever since.

By 1800 only about half of the original sculptural decoration remained. Between 1801 and 1805 Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, acting with the full knowledge and permission of the Ottoman authorities, removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the fallen ruins and from the building itself. Lord Elgin was passionate about ancient Greek art and transported the sculptures to Britain. Their arrival in London was to make a profound impression upon western ideas of art and taste.

The majority of the [Parthenon] sculptures are roughly equally divided between Athens and London. Important pieces are also held by other major European museums, including the Musée du Louvre in Paris, Vatican Museums, the National Museum in Copenhagen, the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, the University Museum in Würzburg, and the Glyptothek in Munich.

The sculptures in London, sometimes known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’, have been on permanent public display in the British Museum since 1817, free of charge.
- British Museum: The Parthenon Sculptures (online December 2018)

East pediment sculptures
Pediment:  A triangular gable across a portico, door or window; any similar triangular decorative piece over a doorway, fireplace, etc.

SourceParthenon signage in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

East pediment   ...   The east pediment of the Parthenon showed the birth of goddess Athena from the head of her father Zeus. The sculptures that represented the actual scene are lost. Zeus was probably shown seated, while Athena was striding away from him fully grown and armed.   ...   For a plaster reconstruction according to a drawing from 1904, see the Acropolis Museum   ...  
Two details of left side sculptures:

East pediment detail

Frieze sculptures
Any sculptured or richly ornamented band in a building
The middle section of the Classic entablature, located above the architrave and below the cornice; a panel below the upper molding or cornice of a wall

Front entrance is located in the east elevation   ...   Illustrations below continue to the left around the Parthenon:

South metopes
Metope: The spaces between two triglyphs on a Doric  frieze

SourceParthenon signage in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

Baldric: a belt for a sword or other piece of equipment, worn over one shoulder and reaching down to the opposite hip.

Antefix: A decorated upright slab, fixed vertically at regular intervals along the lower edge of a roof to cover or conceal the open end of a row of tiles

Note lion head gargoyle to the left of the four antefixes

Additional signage:

Lower part of marble antefix and cast:  Greek temple rooves [roofs] consisted of flat tiles and arched coping tiles to cover the joints.  The visible end of the lowest coping was concealed with a decorative antefix. Tiles and antefixes were usually of terracotta, but those of the Parthenon were made of marble.

The antefixes of the Parthenon comprised a palmette between two volutes.The size of the tiles normally dictated the spacing of the antefixes, one per joint, but in the case of the Parthenon the architect decided to widen the spacing: every third line of  coping tiles was given an antefix, while the two intermediate tiles were cut short so that their ends were not visible from below (see drawing above).

Antefix cast from Athens:
a palmette between two volutes [anthemion]

A new type of floral acroterion was designed for the Parthenon. The design featured foliage rising from several acanthus stems at the base, from which grew spiraling tendrils, and the whole was crowned with a palmette. The entire ornament measured approximately for metes [about 13 feet] in height.  This drawing incorporates fragments in the Acropolis Museum, Athens.

Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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