Parthenon Metopes

The Parthenon metopes that were visible on the exterior of the temple were made in deep relief and surrounded the temple on all sides. Most Greek temples had few decorated metopes, but in the Parthenon all ninety-two metopes were decorated on all sides with scenes from Greek mythology.

Early Christians systematically damaged most of the sculptures when the Parthenon was converted to a church. Further damage occurred when the Venetians scored a direct hit on the Parthenon with their canon during their scrimmage with the occupying Turks. However, the fragments that have survived speak of conceptualization and craftsmanship at the highest level. The marble figures of the Parthenon metopes reconstruct a dynamic narrative with abundant energy and detail. The tension of the muscles, the push of the bone against the flesh, and even bulging veins are clearly visible and surprising details for sculptures that were to be seen from a considerable distance as they clinked near the top of the building.

Each side of the Parthenon depicts a different mythological and historical theme.

At the east (or front) of the temple the metopes depicted the Gigantomachy, or the battle between the gods and the giants. The west metopes depicted fights between Greeks and the Amazons (or Persians), while the north and south metopes included scenes from the Trojan War and the Cenauromachy respectively.

While the narrative differs from side to side, the metopes are bound thematically by a common theme: the triumph of civilization over barbarism, a theme dear to the hearts of the Athenians who were not shy to believe themselves and their achievements as superior to other cultures of their time.


Also see: The Parthenon Sculptures




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