Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon
The East Pediment, which was above the temple entrance, told the story of the birth of Athena. The sculptural arrangement depicts the moment of Athena’s birth.
The West Pediment illustrated the contest between Athena and Poseidon during their competition for the honor of becoming Athens’ patron.
The pediment is an architectural element of Classical Greek Architecture consisting of the triangular section in front and behind the temple located above the horizontal sections supported by columns.
The pediment was not an ideal space for sculptures and demanded imagination and skill to create sculptures that worked in the narrowing areas at either end of the sloping Pediment.
Time and military conflicts have significantly damaged the pediments. During the siege of Athens in 1687, the Venetians fired on to the Parthenon, resulting in the explosion of the Ottoman powder reserve stored in the Parthenon, which significantly damaged the pediments.
The blast caused some of the statues to fall. Later the Venetians decided to take some sculptures from the western pediment.
However, they were ill-equipped, and the figures crashed to the ground with further damage inflicted. Only one female head found its way to Venice, and part of the head of one of the horses of Athena’s chariot is in the Vatican.
Considered the perfect example of Classical Greek sculpture and the embodiment of ideal beauty, many of the statues were removed from the building in 1801 by Lord Elgin’s agents and transported to the British Museum in London.
Demeter and her daughter Persephone
Two of the female figures from the Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon represent Demeter and her daughter Persephone.
In the ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter, who was Zeus’ sister, is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture; she presided over grains and the earth’s fertility.
She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of earlier mythology that predated the Olympian pantheon of Gods.
The myth about these two figures is centered on the story in which Hades, the God of the underworld, abducted Demeter’s virgin daughter Persephone.
Demeter was distraught at the loss of her daughter and searched everywhere for her. As Demeter became inconsolably preoccupied with her loss and grief, the seasons failed, living things stopped growing and began to die.
Faced with extinction on earth, Zeus, the king of all the gods, sent his messenger, Hermes, to the underworld to bring Persephone back to Demeter. Hades agreed to release her if she had not eaten anything while in Hades.
Unfortunately, Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds. This indiscretion condemned Persephone to Hades and the underworld for certain months every year.
Thus every Spring, Demeter, with her daughter’s return, would make sure the flowers bloomed, and crops grew, and the fields were green.
Every Winter, when Persephone returned to the underworld, Demeter would ignore the plants and the flowers and let them die.
And then again in the Spring, Demeter would bring everything back to life again, ready to welcome her daughter. These Parthenon sculptures capture the Golden Age of Athens’ culture and spirit, a culture that celebrated perfection, beauty, the heroic, and the noble.
- Goddess of: Agriculture, fertility, and the harvest
- Abode: Mount Olympus, Greece
- Symbol: Cornucopia, wheat, torch, bread
- Consorts: Zeus, Poseidon, and others
- Parents: Cronus and Rhea
- Siblings: Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus, Chiron
- Children: Persephone, Despoina, and six other children
Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon
- Title: Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon
- Builder: Phidias
- Built: 447 – 438 BC
- Material: Marble from Mount Pentelikon (Pentelic marble)
- Origins: Athens, Greece
- Collection: 17 Parthenon pedimental figures
- Museum: The British Museum
The Parthenon Pediments
The Parthenon: Pediments and Metopes – The Acropolis and The Parthenon
A Tour of Greek Genius
- Acropolis of Athens
- Acropolis Museum
- National Archaeological Museum
- The Parthenon Marbles
- The Parthenon Frieze
- Metopes of the Parthenon
- Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon
- The British Museum
Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum
Egyptian Blue on the Parthenon Sculptures
“A miser and a liar bargain quickly.”
– Greek Proverb
Photo Credits: 1)JOM