Page images


by one hariots. nsisting it stage ad prolon had nent of s amply ities, to That a ; horses trioteer, e heads

hat the at older

closed isolate pia the bviously :ctators. advance I a new : poetic r. But

see at of the arkedly terested ures so

the whole centre of the pediment was occupied by one great group, closed in on each side by the two chariots. Within this group there was a further division, consisting of the two deities themselves, represented at that stage of the contention between them when Athenè had produced her olive tree on the Acropolis and Poseidon had made his spring of water flow. Thus the moment of greatest intensity had just been reached; and this is amply reflected in the action of the two contending deities, to say nothing of the rearing horses of Athenė. That a similar degree of excitement had been shown by the horses of Poseidon is clear from the bearing of his charioteer, which we possess, O, and in a measure also from the heads of his two horses, which have been preserved (Pl. V.).

At this stage it is important to bear in mind that the east pediment of Olympia presents under a somewhat older type this same principle of a great middle group closed in by two chariots facing the centre, and serving to isolate as well as to magnify the protagonists. At Olympia the figures in the two wings of the pediment are obviously local and secondary beings—in a word, interested spectators. That, as we have already remarked, was a striking advance on the older methods of composition. It introduced a new touch of nature, which must have appealed to the poetic instincts of a great sculptor coming immediately after. But even apart from considerations of a poetic kind, we see at once from Carrey's drawing of the west pediment of the Parthenon that the figures in the two wings are markedly dissociated from the central group, except as interested spectators. It seems inconceivable that these figures so ostentatiously cut off from the central group can be deities. By their presence they indicate the permanent effects of the momentary dispute of the deities on the district in question—that is, Attica. The produce of the land, especially olive-growing, was to be supreme over sea-faring. It was what would now be called a “Little Athens ” policy. We need say no more concerning the general composition of this pediment. Our troubles will begin when we have to decide each for himself how far the figures in the angles are local heroes or local personifications. The one thing to bear in mind is that local heroes may after all be only local personifications crystallised into more popular forms, in which case a river-god, of whom we know only the name, may reasonably appear side by side with Cecrops, who, though equally a personification to begin with, had passed over into the legendary history of Athens.

To take the figures one by one, we begin as of right with the central

And first it will be of interest to notice a Greek vase in St. Petersburg on which is painted the contest of Athenè and Poseidon (Pl. II., Fig. 2). In the centre between them is an olive tree with the serpent of Athenė twined round its stem and Nikè among the branches. On the left is Athenè in recoil from her final act, and at the same time turning towards her chariot to leave the scene. On the right Poseidon seizes by the bridle a horse, below which are the brackish pool of water and the dolphins. Doubtless this one horse is a sufficient attribute of Poseidon, but comparing the vase, so far as it goes, with the west pediment, we must conclude that the one horse in effect represents the two horses of his chariot. As a result of this com


« PreviousContinue »