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CHAPTER III

THE EAST PEDIMENT

[PLATES VI.-IX.)

N the east pediment we have no drawings of Carrey to

show us what the great central group, now missing, had been like. All we possess is the groups from the two angles, much as Carrey saw them (Pl. VI.). But we are told by Pausanias in the briefest possible words that the whole of the sculptures of this pediment were concerned with the birth of Athenè. With this authentic information we see at once that what is now a great void in the centre had been occupied originally by the deities present at and startled by the birth of the goddess from the head of her father Zeus. We read in the Homeric Hymn to Athenè that Olympos, the abode of the gods, trembled at the sight of her, the earth moaned heavily, the sea was agitated, raising its purple waves and tossing its brine; Helios, the sun-god, stayed his horses what time Athenè was doffing her immortal armour to the joy of her father Zeus. Pindar (Olymp. vii.) says: "Springing from the head of her father, she shouted an exceeding great cry, and Olympos and mother earth shuddered at her.” Later on he says that the sun-god had commanded to watch her advent and to offer her sacrifice.

With the aid of these poets and with the sober statement of Pausanias we can imagine the present great void in the centre filled by deities, all agitated except Zeus himself. On the strength of certain Greek vases and the reliefs on a marble well-mouth (puteal) in Madrid (Pl. IX. Fig. 1), we may even go a step further and imagine Zeus seated in the very centre or near it, facing the right, Hephaestos immediately behind him, rushing off in haste after having cloven the head of Zeus, and Athenè in front of her father, full armed and excited. Beyond these limits we cannot go, except in mere speculation. Yet we know in general terms that the whole central

group

of deities, now lost, had been stirred into action by a sudden event; and if anything is needed to confirm this view, it is supplied by the existing groups of the two angles, where each figure is seen to be moved by some action in the centre, the sound of which is reaching them one after the other, according to distance. We are on sure ground thus far, and must now meet the next question : Did the figures in the two angles belong to the conclave of deities present at the birth of Athene? In other words : Did the whole composition of the east pediment represent a united homogeneous body? If so, why are those in the angles so unprepared for what is happening in their midst ? examine them one by one we shall see how unprepared they are, and how much in this respect they resemble the angle groups of the west pediment. Meantime we have no hesitation in accepting for the east pediment the same principle of composition which we have recognised in the west ; that is to say, a great central

group

of deities who were visible only to the inner eye, and two angle groups of secondary beings, whom

for the moment we may call merely interested spectators. The name of each figure is indifferent compared with the artistic principle which dominates the whole composition, and it is precisely for this reason that we have taken first the west pediment, which we could survey as a whole in Carrey's drawing. In the west pediment we have seen that the great central group of deities and chariots is complete in itself. The action of that group is not shared by the figures in the wings, but only passes over to them in its consequences. We expect the same principle of composition in the east pediment, and as a matter of fact the prevailing opinion of late years has been distinctly in that direction.

The point we desire to press most is this : If the deities in the west pediment were by their nature invisibly present in the atmosphere of the Acropolis when the olive tree and the brackish spring were made to appear, and if the deities on the frieze waiting the rich sacrifices to be offered them are seated invisibly on the Acropolis or inside a temple, there is at least a strong presumption that the same principle had applied to the central deities of the east pediment. Assume, as is usual, that they were in Olympos when Athene sprang into being; we then lose the unity of place, and have either to invent means of communicating the news to beings on the earth, or, following the Homeric Hymn to Athenė, assume that the angle groups represent earth and sea violently agitated by the event. But the sea from which Helios rises in the left angle is perfectly calm, with only a ripple on its surface as at a peaceful dawn. There is no agitation in the extreme angles. And what would have been the significance of the birth of the goddess for the Athenians

if it had been an event which concerned the whole world and not them by overwhelming preference? Let us call the invisible sphere where she was born Olympos, but define it as for the moment just over Athens. If the gods went to Ethiopia for a feast they might equally come to Athens, so the Athenians may well have thought, for the birth of their protecting goddess.

The view we here propose is in fact only an expansion of the invisible Zeus in the east and the invisible Apollo in the west pediment of Olympia, to which we may add the invisible Athenè of the Aegina pediments. It is a development of the Homeric idea of shrouding a deity in mist, or otherwise making him or her unperceived by mortals, though near to them. We see the same development in the frieze of the Theseum and in the archaic frieze of the Treasury of Cnidos at Delphi. In mankind everywhere there is an inner vision which no true artist can ignore. When the sculptor sought to meet the demands of this inner eye by a conventional method, as in these instances and on the Parthenon, we may rest assured that he was well understood by his own generation.

The sculptor has set as boundaries of the scene the sun rising from the sea in the left angle and the moon descending behind the hills in the right (Pl. IX.). The sun and the moon are doubtless cosmic powers common to mankind. Yet every little town or village knows them only as they appear to it.

An Athenian standing at dawn before the east front of the Parthenon and looking towards the pediment might see the sun rising from the sea on his left and the moon passing on his right away over the hills. He would know no other sun and moon but his own. With equal justice

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