« PreviousContinue »
turning his head to another part of the procession. That seems to be a reasonable view, much more so than a recent suggestion to the effect that he is tying a diadem round his head.
Another class of boys on the frieze are those who are leading cows and sheep to the sacrifice, or bringing vessels with water, or playing on flutes and lyres (N. 1-28 and S. 106-131). A musical accompaniment has at all times been necessary in processions, as we know by experience. Part of the education of boys was to learn to play on the lyre and flute. It was therefore right and proper that the music in this instance should be provided by them. As regards the hydrophori, or boys carrying water-vessels, we are accustomed to think of girls doing that rather than boys. It is women and girls who draw and carry water on the old Greek painted vases, as it is in Greece and Egypt at the present day. We do not know why boys were chosen in the Panathenaic procession.
The slab of water-bearers (N. 16-19) has been well preserved fortunately in Athens, and we are thus enabled to admire almost to the full the charm which the sculptor has infused into the action and drapery. It is an action which involves
every limb of the body, and was therefore calculated to produce a fine scheme of folds, were the boys provided with ample mantles as they are. The effect seems beautiful. Singularly beautiful also, to our mind, is the boy stooping eagerly and in haste to raise his hydria. Docile creatures like cows and sheep may easily be led or driven by boys,
See the figure of a Thracian listening to Orpheus on a vase from Gela, in Roscher's Lexikon, s.v. Orpheus, p. 1179.
and in the group of boys and sheep (iv.) the association of the two is quite natural. It is, in fact, a true and at the same time a poetic observation of nature to place the boy's hand gently on the back of the sheep as if no more guidance were needed.
The boys leading cows (i.-iii.) are a little taller and possibly a year or two older, but even then their figures are young and slight compared with the massive build of the cows. We know very well that a young boy may easily lead a cow. Even when she throws up her head as if exerting great force, a boy putting his strength to the rope will hold her in. Such things may be verified any day. It is a true and just observation of daily life. More than that, it is one of those revelations of Nature where she delights in making a huge or even a ferocious animal obey a child. These thoughts arise when we look on these animals being thus led to sacrifice, and we feel sure the sculptor meant to awaken thoughts of that kind, whatever the actual facts of the procession may have been.
We have yet another set of boys to consider—those who were employed to drive the chariots in the procession. In a public race it was no easy task to drive a chariot of four fiery horses, and even in the procession through the streets of Athens it must have been difficult, but we find on the frieze that certain precautions were taken. That is to say, each chariot is accompanied by a man on foot, whose duty was to keep the horses in check when necessary. In a splendid fragment in Athens we see him at the heads of the horses, straining every effort to arrest their pace (N. 44). Nothing could be finer than the impact of human against equine strength, nor, merely as a piece of harmonious composition of line and form, could anything more beautiful be desired. Let us take as an example of boy drivers slab xii. of the north frieze, where he is almost falling backwards. He is dressed as a girl. Such was the custom among the Greeks, strange as it may appear to us.
We have still to notice the two girls in the very centre of the east frieze, 31-32, each carrying on her head a fourlegged seat, and bringing it to the priestess of Athenè, Polias, who is in the act of receiving the seat carried by the elder and taller of the two. Thus, while the priest, 34, is receiving the new robe, the priestess close beside him is receiving two seats. Both acts ought to be of co-ordinate importance or nearly so, seeing that they are placed in close juxtaposition in the most central part of the frieze. These two girls are obviously the well-known attendants of the priestess, who bore respectively the titles of Cosmo and Trapezo. They have small cushions on their heads to ease
intended? That is a question which has given some trouble. At first sight one would suppose for the priest and priestess. It may have been so. It has often been thought so. But a reasonable objection has been raised that the priest and priestess when seated would have appeared co-ordinate with the deities on either side. To meet this difficulty it has been suggested that the two seats were being brought forth from the temple to be taken possession of by invisible deities. That would be quite consistent with what we know of religious rites among the Greeks. When the visit of a god was expected or desired, an empty couch was prepared for him. It is supposed that the two girls had previously brought forward the twelve seats on which the gods are sitting, and that they are here represented in some concluding act of the same kind. It is there assumed that the deities are inside the temple seated on seats which had been placed there for them. That is by no means a new idea. But deities seated inside a temple could hardly be expected to exhibit so much animation and interest in the approaching procession as they do on the frieze. Aphroditè, 41, points energetically to it. The goddess behind her pulls up her right hand. Dionysos (?) raises his left hand, 39. Poseidon also raises his left, 38. Hephaestos, 37, turns eagerly to Athenè, who remains placid, as does Zeus, 30. But Hera, 29, beside him is excited, pulling aside her veil with both hands. There is not, perhaps, so much animation in the deities beyond her, but there is some. And the presence of deities among mortals to whom they are invisible needs no proof now.
From these remarks, so far as they have dealt with the mere boys and girls who appear in the procession, to say nothing of the multitude of youthful horsemen, we return to our opinion that the whole frieze is a glorification of youth. But why so? So far as the festival was in honour of Athenė we can understand this preponderance of youth. She herself was always youthful. But the sacrifice at least was offered to the whole of the twelve great deities as we see, and they as a body had no special interest in youth more than old in age.
Possibly they had assembled as a united, invisible body to share with Athenè a sacrifice intended for her in the first instance. Though armed with helmet, shield, and spear from her birth and always ready for war, she was at the same time the goddess who inspired the education of youth. It was she who taught young men how to bridle their horses, and young girls how to spin and embroider. As she sees the Ergastinae advancing she may well be pleased. She could drive her own chariot on occasion. It may be, therefore, that the preponderance of youth in the actual procession through the streets of Athens and on the frieze of her greatest temple was intended as a special honour for her. Among the gods in the east frieze she holds a position equal to that of Zeus himself — she is at the head of one group as he is at the head of the other. Beside her and in conversation with her is seated Hephaestos, the god of handicraft and artistic skill. In Athenian belief she was closely associated with him. It was he who made the statue of Pandora. It was she who breathed into it the breath of life. He was the practical workman, she the inspiring genius. We recognise Hephaestos easily when we remember that he was lame. He is the only one of the deities who needs to use a staff for support under his right arm. That is explicit enough.
At this point it may be well to remember that the east frieze of the Parthenon is not the only instance in which Pheidias sculptured the great deities of Olympos in bas-relief and in two separate groups. He did so on the base of his great statue of Athenè within the Parthenon itself, where the subject was the birth of Pandora, the deities looking on. On the base of his even more famous chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia he sculptured in gold the birth of the goddess Aphrodite in the presence of the great deities, and fortunately we know from Pausanias exactly how the scene was disposed. The whole scene was bounded on the left by