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The viewing and obscuring of the Parthenon frieze

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2013

Robin Osborne
Affiliation:
King's College, Cambridge
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For all its notoriety, Classical archaeologists find the Parthenon frieze a difficult object with which to come to terms: its position on the building is seen as perverse, its subject-matter impenetrable, and its ‘style’ anomalous. This paper sets out to show that these difficulties are inter-related.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 1987

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References

1 Lawrence, A. W., Greek and Roman Sculpture (London, 1972) 139Google Scholar.

2 Ashmole, B., Architect and sculptor in classical Greece (London, 1972) 118Google Scholar.

3 Langlotz, E., Phidias und der Parthenonfries (Stuttgart, 1965) 5Google Scholar.

4 See Brommer, F., Der Parthenonfries (Mainz 1977) 156Google Scholar, citing earlier discussions.

5 Robertson, C. M., The Parthenon frieze (London 1975) 10Google Scholar.

6 Ridgway, B. S., Fifth century styles in Greek sculpture (Princeton 1981) 74Google Scholar.

7 Stillwell, R., Hesperia xxxviii (1969) 231–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Some have thought that the viewer would be better served if the frieze had been discontinuous, cf. Murray, C. S., The sculptures of the Parthenon (London 1903) 84Google Scholar.

9 Stillwell's drawings make it clear that it is possible to see every part of the frieze in this way.

10 Stillwell (n. 7) 234–8.

11 Stillwell (n. 7) 238–9.

12 Robertson, C. M., A history of Greek art (Cambridge 1975) 309Google Scholar.

13 Boardman, J., ‘The Parthenon frieze,’ in Berger, E. ed. Parthenon-Kongress Basel (Mainz 1984) 210–15Google Scholar.

14 cf. Boardman (n. 13) 213–4; Ashmole (n. 2) 143.

15 Robertson (n. 12) 308–9 makes the case for the folded cloth being the old peplos which is being removed, rather than the new being given. Despite Simon, E., Festivals of Attica (Wisconsin 1983) 66Google Scholar, there is no external evidence to settle the question one way or the other.

16 Robertson (n. 5) 11.

17 On major festivals the big doors would have been wide open; at other times only one leaf of the door will have been open. Pausanias' account of his visits to temples makes it clear that in his time, at least, it was normally possible for a visitor to enter (see Corbett, P. E., BICS xvii [1970] 149–58Google Scholar), and that in the case of temples to which access was not allowed, it was quite possible to see the cult statue (cf. especially Pausanias ii 10.4).

18 See Leipen, N., Athena Parthenon, a reconstruction, (Toronto 1971) 24–7Google Scholar.

19 Lawrence (n. 1) 144.

20 Boardman, J., Greek art2 (London 1973) 120–1Google Scholar.

21 Brommer, F., The sculptures of the Parthenon (London 1979) 33–4Google Scholar and cf. 67.

22 Kahil, L., ‘L'acropole,’ in Athènes au temps de Périclès (Paris 1965) 132Google Scholar.

23 Cf. Loraux, N., L'invention d'Athènes. Histoire de I'oraison funèbre dans la ‘cité classique’ (Paris 1981) 284Google Scholar.

24 Loraux, N., Ancient Society vi (1975) 131Google Scholar, especially 9–18. My account is heavily indebted to Loraux's work.

25 See Jeanmaire, H., Couroi et courètes (Paris 1939) 2942Google Scholar.

26 Individual warriors: IG i2 976; Hesperia viii (1939) 165–9Google Scholar. Group epitaphs: IG i2 943; Anth Pal. vii 258.

27 Perikles' funeral oration for the dead on Samos, quoted by Aristotle, Rhetoric 1365a 31–3, 1411a 1–4.

29 IG i2 946/Anth. Pal. vii 254.

30 See Loraux (n. 24) 24–30.

31 Robertson (n. 12) 310.

32 Boardman (n. 13) 215.

33 Ridgway, B. S., The severe style in Greek sculpture (Princeton 1970)Google Scholar, Ridgway, B.S., The archaic style in Greek sculpture (Princeton, 1977)Google Scholar.

34 Robertson (n. 12) 365.

35 Robertson (n. 12) 364, and cf. 296.

36 By contrast, the display of the Bassai frieze on the inside of a rather dimly lit room goes some way to reproduce the setting of the Arkadian temple, although the frieze is not at the same height, and the room has neither the spaciousness nor the variation of shadow of the temple cella. Assessing the Bassai frieze is rendered problematic by the uncertainty surrounding the order of the slabs.

This paper has benefited from the criticism of Mary Beard, Peter Callaghan, Martin Robertson, Anthony Snodgrass and Richard Tomlinson, and from the encouragement of Simon Goldhill and Catherine Osborne. It is dedicated to John Henderson, who enthused.

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