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ORIENTATION OF THE PARTHENON
Athenė. The metopes may be described as a long choral ode, showing how greatly her presence was needed by mankind in its conflicts with barbarism. The west pediment was Act ii., illustrating the encounter between Athenè and Poseidon. Then followed the frieze, equivalent to another long choral ode, describing the solemnity and pomp with which the Athenians accompanied their gift of a new robe to their goddess. The chryselephantine statue may be compared to a concluding burst of joy."
The only public access to the Acropolis was on the west, through the Propylaea. It was therefore the west front of the Parthenon which came first into view. But the west was only the secondary front. There was no escape from the rule that the principal front must face the
Accordingly it was the second act of the drama which the visitor saw first as he approached the Parthenon. There he beheld Athenè contending with Poseidon, and only later, when he had passed round to the east front, recognised her birth. In an artistic sense this was doubtless a disadvantage for the pediment sculptures. But what was in some measure a loss to the pediments, through the inversion of the natural order of events, was a remarkable gain to the frieze. There the task of the sculptor was to exhibit in full the Panathenaic procession, with its preparations and start, its progress through the streets of Athens, and its climax on the Acropolis, where the gods were seated to receive the new robe and the sacrifice of cows and sheep. On the west end of the frieze, that is on the part which was first visible to spectators arriving from the Propylaea, were placed the preparation and start of the procession, on the east end its climax. There remained the two long sides of the temple, north and south, for the display of horsemen, chariots, musicians, and sacrificial animals as they passed through the streets. For this purpose the sculptor required only one long side, but having two to deal with, he chose to make the one practically a duplicate of the other, so that a visitor starting from the west end, as he naturally would do, might take his choice of passing round by the north or the south side. In either case he would find himself following the procession and, as it were, gradually overtaking it, seeming to share in its movement. If we could suppose that the procession had parted in two longitudinally at some point in its progress, uniting again at the end, the disposition of the groups on the frieze might be quite in order. But such a view of the question is impossible. Therefore we accept the duplication of the north and south friezes as not only an artistic device, but a source of convenience for ordinary spectators.
· Prof. Butcher, in Some Aspects of expressed . . . and if pediment and the Greek Genius, p. 36, says of the metope tell of the remote past, the Parthenon, "In the eastern pediment is splendour of the present is unfolded in sculptured the first act of the drama the frieze of the cella.” Similarly M. ... the birth of the goddess. . . . In Perrot, speaking of the frieze in the the western pediment the second act is Mélanges Weil, p. 382, says : “C'est la rehearsed, the rivalry of Athenè and mise en scène de l'hommage solennel Poseidon. . . . In the sculptured me- que la cité rendait ... à sa chère et topes ... the conflict is more clearly puissante patronne."
The most natural thing for a spectator to do after examining the preparation and start on the west frieze was to turn to the left and pass round by the north side, where he would find himself close to many interesting objects on the Acropolis. If he turned
POSITION OF THE FRIEZE
to the right and passed along by the south side there would be little to attract him outside the Parthenon itself. The sculptor had doubtless foreseen this, and possibly that is why he was less exacting in the execution of the south frieze. Later on, we shall have occasion to notice much negligence there.
The frieze being visible only in the colonnade or, at farthest, on the steps of the temple, and therefore in diffused light, was by a true instinct sculptured in very low relief with no pronounced shadows except round the outer contours. In this respect we may notice a marked difference in the frieze of the Theseum, which also was seen only from the colonnade. There the relief is as high as in the metopes of the same building, which were exposed to the direct light of the sun. Yet what was good for the one could not have been good for the other. Or again, in more archaic buildings, as at Assos in the Troad and at Delphi, we find friezes in low relief placed externally under the full light of the sun. Apparently it was the sculptor of the Parthenon who first laid down the rule that reliefs in a diffused light must be kept low, in exposed light as high as possible.
The frieze being placed at a great height, and visible only at an acute angle, the sculptor took the precaution of tilting forward the upper parts of the figures so as to make them appear vertical, seen from below, while at the same time the background of the relief remains perpendicular. That was not altogether a novelty. We see it also in the capital of a column from the archaic temple of Diana at Ephesus. It was a question of optics. But the precise amount of
projection in the relief of the frieze was not otherwise a thing which could be calculated on any system of proportions. The common rule that a figure in relief should be one-third of its natural thickness was not to be thought of, still less Plato's notion that figures in relief on stelae were represented as if bisected vertically." The whole question was how to attain the greatest explicitness in a long composition mostly crowded with figures two or three deep, exhibited under diffused light and at a considerable distance from the eye. In these circumstances one might have expected to find all inner details sacrificed to the main outlines of the procession. Such, however, is not the case.
The inner modelling of horse and man is indeed kept so low as to be invisible at a comparatively short distance. But it is there, all the same, in inexpressible beauty.
The metopes presented a complicated problem. For the sake of the light the figures had to be in the highest possible relief. For the sake of the architecture they could not be more than two-thirds life size. Yet certain of them had to be placed immediately under the colossal statues of the pediments, and therefore were seen in the same glance with the pediments. The result might have been an apparent conflict between the two sets of figures, so widely different in proportions; and probably it was to avoid an effect of this kind at Olympia that the metopes of the temple of Zeus were withdrawn within the colonnade, so as not to be visible at the same moment as the pediments. But on the Parthenon
Sympos. 19: He calls them diorai, or "slices" of men, and argues that Zeus made men similarly in two halves.
POSITION OF THE METOPES
we find that the deeply grooved triglyphs which separate the metopes into isolated groups have the happy effect of imparting a subsidiary, decorative character to the metopes, somewhat analogous to the predella of a picture. Thus, instead of being in collision with the pediments, the metopes act as an enriching border below them. It has long been held that the metopes which have survived from the south side of the Parthenon have every appearance of having been the work of a sculptor who had not been able to shake off certain traditions of an older and harder school. But it is not safe to judge in this way from a comparatively small portion of an extensive design. The other metopes still remaining on the building, though now greatly damaged, seem to differ largely in style from those just mentioned. Besides, a torso in the British Museum, which had constantly been regarded as that of a Lapith from one of the south metopes, was proved some years ago to belong to one of the boys in the west pediment. That was a warning against hasty inferences as to distinctions of style in different parts of the sculptures.
So vast a scheme of sculpture as that of the Parthenon must have surpassed the faculties of any one man to invent, direct, and supervise within a reasonable time. We are told that Pheidias, besides having himself made the colossal gold and ivory statue of Athenè within the temple, was appointed by Pericles to direct all the public works then proceeding in Athens, including the Parthenon. The marvel was with what speed these works were accomplished. It is specified that in architectural matters he had the assistance of Callicrates and Ictinos, and that in other directions also