THE PARTHENON FRIEZE, A CLOSER LOOK

Author(s): John Boardman
Source: Revue Archéologique, Nouvelle Série, Fasc. 2 (1999), pp. 305-330
Published by: Presses Universitaires de France
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THE PARTHENON
FRIEZE,
A CLOSER LOOK
par
John Boardman
La frise du
Parthénon,
vue de
près.
Résumé
-
L'étude de détails de la frise
ionique
du Par-
thénon
-
en
particulier
frise
Est, plaque V, figures
31
et 32
-
est une occasion
pour
l'A. de revenir sur
l'identification de certains éléments
-
tabourets,
cous-
sins
-
et des
personnages qui
les
portent.
La
figure
35
est bien une
jeune
fille
-
les
plis
de son
cou,
le
fessier,
le
vêtement le
signalent.
Les hommes
d'âge
mûr de la
frise
Nord, plaques
VIII-X
principalement,
et de la frise
Sud, plaques XXXVI-XXXVII,
ont
reçu
maintes iden-
tifications.
L'âge,
nettement
marqué,
l'absence de
beauté
idéale,
en font une
catégorie
à
part.
Ils
peuvent
représenter
les « anciens » de Marathon.
Remarques
sur
la relation
qu'il
faut savoir établir entre la frise
ionique,
peu visible, qui
raconte les victoires des
humains,
et les
métopes,
en
pleine lumière, espace
réservé aux activités
des dieux et des héros.
Mou clés- Monde
grec.
Grèce. Athènes. Parthénon.
Sculp-
ture architurale. Frise
ionique. Métope. Iconographie.
Sources
antiques.
Ve s. av.
J.-C.
Abstract
-
An accurate
study
of the Ionic frieze of the
Parthenon
-
in
particular,
the east
frieze,
slab
V,
figures
31 and 32
-
gives
the A. the
opportunity
to
reconsider the identification of some elements
-
foot-
stools,
cushions
-
and of the
figures
who bear them.
Obviously, figure
35 is a
girl:
the
presence
of Venus
rings
on the
neck,
the bottom and the dress
speak
for a
feminine
figure.
The old men on the north
frieze,
slabs VIII-X
principally,
and on the south
frieze,
slabs
XXXVI-XXXVII,
have been identified in
many
different
ways.
The
years, clearly marked,
the absence
of ideal
beauty, put
them
apart. They may represent
the
"veterans" of Marathon. Remarks on the relation one
must establish between the Ionic
frieze, hidden in the
shade of the
peristyle,
and which commemorates the
victories of the
humans,
and the
metopes,
situated in
full
light,
reserved for the activities of
gods
and heroes.
Key-words
-
Greek world. Greece. Athens. Parthenon.
Architecural
sculpture.
Ionic frieze.
Metope. Iconogra-
phy.
Ancient sources. 5th bc.
All
interpretations
of the Parthenon frieze
depend ultimately
on the frieze itself.
Although
its
composition
is
broadly
determined
by
traditional
iconographie
formulae and
signals,
it is
unique,
and there is no other monument which is both so similar to it and better
explained
as to be of
any great help.
We use
analogy
for
explanation
of
figures, groups
and
details,
and we
use,
as best we
can,
our
knowledge
of what we can
plausibly expect
of life and
art in classical
Athens,
and what we think a classical Athenian would have
designed
and
understood. The ultimate
appeal
has to be to the marble itself.
Any attempt
to
support
a
hypo-
thesis without
proper
observation of what the marble tells
us, or,
in the same
interest,
to dis-
miss
anything
that it does tell us
quite unequivocally,
is inadmissible. This
paper
is devoted
principally
to two
subjects
on the
frieze,
but will allude to much else.
We have to look at the frieze in
original
or cast rather as the
sculptor
and
painter
did
after it was
finished,
from
directly
in
front,
whether it was carved on the
ground or,
as is
pro-
Rev. Arch. 2/99
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306 John Boardmari
bable for most or all of
it,
in situ.1 We have lost the
paint
and much of the carved surface but
we still see more than
any
viewer on the
ground
could have done. The
designer
and executants
seem not to have cared too
much,
or at
all,
for what would be visible from
below,
between the
columns,
and I know of no clear case for
any optical
correction
being
made on the frieze to
allow for the low
viewpoint,
or for
any particular
view
through
the columns.
It has
been, however,
almost
universally
held that the frieze is tilted out towards the vie-
wer,
as were other architectural
upperworks
on the
building, by
architects concerned about
false
appearances.
A moment's
inspection
in the British
Museum,
where the block bases are
set
horizontally,
shows that this is untrue. And it has been demonstrated in detail
by
the archi-
tect,
Manolis
Korres,
who has shown that the front
plane
of the relief is vertical and the back-
ground slightly
tilted back. This allows rather
greater depth
for the
upper part,
where it is
required
to allow for
torsos,
often in
three-quarter view,
and other
activity
with arms or over-
lapping figures,
while the lower
parts
are
mainly legs
and feet. The
sculptors
were
succeeding,
as no others had or
would,
in
providing
an
impression
of all-round
figures
in the shallowest
possible
relief
(up
to 5.5
cm).2
So we
may judge
all details as we see them
now,
and as the masons saw
them, or, best,
as
the
designer planned them;
not
adjusted
for
any
distant
viewer,
nor even
allowing
for
having
to
view them between
columns, although
the
designer may
have been well aware of the advanta-
ges
and
disadvantages
of the effect. I had
thought
it
helped
a sense of
movement,
broke
up any
sense of
monotony
in the cavalcade and
helped away any
unease about details of
unity (motion
followed
by immobility).3
We seek
principally
what the
designer intended,
and what we
pre-
sume the viewer of the
day
could have
understood,
whether or not he ever had a clear view of
the frieze. This
understanding might
have
changed
with
time,
even to
non-comprehension,
depending
on the viewer's awareness of the conventions of classical
art,
and his
knowledge
of
the circumstances of the creation of the
sculpture,
both of which we
may certainly
assume for
the
fifth-century
Athenian. But it must be admitted that the frieze was the smallest and least
visible of the monumental
sculpture
of the
Parthenon,
and that
photographs
and
drawings
that
pretend
to show what was visible
through
the columns have to
ignore
the fact that in
antiquity
there was
only
the
slightest
reflected
light,
from
below,
on the
frieze,
and that at best the vie-
wer was aware of
something shadowy
behind the
larger
and far more
imposing metopes.
This
1 . The west frieze,
where the
subjects respect
the block divi-
sions, might
have been cut on the
ground.
2. A. Michaelis, Der Parthenon, Leipzig, 1871, p.
203-4 re-
marked that the
height
of relief at the lower
part
was 4.5 to
5.0 cm, at the
top up
to 5.5 cm, but he did not write of
"leaning
out", rather, the
upper background
"etwas tiefer
abgearbeitet
ist". The idea that the relief leans out has been
repeated by
many,
indeed most scholars, e.g.,
F. Brommer, Der Parthenon-
fries , Mainz, 1977, p.
156. B. Ashmole,
in Architect and
Sculptor
in Classical Greece , London, 1972, p. 118, has
argued
the
point
and illustrated a slab from the side, but his
fig.
1 3 1 is
misleading.
M. Korres, Überzählige
Werkstücke des Parthenonfrieses,
in
Kanon , Festschrift
E.
Berger , Basel, 1988, pp. 19-27, fig. 4, draws
a true section of the architectural setting
of the frieze blocks.
3. The Parthenon Frieze
-
Another View, in
Festschrift für
Frank Brommer , Mainz, 1977, p. 42, and in Greek
Sculpture,
Classical Period , London, 1985, p.
107
"something
of the cha-
racter of a film
strip".
Whether the
designer
realized or inten-
ded this is another matter; probably
not. E. H. Gombrich, The
Image
and the
Eye , London, 1982, pp. 58-60, discusses dancer
reliefs
by Donatello, one unmasked, the other seen behind a co-
lonnade,
where the "effect of turbulent movement is enhan-
ced". R. Osborne thought
it
helped persuade
the viewer to
"move
along",
but I doubt whether there was
any
likelihood of
him or her
losing
their
way:
"The
viewing
and
obscuring
of the
Parthenon friez
e",JHS, 107, 1987, pp.
98-105.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 307
is not to
say
that the frieze was invisible and
insignificant, yet
its
significance
did not
depend
on
easy viewing,
but
rather,
as so much else in the architectural
sculpture
of Athens
(for
example,
the finished backs of the
pediment figures),
on it
simply being
there and
being
known to be there.4
For this article I have studied the
originals
in London and
Paris,
and the casts in
Oxford,
with the
help
of
my
notes and
photographs
of
pieces
in Athens.
L East Frieze
,
Centre Slab V
The
figures
here have become central to
many interpretations
of the whole
frieze,
and
have to be
explained
in some
way
for all others. I have often stood before the
original,
and
compared
casts and
photographs, argued
with
colleagues. Surprisingly,
it is still
possible
to
make new
observations,
and
very easy
to find observations worth
repeating
that
many
have
chosen to
forget
or have overlooked. In each case it
proves possible
to draw
positive,
or use-
fully negative, conclusions,
which
may
render some current
interpretations
of detail and theme
impossible,
and
may suggest
that others are more viable. And there are still
problems posed by
the condition of the stone. What follows is no little
prompted by
various recent
attempts
at
overall
explanation
which are careless of the
physical
evidence
(and/or implausible
on more
general grounds,
which I do not
explore here),
or
simply
hidebound. If the marble itself refutes
an
explanation,
that
explanation
cannot stand.
East Slab V was
probably displaced
from the
building
when it was converted to a
church,
and remained on the
Acropolis
until removed
by
Lord
Elgin.
Its surface had been much batte-
red,
but it was available for
drawings.
It was broken in two en route to Piraeus.5 1 dwell on the
five central
figures (fig. 1),
not the
gods
at either side.
1. The footstool is a footstool
This is the
object
held
by figure
31
(fig. 2).
From
early days
scholars had
recognized
it as
a
footstool,
and it was so restored in a colour
drawing published by
A. B. Cook in 1925.
6
It is
surprising
that this is still
being
doubted
by
some who
prefer
other identities on the basis of
4. On this, J. Boardman, Greek
Sculpture,
The Late Classical
Period London, 1995, p.
30-1.
5. The
principal
source now is E.
Berger
and M. Gisler-
-Huwiler, Der Parthenon in Basel, Dokumentation zum Fries ,
Mainz, 1996; with some corrections in I.
Jenkins,
The Parthenon
Frieze , London, 1994; and see his review of
Berger, AJA , 101,
1997, pp.
774-5. Their
photographs
are
good
but there are bet-
ter in F. Brommer, op. cit., whose text is full of still valuable ob-
servations. Other literature on the matter is endless, much of it
not
arising
from fresh or close observation of the
original
marble;
I cite it where it is
pertinent.
This is an area in which
archaeological
skills must have
priority.
B.
Wesenberg
is one
scholar in recent
years
who has
gone
to
pains
to
study
the relief
closely
and make sense of it; I am
sorry
I cannot
accept
all his
deductions, however. The
principal
recent alternative
explana-
tions to that demonstrated here have been his Panathenaïsche
Peplosdedikation
und
Arrhephorie, Jdl , 110, 1995,
pp. 149-78, proposing
the
carrying
of
trays
and torches;
J.
B.
Connelly,
Parthenon and Parthenoi, AJA , 100, 1996,
pp. 53-80, proposing
the
carrying
of shrouds in
preparation
for
human sacrifice; H. von Heintze, Athena Polias am Parthenon,
Gymnasium , 100, 1993, pp. 385-418, also
proposing
the car-
rying
of clothes,
which
(old
or new
peploi )
has attracted other
scholars in the
past.
I have tried to
present
and
argue
the evi-
dence itself without
positively rebutting
all other theories, of
which
Berger gives
the most balanced view, and which are well
discussed now in
J.
M. Hurwit, The Athenian
Acropolis , Cam-
bridge/New York, 1999, Chapter
9.
6. Zeus, II, Cambridge, 1925, pl.
44.
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308
1. Parthenon. East frieze, slab V, figures
31-35. British Museum. Photo , author.
their
interpretation
of the whole frieze rather than observation of the marble. It is
important
since it
implies
that what
figures
31 and 32 are
carrying
on their heads are
stools,
and more-
over stools for
sitting on,
not
carrying things,
since otherwise a footstool would be meanin-
gless.
The
argument may
seem
simplistic
and
obvious,
but the obvious is rather at a
premium
in such studies. The outline of the
object
is clear at the
right,
where we see a bent lion
leg, very
sharply defined,
while the knob
paw
of a left lion
leg
is also
apparent, possibly
even its claw.7
The
object
is held at an
angle
from the
horizontal,
and also
slightly tipped
towards the
viewer;
in fact the modern viewer sees it almost side-on in the British Museum. The
young
woman's
forearm,
even more foreshortened than the
stool, supported it,
with her
fingers
curled around
it. Part of her dress is
draped
over the forearm so that there was material between the arm and
the underside of the stool.
Figure
3 shows how it was
held,
drawn from a somewhat low vie-
wer's
angle
as in
figure 2,
not head-on. There are
plenty
of
analogies
for the foreshortened
footstool itself on
grave
reliefs.8
In the
light
of the remains the
only
serious but
impossible
alternative to be considered is
a box. It would be
extremely
uncommon in Greek art for a box to be held other than horizon-
7. It is
possible
that
part
of the
upper
corner at this side, or
something very
close to it, is also
preserved.
8. I am much indebted to Claudia
Wagner
for demonstra-
ting
how the footstool is held in detail. Cf. the stele of Ktesileos
and Theano, J. Boardman, Greek
Sculpture ,
Classical Period ,
1985, fig.
157. K.
Jeppesen
had sketched
part
of the footstool
properly
in Acta
Archeologica, 34, 1963, p. 31, fig.
7.
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309
2. Parthenon. East frieze, detail of
figure
31. British Museum. Photo , author.
3. Parthenon. East frieze.
Restored
drawing
of footstool held
by figure
31.
Drawing , author.
tally, but,
I
suppose,
not
impossible.9 Boxes,
which
might
be
heavy
when
filled, commonly
have
lion-paw feet,
but not whole
lion-legs.10
The crux is
height,
and it is clear from the dra-
wings
that above the
young
woman's forearm there was no more than the thin "tread" of a
footstool,
with no
depth
whatever to accommodate
anything
like a
box,
with or without a lid.11
If it looks like a
footstool,
and
only
a
footstool,
it must be intended and understood as a
footstool.
2. The stools are stools
In the east frieze
figures
3 1 and 32 are
carrying objects
on their
heads,
with the
help
of a
small headrest in each case. These have
generally
been taken for stools. The one
leg
which is
preserved
almost
complete exactly
matches those of several of the stools
occupied by
the
adja-
9. A modest
exception,
G. Günthner et al., Mythen
und
Menschen , Mainz, 1997, pp.
134-136. E. Simon wonders about
an incense box, Die Mittelszene im Ostfries des Parthenon,
AM
, 97, 1982, p. 141; her observation that a footstool
goes
only
with chairs not stools is incorrect.
10. E. Brummer, Griechische Truhenbehälter, Jdi , 100,
1985, pp.
1-168 on boxes; 138-51 for
examples
with
lion-paw
(not lion-leg) feet, and
figs. 34¿>, 36c.
11. B.
Wesenberg,
loc. cit., p. 160, thinks a torch could not
be ruled out
(he
has a
lamp
in the hand of
figure 32)
but this is
no slim staff, and no torch would be held in this manner.
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310
4. Parthenon. East frieze. Detail of
figures 32, 33. British Museum. Photo , author.
cent
gods.
If the
top
of the
leg
looks odd this is because it seems to have suffered two
breaks,
one well
worn,
the other
chipping away part
of the modelled
leg top (fig. 4).
It can be restored
as an exact
duplicate
of the
legs
of several of the
gods' stools,
on some of which the side of the
stool runs flush to the outer
edge
of the
leg
finial
(for figures 38, 39),
while on others it fits into
the finial
(for figures 24, 27).
It should be noted that the
leg
and finial are both broken and
that the finial was
probably wider,
and undercut to the outline which we see
now, just
as the
near face of the stool
leg
is
missing
and we have an outline
only.
Wesenberg
has
astutely
observed that the
profile
of the knob finial of the stool carried
by
figure
32 is
just
like that of some classical
lamps
on
handles,
and he restores the stool
leg
as a
lamp
held
by
the
young woman,
its wick
facing
back. In that case the flame
might appear
dan-
gerously
close to what she is
carrying,
but we have to recall that in this area some
very
drastic
compression
has been called for. We have in the front
plane
the near
edge
of the "stool" and
its
leg (or lamp),
then the hand of
figure
33 set under what 32 is
carrying, then, centrally
on
the
stool,
the carrier's head and the
supporting pad.
All this has to
go
into a
depth
of about 5.5
cm of marble in a scene about 55% life-size. In terms of the area involved the
lamp
seems to
me
highly improbable,
and
very
difficult to
explain
in
any terms;
and since there is other evi-
dence that we are
dealing
with
stools,
it becomes
impossible.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 311
5. Red
figure hydria.
Detail of British Museum E 169.
After J HS, 24, 1904, pl.
5.
Not that the identification of the other stool
legs
is without
problems.
The
slight
broken
patch
on the
background
behind the
right
shoulder of
figure
32 has vertical
edges
and is in the
right position
for the second stool
leg.
The hole in it
suggests that, although
the
leg might
once
have been carved
partly
in one
piece
with the
background,
and
completely
undercut
except
at
this
point,
it did not so
survive,
but had to be
replaced
with a
separate piece,
fixed
by
the hole.
That this
leg,
unlike the
other,
was
quite
free of the
background,
is shown
by
two other featu-
res. The
top
left vertical
edge
of the stool is
straight,
without the knob
moulding
of the finial
seen for the other
leg, yet
it is clear that we should
expect
them to match. There are
very
rare
examples
of
representations
of stools whose rear
legs
do not match the front
legs.
This could
possibly
be the case here.
Otherwise,
this
straight edge
lies behind the finial which is now mis-
sing,
and the
leg
was well in front of its
companion
at the
right.
This is shown also
by
the
edge
of the stool itself
which,
even in this broken
state, projects
farther from the
background
towards the left than towards the
right.
In other
words,
the stool is
slightly angled
out at the
back. This
asymmetry
is in
keeping
with all the other furniture on the slab since the other stool
is not
quite horizontal,
and we have seen that the footstool is held aslant. But here
Wesenberg
has other
pertinent
observations.
Figure
32 holds the stool
leg
with the
left (farther)
hand.
This,
to
my mind,
does not mean that it cannot be a stool at all but that the
sculptor
was at
some
pains
to show it in some measure of
three-quarter view,
a solution
supported
also now
by
W. Posch.12 It
might
as
easily
mean
nothing
and is
simply
one of the
illogicalities
created
by
the artist's desire not to obscure the
hand,
which would
happen
if it was
holding
the farther
leg; figures carrying
a stool do
exactly
the same
thing
in
contemporary
vase
painting (fig. 5),
12. B.
Wesenberg, ibid., pp.
154-157
(legs),
160-4
(lamp);
W. Posch, Skenographie
und
Parthenon, Ant. Kunst , 37, 1994,
pp.
21-30
-
who has also looked
closely.
The difference in size
of the stools is
minimal, possibly
influenced
by
the
height
of
their carriers and their intended
occupants (with
footstool for
the
priestess).
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312 John Boardmari
especially
where the near hand is otherwise
busy (we
do not know whether
figure
3 2' s
right
hand held
anything).13
The left back
leg
could
only
have
appeared
in
paint,
if at
all, given
the
finished
top
left
edge
of the stool.
The
proportions
of the
stool,
width
roughly equalling height, corresponds
with the
pro-
portions
of the other stools shown on the
frieze,
for the
gods. Wesenberg, discounting
the stool
legs, suggests
that what she and her
companion
are
carrying
are
trays.
But
trays
are either
very
flat,
like the one he illustrates from Locrian
clay reliefs, or,
if
they
have
high sides,
these contain
whatever
they carry,
while here we have the cushions
placed above>
not within the
height
of the
alleged tray. Moreover,
the broken
right
hand of
figure
3 1 was
clearly wrapped
around a verti-
cal
(the
stool
leg)
not
supporting
a
tray
on
fingertips.
Figure
31's stool had
legs
with
flat-topped slightly splaying finials,
like the stools of the
other
gods,
a different model from that of her
companion.
This is clear from the better
preser-
ved outline at
top right.
Her
right
hand was
wrapped
around the stool's left
leg.
This seems
again
to have been made
separately
in its final
form,
fastened to the hole which
appears
in
exactly
the
right place
on her
upper
arm. The
leg
was not
quite
vertical and the whole stool
was
lightly
tilted
up
to her left. The
upper part
of the other
leg,
at the
right,
is
quite gone,
with
its
finial,
and must have been undercut and set
just
in from the
preserved
stool
edge against
the
background.
So this stool too was not
only
not
quite
level but
slightly
skewed. Brommer
notes that the surface was better
preserved
on the line of this
leg
but
thought
of
paint;
it was
simply
better
protected.
The
place
of the lower
leg
is in fact
visible,
broken
away,
in front of
the woman's shoulder and
running
down to a clear horizontal end
just
above the
footstool,
on
exactly
the
right
line for the
slightly
inset
finial;
see
figures
2-3. It flares out
slightly below,
as it
should.
3. The cushions are cushions
The
objects
on the stools are the
right shape
for
cushions, plumped up,
and wherever we
see them on
stools, being
carried and not sat
on, they
are of this
shape,
and often at least as fat.
The alternative offered
by
some scholars is that
they
are
pieces
of
material, peploi
.14 If this had
been the case
they
would
certainly
have been
folded,
the outline would have had
one, possibly
two
straight upright edges,
and the folds would have been carved. This is the
way they
are
shown in vase
painting.
The answer offered to this is that the folds were
painted on,
without
explaining
the lack of
any straight edges.
But on the same slab the folded cloth held
by
figure
35 has its folds
very clearly carved,
and there could be no reason
why
the folds were not
carved here
too,
if intended. Brommer
put
it
neatly:
"Sicher
Kissen,
da die Falten
fehlen,
die
bei dem
Peplos
der
Übergabeszene
zu sehen sind."
Moreover,
there is in fact some
carving
on
13. London E 169; ARV,
1062. And on the white
ground
lekythos, Berlin, 3291; ARV, 1227, 9; AM, 97, 1982, pl.
24.2.
14. H. von Heintze, loc. cit.
(n. 5), pp. 408-9, took them ror
plumped up
woollen material
(aufgeplusterter
Wollstoff
-
Klei-
dungsstück)
rather than cushions,
but her illustrations seem to
me to
prove
the
opposite.
Since she will not have the stools as
seats, the footstool is also doubted
{ibid., p. 414; she attributes
to it the four attachment holes that
really belong
to the
alleged
kanoun held
by
east
figure 49)
and
suggests
a footed
phiale,
an
unknown
type
for this
period,
I think.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 313
the cushions
-
a shallow horizontal line near their lower
edges,
which
might
indicate a seam
and has
gone
unnoticed
(fig. 6)
.
Finally,
if the footstool is a
footstool,
as it must
be,
the stools
must
surely
be for
sitting
on.
There has been no
shortage
of illustrations of relevant vase scenes of stools with cushions
or with clothes
upon them,
or both. I add a
good representation
of a
stool,
with a
cushion,
and
supporting
rolled
dress,
on a Harvard vase
(fig. 7).
15
There are several of stools with cushions
being
carried. The Parthenon cushions
might
indeed have had
patterns painted on,
but there
is
nothing
on the frieze which could have been
carved,
like
clothing folds,
which was not either
carved or added in metal.
4. The two
young
women
The
only physical
crux
here, apart
from what
figures
31 and 32 are
carrying,
is their
age
and so
identity. They
are dressed as
adults,
in himatia over a chiton
,
and
young
adults
they
must be. This rules out identification as
arrhephoroi
if the
reports
are
right
that these were
aged
seven to eleven.
They
are too tall
(see below)
and have the
wrong
clothes.
Moreover,
what
they
carried in their
rites,
which were not to do with the Panathenaea or at the
Parthenon,
were vessels. There has been a
tendency
to let a
preferred
identification for them determine
their
age,
rather than vice versa.16
The two are of
slightly
different
heights.
This
might
be
simply
an aesthetic device. The
heads of the
group
of five make an
arc,
its
top
towards the
right.
The shorter
figures
at either
side make even more distinct the break with the massive
figures
of the
gods
behind them. The
compositional
device
helps
to bind the
group,
and removes it
decisively
from the
gods,
two
pairs
of whom would also have been visible in the front intercolumniation. The architect
W.
Lethaby,
who had looked
carefully
at the frieze
early
this
century,
detected vertical lines
separating
the central
group
from the rest of the
frieze,
and surmised a
change
of colour back-
ground
also.17 These details would have
disappeared by
now with time and treatment.
The two are
exercising
a role of some
importance
as attendants of two senior
figures,
however
identified,
since
logic
demands that the two stools for
sitting
on are to be
occupied by
the two more senior
figures
beside
them,
one of whom is
helping
take
possession already.
Absent friends are a
suggestion
too
far;
and so is theoxenia when so
many gods
are on
parade
already.
The solution was made
readily apparent
to the
viewer,
who was not called
upon
to
imagine
two other
figures
for the stools and was
given
no clues to
any.
That the two seniors are the
priestess
of Athena and the Archon
Basileus,
in
priest's
dress,
is
agreed by
most scholars who do not
propose any
other
special
roles for
them, promp-
ted
by
considerations other than their
appearance
and context. His function here was as a
15. Harvard 9. 1988; Harvard Univ. Art Bull., 1994/5,
pp.
61-7. Folded cloth on a stool also on the
white-ground
black
figure oinochoe, Sotheby,
New
York,
17 Dec. 1998,
no. 75. Other
examples
in H. von Heintze, ibid.
(n. 5),
pp.
397-407.
16. The shorter has shoulder
straps,
as
Olga Palagia
obser-
ves to me; these
may
be worn at
any age
with such dress.
17. W.
Lethaby,
The Central Part of the Eastern Frieze of
the Parthenon, JHS, 49, 1929, p.
1
1; and Greek
Buildings
in the
British Museum , London, 1908, p.
93.
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314 John Boardman
6. Parthenon.
East frieze, detail of
figure
31.
British Museum.
Photo , author.
priest;
in Athens
anyone
could be a
priest
when the occasion
demanded,
and the archon was
formally
in
charge
of
religious
events. And in such a scene
surely
the
priestess
of Athena is
more
likely
than the archon's wife Basilinna.18 It
might
well be that in the real
procession
the
two
young
women were chosen for
family
or other reasons. We are told that the
daughters
of
metics were allowed to
carry
various
objects
in the Panathenaic
procession, including
stools.
All their functions are not shown on the
frieze,
and the
skaphai ,
for
example,
are carried
by
men. But since
they
could exercise such honoured roles I see no reason to
disqualify
them
from
appearing
on our relief.
Only contemporary
Athenians would have known the answer
to this.19
5. The
girl
is a
girl
Figure 35,
at the
right,
is
handing
a folded cloth to the man. Whether or not this is
being
folded20 or
unfolded,
the
simple signal
is that the man is
lifting
it
away
from her and so recei-
ving
it. The
figure
was
recognised by
Stuart and Revett as a
girl. They
were the first to com-
18. E.
Berger,
loc. cit.
(n. 5), pp. 171-4, lists identifications.
For Basilinna's functions, all
Dionysiac,
R.
Garland, Religious
Authority
in Archaic and Classical Athens, ABSA , 79, 1974,
p.
112.
19. There has been intermittent
support
for
identifying
here
the
junior priestesses, Trapezo
and Kosmo, who
presumably
'set table' and adorned the statue; see E.
Berger,
ibid.
(n. 5)
pp. 172,
174. The late David Lewis also favoured the
possibili-
ty
and referred me to N. C. Conomis, Notes on the
Fragments
of
Lycurgus,
KJio , 39, 1961, pp.
118-9.
20. As E. B. Harrison
insists,
The Web of
History,
in Wor-
shipping Athena^ ed.
J. Neils, Madison, 1996, p.
202.
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315
7. Red
figure hydria.
Detail of Harvard 9. 1988.
Photo , M. Nedzweski.
Courtesy
of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum , Harvard
University.
ment on the frieze in detail and when it was in its best modern state. Since then she has been
generally
considered a
boy.
Martin Robertson
pointed
to the Venus
rings
on her neck and revi-
ved the old
identification,
which has been followed
by
few
(except myself).
I am
increasingly
convinced that it is correct and can be
proven.
Objections
to the evidence of the Venus
rings
have
generally
been based on the
assump-
tion that such creases
might appear
on
anyone anywhere,
in
ignorance
of the fact that this is
not the
case;
"Venus
rings
have
nothing
to do with Venus"
(Harrison)
-
if
so, why
are
they
named for Venus?
-
they pertain
most to women. "These are wrinkles in the tender skin of a
well-nourished child"
(Harrison)
-
not so! Men or women will crease their necks if
they
incline
the head down or if
they
are
plump
or their flesh is loose. But a
very high proportion
of all
women have two
regular
lines
running parallel
across the throat and often
right
round to below
the
ears,
which are the result of none of the conditions
just
mentioned.
They
are flexion
wrinkles over
layers
of
tissue, which,
in the
male,
are
normally
obscured
by
the
development
of
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316
8. Parthenon. East frieze, detail of
figure
35.
British Museum. Photo , author.
9. Parthenon. East frieze, detail of
figure
35.
British Museum. Photo , author.
the
larynx (Adam's Apple).
Sometimes
they
are
barely perceptible
or
absent,
and
they
can be
seen on
many men;
but observation in life shows that
they
are
present
in
enough
cases for
them to be taken as a
dominantly
female
characteristic,
which is what the modern term for
them
implies,
and of the
type
that some
sculptors
of the Parthenon
period
were
beginning
to
observe. In the
armoury
of
signals
available to an artist the neck
rings signify
female. On the
girl's
neck there are the usual two short incised lines at the front as well as further
modelling,
despite
the fact that her head is tilted back
(fig. 8-9).
21
There are some male necks marked
by
a
single
line on the Parthenon but
very few, given
the number of males
(near 300). Figures
south
13,
east 39
(Apollo),
north
3, 16, 64, 99, 120,
21. The feature, "Venus
rings"
or "... necklace", are little re-
marked in recent anatomical handbooks, or even
dictionaries,
but are
explained by, e.g.,
R. T. Woodburne, Essentials
of
Hu-
man
Anatomy , ed. 8, New
York/Oxford, 1983, Chapter 3,
pp. 145-98, esp. 146, 183-4. A. Thomson, A Handbook
of
Anatomy for
Art Students
, Oxford,
1
896, is a far more
thorough
guide
to
superficial
details:
p. 329,
"in women the rounded
contours of the front of the neck are not disturbed
by any
undue
projection
of their
laryngeal cartilages"; p. 339, for a
well-developed
female with a full round neck "In such the neck
is often crossed in front
by
one or two delicate cutaneous
folds". More
poetically,
A. and G.
Morelli,
Anatomia
per gli
Artisti , ed.
9, Faenza, 1977, pp.
474-5: "nella donna il collo ha
la
pelle particolarmente
liscia e
presenta generalmente
una sola
plica
cutanea
trasversale,
fra l'osso ioide e la
cartilagine tiroide;
tale
plica
dai Greci considerata un carattere di distinzione e di
bellezza, al
punto
di venire chiamata collere di Venere'." In
Indian art the ideal woman was declared to have her neck mar-
ked
by
three lines; B.
Rowland, The Art and Architecture
of
India , Harmondsworth, 1977, p.
162.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 317
10. Parthenon.
East frieze, detail of
figures 34, 35.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo ,
R. L. Wilkins.
131,
west
17,
have
them,
but all of these have their heads twisted round or lowered or
pressed
by
a raised
arm,
none are in relaxed
profile posture
like all the women. Two isolated heads
have them but their
posture
is not known.22 There is a
single
line on the
skaphephoros figure,
south 120. The
single
short lines or low
bulge
indicate the
position
of an Adam's
apple (as
on
west
27,
north
129).
I believe that all the women on the frieze
(only thirty three, plus
the six
goddesses,
all on
the
east)
had lines
placed fairly
low at the front of the neck. On the east
frieze,
so far as I can
see from
inspection
of the
marble,
which is essential since
they
are
mainly
invisible in
photo-
graphs
and on most
casts,
all who have
any
necks
preserved
at all show the
marks, except per-
haps figure
7.
23
Most have
simply
one or two thin
sharp
incisions at the
throat,
often
quite
short,
and with less further
modelling
than on the
girl.
The remark that none have these marks
(as Brommer)
is
simply incorrect,
and other
objectors
seem not to have looked.
22. F.
Brommer, op.
cit.
(n. 2), pl. 194, London and Paris.
23.
They
are
faintest, but
just
visible on the much-restored
Paris slab, on whose condition see
J.
Marcadé and Chr. Pinatel,
Les avatars de la
plaque
des
Ergastines
du Louvre au
XIXe
siècle,
in Parthenon
Kongress-Basel , ed. E.
Berger, Mainz,
1984, pp.
338-42. Some
photographs
in
J. Boardman,
« Notes
on the the Parthenon east frieze », in Kanon
(see
n.
2),
pp. 9-14, pls.
4-5.
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318 John Boa rd man
Defending
the
girl's femininity
I also drew attention to her
bottom,
which in terms of
strict
anatomy
was of a more feminine than masculine mould.24 This can
hardly
be
decisive,
given
that the female nude of
any age
was not at that time much
presented by sculptors,
and is
not a
positive
clue like the two neck
rings,
but it seemed a further indication. It unleashed an
attack
by
Professor
Clairmont,
based on the
alleged impossibility
of a
girl allowing
a
glimpse
of
her bottom in
polite
Athenian
society,
motivated more
by 20th-century
AD
expectations
than
appreciation
of
5th-century
bc
attitudes,
which we have no reason to think were so
prudish
or
self-conscious when it came to
pre-pubescent girls.25
If
they
had
been, they
would have made
them wear belts! For the bareness
(and
the
dress) compare
the Nike on the
Jena
Painter
frag-
ment in
Tübingen,26
but I fear her bare bottom will inflame Professor Clairmont.
Finally,
her dress. It had seemed to me an
ordinary peplos
with an
open side,
worn
ungirt
in the usual manner for
girls.
The New York stele is a
good parallel (where also, pace
Clair-
mont,
the bottom is
revealed),
and a stele from north
Greece,
where she holds the
open
sides
together.27
This is normal classical dress for a
girl.
The
principal objection
has been voiced
by
Harrison who declares that the dress is not fastened at the
shoulder,
and is a himation with a
triangular
overfall in front.28 Close
inspection
shows this to be
wrong,
and the
parallel
she cites
proves
too much
-
a dressed woman with a himation also over her left
shoulder, hanging
to the
ground
in front and behind.29
Renewed
inspection
of both
original
and cast is
revealing.
It is clear that the
long gar-
ment does not
merely hang
but that the back
panel
was
wrapped
around the
body,
since the
folds run behind the outline of the
body
and farther
leg,
which could not
happen
if it
simply
hung
from the near shoulder. There is no
sign
that a himation had been
passed
across the
middle of the
body,
back or
front,
so this dress must have been fastened on the farther shoul-
der
too,
and
passes
on round to where it is stretched over the forward knee.30 There is no
thickness of material on the near shoulder to account for the bulk of dress that
hangs
at either
side,
which would be
necessary
if this was a himation
draped
over one shoulder.
Compare
the
bulk on the shoulders of
boys
with dress
disposed
this
way
on the
frieze,
north 136 and west 24
(fig. 11).
There is
possibly
a short overfall
behind,
to the level of the small of the
back,
above
which the material is thicker and there
may
be traces of an
edge
at this level
too,
but this is
uncertain. At the front the overfall is not
visible,
unless it is the
piece
of dress tucked under her
arm. But there is more to observe which seems not to have been taken into account
by
even
the most observant.
At the back of the neck there are folds of material
splaying away
from where
they pass
over
the
shoulder,
and
disappearing horizontally
into the
background (figs. 9-10;
from
original
and
24. Kanon
(see
n.
2), pp.
9-10.
25.
J. Boardman, loc. cit.-, C. W, Clairmont, Girl or
Boy?,
AA , 1989, pp. 495-6; answered, J. Boardman, The Naked
Truth, OJA, 10, 1991, pp.
119-20.
Supporters
of Clairmont
seem to be
reacting
more to shock than anatomical
knowledge.
26. CVA, Tübingen, 5, pl.
18.1
(inv. 5639);
cf. later, LIMC ,
VI, 1992, s.v. "Nike" no. 116, pl.
571
(Athens 13900).
27. Arch.
Delt., 29, 1973/4, pp. 677-8, pl.
490 a; Archaeologi-
cal
Reports for
1981-2 , p. 37, fig.
4.
28.
Op.
cit.
(n. 20), p.
203.
29.
J. Boardman, Athenian Red
Figure Vases,
The Classical
Period , London, 1989, fig.
207.
30. To the
objection
that
peploi
are
usually open
on the fi-
gure's right side, not left,
I invite
inspection
of Artemis
(G)
in
the east
pediment.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 319
cast).
No
previously published photograph
shows them
clearly. They
are an
unequivocal
indica-
tion that the
sculptor
conceived this
garment
as
passing
all round the
body,
and is inconceivable
as
something
worn over a himation. It
may
be some sort of
epiblema,
and
probably
accounts for
what has been taken for the overfall at the
front,
which seems a little too
long
for the
peplos
and
makes no sense as a himation. The
garment
is most familiar to us on the archaic korai but remai-
ned in use later and is
worn, unfastened, by
other women on the frieze
(e.g. figures
5
1-2)
where
it is
pulled
forward over both shoulders but falls shorter in front of their
grown-up
dress. Indeed
the
girl
is
simply
a
juvenile
version of these
figures
-
open peplos
instead of
girt dress,
and
perhaps
a more
generous
cloak on
top,
which is what one
might
have
expected.
The
overgarment
cannot
be a male
chlamys
since this could not be worn over an
open-sided long dress,
nor can it make
sense over a
draped
himation
(which
is ruled out
anyway).
Wesenberg,
who looked
closely,
also sees that the dress
goes
round the
body,
but he
thinks it is a
simple
himation.
However,
with no indication of a cross-over at waist
level,
and no
bulk of material on the shoulder for a double thickness of himation
(or
even a
single one),
I do
not see how it could be so
draped;
the nearest I have found is a stele from Samos.31 He thinks
the dress short for a
peplos ;
but the lower front hem is broken
away
and I do not think it
unduly
short behind for a
figure
in this
pose.
The himatia of the other women on the slab
(I
think also
for
figure 33)
have the familiar
selvage shown;
there is none on the
girl's
dress.32 We
might
note here that Pars'
drawing
for Stuart and Revett
gave
the
figure
a small round brooch or but-
ton at the shoulder.33 Harrison
objects
that this was erroneous since the surface is
missing
"except
for the bottoms of a few
deepcut straight
lines". This
may
well not have been the
only
part
of the frieze surface which was far better
preserved
in the 1750s than when casts were
made or than it is
today, especially
after its adventures on the
way
to Piraeus! I can feel a
slight
rising
which
may
have been the basis for the drawn
brooch,
without
being
able to
say
that
there was one. The shoulder
fastening
on the dress of the
adjacent
Athena is not
marked, just
a
bump,
and Pars drew no button
there,
as he well
might
have done from his
understanding
of
the dress.
How old is she?
Apparent
relative
heights may
still seem
disproportionate
even in later
classical
art,
but this is a situation in which relative
height
vis-à-vis adults and other
young
people surely
counts for
something.
Our
girl
looks a
healthy eleven-year-old,
if
propor-
tions vis-à-vis the archon are as
they
are
today
for an
eleven-year
old and an adult male.34 Two
31. Berlin K
1746;
H. Rühfel, Das Kind in der
griechischen
Kunst , Mainz, 1984, p. 101, fig. 40; about 430 BC; but this also
shows how difficult it is to make the mass of material before our
girl's body
into a himation overfall. I.
Jenkins, op.
cit.
(n. 5),
p. 36, compares
a Lo kris relief of a
youth
with
chlamys,
but this
explains
neither the "overfall" nor the
arrangement
of shoulder
folds.
32. The
selvaged piece
which
appears
over her left arm be-
longs
to the
peplos , just
how is not clear. Another
oddity
which
is not to be taken
literally
is the
way
her dress at the front seems
to be sandwiched in the folds of the
peplos.
All the
ridges
of her
dress have been much battered.
33.
Copied
in
AJA, 100, 1996, p. 67, fig.
12.
34.
Berger,
loc. cit.
(n. 5), p. 158, has her
hardly
older than
eight,
but then she should be
barely
70% the
height
of the adult
male. He
ages figures
31 and 32 at about twelve and fourteen,
too
young by
the same criteria.
My authority
for modern
girls'
heights
is Marks and
Spencer's
schoolwear brochure, which is
up-to-date
and must be
practical,
and observation of
grandchil-
dren; and I take the
contemporary
adult male to
average nearly
six feet
(180cm).
C. Sourvinou-Inwood has our
girl aged
six to
eight,
and
figures
31 and 32 ten and eleven, but this is
largely
because she believes the latter to be
arrhephorov,
their breasts are
rather more than
"budding":
Studies in Girls' Transitions ,
Athens, 1988, pp. 58-9, 100.
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320 John Boardmari
11. Parthenon. Outlines of frieze
figures
east 35, north 136, west 24, west 6, north 72.
Drawing , author.
arrhephoroi
were
responsible
for
seeing
that the
peplos
was
made;
we do not need them both.
Sources
place
their
age
between seven and eleven
-
which is
why figures
31 and 32 cannot be
they; they
are too tall for the
required age
and not
carrying
the "secret
things", by
which
they
are known as carriers of
anything,
while we have other identifiable candidates as stool-carriers.
We are no
longer
in a
period
in which children are shown and dressed as
mini-adults,35
and
theirs is adult dress. The women on the frieze are in
general
made
just
a little shorter than the
men, conventionally,
rather than
observing
life
closely
which
might
have left too much
space
above their heads.
Isocephaly
still counted for
something.
The stature of
figures
31 and 32 is
partly
determined
by
their
role,
with
objects
on their
heads, yet may
be
appropriate
if
they
are
young women, daughters,
not mature.
They
are
certainly
over eleven.36 It seems to me also
that our
girl's
head is
relatively
much smaller that those of the
boys
on the frieze: see the com-
parisons
in
figure 11,
where all the
boys
look
broadly alike,
the
girl different,
but the reader
must
judge
this.37
Finally.
A
boy
in this situation could
appear only
naked
(as figure
west
6,
north
136,
and
probably
west
24,
with a folded cloak over the
shoulder),
or in a short chiton and
chlamys (as
figure
north
72),
or loose
chlamys
alone
(as
Eros or the
boy
on the Eleusis
relief),
not in an
35.
E.g.,
on the late black
figure funerary plaques,
BSA , 50,
1955, pls. 3c, 4, 5, la ; H. Mommsen,
Exekias , I, Mainz, 1997,
p. 19, pl. 15a, Beil. C.
36. I
imagine
them well
dressed-up too; the women of Aris-
tophanes' Lysistrata 1190-4, would lend their
jewellery
to a
neighbour's daughter
who was
going
to
carry
baskets in a
pro-
cession.
37. A. Thomson, op.
cit.
(n. 21), p. 398, "the head of the fe-
male is smaller
absolutely
and
proportionately
than in the male,
though
it is stated to be
relatively
taller".
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 321
ankle-length dress,
and this is no himation
;
see
figure
1 1 . We have to wait some 700
years
for a
single
reference to a
temple boy
of Athena in
Athens,
while to involve a
pais amphithales
in the
ceremony
has no warrant
whatever,
nor reasonable
explanation.
The
long-standing
and now
sometimes
vigorous
defence of the false identification I cannot
explain; possibly expectations
about beautiful
young boys
in classical Athens and obvious embarrassment over
partial nudity
for an
under-aged girl.38
In a situation which is more
likely
to relate to a
procession
for Athena than
anything,
and
therefore to the
Panathenaic,
we see two
diphrophoroi ,
who we know carried stools in the
pro-
cession for their
betters, therefore, here,
most
probably
for the two seniors beside them. There
is no other visual clue to their claimants. These two seniors can
readily
be identified as the
ap-
propriate
functionaries on such an
occasion,
the man
especially
in
dealing
with
what,
in this
context,
can
hardly
be other than the new
peplos
for Athena. The other
figure
with the
peplos
is
of the
right age
and sex to be
handling
it on such an
occasion, being
known to have
responsibi-
lity
for
making
it. The
difficiliores
lectiones seem to me
unimpressive
and
unnecessary,
some of
them bizarre and to
ignore
the evidence of the stone.
They
include
suggestions
that there are
two
separate
ceremonies shown with
only
five
figures,39
or that the old
peplos
is celebrated in
preference
to the new. The
message
of the
group
must have been
plain
to our
hypothetical
vie-
wer and not
dependent
on
unique iconographie signals
or other
figures
and features not even
hinted at.
What this
investigation
seems to me to
prove
is that
any explanations
for the frieze which
depend
on the stools
being
either not stools or not for
sitting
on
(so also,
without a
footstool)
must be
wrong
-
principally recently Connelly,
von Heintze and
Wesenberg (who
at least took
very great pains
to look and
try
to
explain
the
details).
The identification of
figure
35 as a
girl
affects no overall
interpretation,
so far as I
know, except Connelly's,
with which it
(and only it)
is consonant.
II. The Old Men
My subject
now is the two
groups
of men who stand between the cavalcade and the offi-
cials of the sacrificial
procession
on the north and south friezes.
They
are
very poorly preser-
ved. On slabs XXXVI and
XXXVII,
on the
south,
we have the lower
part
of the
figures
of
per-
haps
fourteen
(93-106), though they
cluster here and there. There were four more behind
them,
now lost
(89-92).
On the north there were sixteen
(28-43;
slabs
VIII-X)
of whom we
have six
complete
with
heads, though
battered
(fig. 12),
two more isolated heads
(in Vienna;
fig. 13),
and
only
the lower
part
of the others. The remains of slab XXXVI are in
London,
of
38. Thus, J.
G.
Younger
finds "his" bare bottom before a
dressed male a
positive
homoerotic
signal!
-
"Gender and
Sexuality
in the Parthenon Frieze", in Naked Truths , edd.
A. O. Koloski-Ostrow and C. L.
Lyons,
London/New
York,
1997, pp.
129-32.
39. B.
Wesenberg
divides the
group
into two
separate
sce-
nes
-
arrhephoroi
with their secrets, and the
peplos
hand-over
-
a
division in such a small field which I find
quite unimaginable,
and
inappropriate
for the
building
and
apparent
overall
subject
of the frieze.
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322 John Boardman
12. Parthenon.
North frieze, slab X, figures
38-43.
Photo of cast , Skulpturhalle , Basel.
the others in Athens.
Carrey's drawings
are not
helpful
for details.40 The
groups
are
virtually
static
although
most
figures
face in the
appropriate
direction and at best shuffle forward. Two
(north 38, 40)
are immobile
frontal,
and so
virtually
was 31. Behind them there is the bustle
and
rapid
forward movement of the chariot
apobatai ,
which seems not to be
altogether ignored
by figure
43 who looks round. In front of them the
operational part
of the sacrificial
procession
begins,
with the musicians. The old men thus create a
transition,
a break in mood and move-
ment,
rather as the
Eponymous
Heroes do on the east frieze between the mortals and the
divine.
They
seem to be
preparing, waiting
for
something
to
happen,
rather as
many
of the
figures
of cavaliers on the west frieze are
preparing
for their role.
The old men have often been described as
thallophoroi
because there is
literary testimony
to beautiful old men
being
chosen for this role in the
procession.41 They
are
very obviously
not
carrying
olive
branches,
which is
enough
for
many
if not most scholars
nowadays
to doubt the
identification. Others have to assume that the branches were
painted on,
which is
extremely
un-
likely.
There are
many places
on the frieze where holes indicate how attachments were made and
the
branches,
if there were
any,
would have been obvious candidates for such treatment. Nor is it
easy
to
imagine
how branches could have been
effectively painted
over the
irregular
folds of
dress,
as
they might
have been if
they
had
occupied
flat
background space.
The
positions
of the
old men's hands
might
look as
though they
could be
holding something,
but are in fact no diffe-
40. I refer to the slab and
figure numbering
which
appears
in
I.
Jenkins, op.
cit.
(n. 5).
For the latest account of the
figures
see
E.
Berger, op.
cit.
(n. 5), pp.
67-9. F. Brommer, op.
cit.
(n. 2),
pls. 48, 110, for
Carrey's drawings, pls.
63-5 for the north slabs
and some
good details, pls.
150-1 for the south slabs.
41. E.
Berger, op.
cit.
(n. 5), p.
196 for testimonia.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 323
13. Parthenon.
North frieze, figures 31, 32.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo , /?. L. Wilkins.
rent from similar conventional treatment of the
period
for static
figures
in circumstances where
nothing
need be held at all. Raised or
lowered,
hands are
lightly
clenched.
These are also not
particularly
beautiful old men when we come to look at them
closely,
but
betray something
far more
interesting.
We have to
judge
them
partly
from their
poses
and
mainly
from the few heads
remaining.
Several commentators have noted that
they
are unusual.
"There is a distinct if muted
suggestion
of the heavier forms of
age" (Robertson).
Their
age,
deportment
and
hairstyle
have been remarked
by
the more
perceptive
commentators
(a
mino-
rity).
If we look
away
from them to the other bearded
figures
on the frieze
(including
the
sprightly pair
in the cavalcade on the west frieze:
figures 8, 15),
we find that for the most
part
the features of the older
Eponymous
Heroes
(20, 23, 43, 45, 46),
the two senior
gods (30, 37)
and the "archon"
(34)
are
missing,
but that what is
left,
with the
general
set of their heads and
figures,
follows the
expected
idealized manner of the
period, anticipating
the
figures
on
grave
reliefs; just as,
for all the other
figures,
male and
female,
there is no serious
attempt
at
any
deviation from the standard idealized norm. The old men are
very
different indeed.42 I illus-
42. H. von Heintze, Athena Parthenos am Parthenon III,
Gymnasium , 102, 1995, pp. 209-14, has them a male chorus
for the
prosodion , but
they
are even less well
organized
than the
musicians before them, and do
nothing, by gesture
or
pose,
to
suggest
that
they
could or would
sing.
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324
14
15
16
17
14. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figures 38, 39.
Acropolis
Museum.
Photo , author.
15. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figures 39, 40.
Acropolis
Museum.
Photo , author.
16. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figures 41, 42.
Acropolis
Museum.
Photo , author.
17. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figure
38.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo , R. L. Wilkins.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 325
trate them
(figs. 13-20)
from the
originals
in Athens
(from slightly below)
and the casts in
Oxford
(head-on).
The two heads on the isolated
fragment (figures 31, 32; fig. 13)
lean rather
sombrely
towards each
other,
with
pinched
features and
chunky
locks in the hair. The frontal
figure
38
has a
heavy body
and
lounges
almost
awkwardly,
as
though lame,
with
strong
déhanchement.
He settles on his head a
wreath,
for the attachment of which there are
holes;
his hair is brushed
back from the
temples
in thick locks. Beside him
figure
39 stands
tall,
attent
yet
aloof. His
beard is
neatly
trimmed and his hair
carefully
dressed and held
by
a band which is not
clearly
defined,
with
tufty
locks above it.
Next, figure 40,
a slim fellow who has
kept
himself in trai-
ning,
is
talking animatedly
with his
right
hand
flung away
from his
body.
His hair
though
is
thick and
tousled,
his beard somewhat
unkempt.
His
companion, figure 41,
fists raised almost
in
argument
with his
garrulous friend,
is better
kempt,
with his hair dressed like
39,
and held
by
a neat
plait.
Drilled holes indicate either an ear
repair
or hair ornament. The hair
style
is
that of a
generation earlier, purely Early
Classical in
sculptural terms,
and
surely
that alluded
to
by Thucydides
and
Aristophanes
as that affected
by
the
very
old and
upright
Athenians of
the old school.43 The other two
figures (42, 43)
also have their hair
swept
back in thick
locks,
almost
wild,
and make distinct if not
entirely intelligible gestures, wide-eyed.
There is more
human
variety
of
posture, expression
and coiffure in these few battered
figures
than in the rest
of the frieze
put together.
If we had all the old men
preserved,
and I think we must
judge
them
very
old
men,
the common view of Pheidian/Parthenonian idealization
might
be
very seriously
modified; yet
scholars
persist
in
calling
them "beautiful" because of the false association with
thallophoroi.
I had
argued
in 1977 that the cavalcade on three sides of the frieze
represents
the men of
Athens who
gave
their lives at
Marathon,
here
being
led in the context of a Panathenaic
pro-
cession into the
presence
of all the
gods
as a confirmation of the heroic status that
they
had
won
by
their
sacrifice,
and
acknowledging
the debt that all Greece
(in
Athens'
view)
owed
them. The
setting
is the
Agora,
where the
peplos
was
picked up,
the Twelve Gods and the
Epo-
nymous
Heroes44 are
represented,
and there is a dromos for
cavalry events,
with heroic conno-
tations from
nearby
hero shrines. There are
many
other factors
contributing
to location in the
agora.45
For one
thing,
the
handing
over of the
peplos
in the east frieze can
readily
be
placed
in
the
Agora,
before the Stoa
Basileios, removing expectation
that it should relate to the
building
on which it
appears
and the
goddess'
statue
within,
which was not the
recipient
of the
robe,
43. The
hairstyle
is that fastened
by golden
cicadas
(tettiges),
often discussed, but most
fully
in A. B. Cook, Zeus, III, Cam-
bridge, 1940, pp.
250-7. In texts
plegmata
and
plokai
are often
mentioned, evoking
the
plait,
as on
figure
4 1 or the Artemisium
bronze
Zeus, inter alios ; and ersis or enersei , a word
implying
bin-
ding
or braid, also
recalling
the usual
plait
of hair. The term tet-
tiges
was
probably inspired by
the
appearance
of fibula-like
clasps,
the
pins resembling long legs.
The Parthenon
designer
found the
style appropriate
also for
Dionysos
in the East Pedi-
ment, who has a thin braid
(or
is it
just
a
band?)
low over his
cropped
hair: O.
Palagia,
The Pediments
of
the Parthenon , Lei-
den, 1993, p. 19, pl.
33.
44. E. B. Harrison, op.
cit.
(n. 20), pp. 200-1, effectively
dis-
poses
of alternative identities for them.
45. W. Gauer reached much the same conclusion: Was
ges-
chieht mit dem
Peplos?,
in
Parthenon-Kongress
Basel
(see
n.
23),
pp.
220-9.
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326 John Boardmari
18. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figures 39, 40.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo , R. L. Wilkins.
any
more than the Parthenon or its altar
(there
was
none)
was the
goal
of the sacrificial ani-
mals on the frieze.
The occasion is an idealized
one,
but
broadly contemporary
in
spirit.46
In the Parthenon
there was much to recall
Marathon,
both
deliberately
in the
iconography
of the
sculpture,
including
the hero/horse-related cavalcade of the
frieze,
and in elements of the
religious
rituals
involved. That there is some such reference to
victory
is not much
disputed
these
days,
even to
Marathon with which other
linking
factors
may
be observed. When I made this
suggestion
it
was based
wholly
on observation of various features of the
frieze,
the overall
iconography
of
persons being
led into the
presence
of heroes and
gods
in a scheme
implying promotion
to a
higher status,
and on what the Parthenon in
general
was
likely
to have
symbolized
for Athens
and Athenians. I find it odd to
object,
as
many do,
that the
young
men are not in battle
array,
given
that
they
are not
going
to battle in this context. More
remarkably,
the
ordinary,
middle-aged majority
of the
citizenry
of Athens is
represented only by
officers of the
proces-
sion
-
musicians,
men with
animals,
libation
bearers,
and women
only
at the
east,
with
special
functions.
Apart
from these we have a
very long
and
youthful
cavalcade and two
groups
of the
46. I
explored
the Panathenaic associations of Marathon, op.
cit.
(n. 3, 1977), pp. 47-8; but was
wrong
to
place
the frieze oc-
casion
just
before the battle, rather than have it allude to its la-
ter, perceived
relevance: also, op.
cit.
(n. 23, 1984), p.
210.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 327
19. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figure
41.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo , R. L. Wilkins.
20. Parthenon.
North frieze, detail of
figures 42, 43.
Oxford Cast
Gallery.
Photo , R. L. Wilkins.
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328 John Boardman
aged.
We have no
ordinary citizenry
of various
ages
and either
sex,
no
hoplites.
As often in
such
matters,
what is
missing may
be as
revealing
as what is
present.
At
least,
the
broadly
heroic character of the cavalcade seems
by
now
generally accepted.
At a late
stage
in
preparing
the lecture
(for
the Hellenic
Society)
which
lay
behind
the 1977
article,
I tried some
mathematics,
and after a failed
attempt using
old
calculations,
I
found
that,
on Schuchhardt's
count,
the number of men in the cavalcade
equalled
the number
alleged
to have died at
Marathon, though
I had to omit the charioteers as "no more
important
than their horses".47 1 could
hardly
have omitted
referring
to the
apparent equivalence, having
uncovered
it,
but I left it as no more than "a
very strange
coincidence".
Not
surprisingly,
it was the numbers rather than the
preceding argument
that attracted
attention and disbelief. We still do not know
exactly
how
many
men there are in the frieze
cavalcade
despite counting
available
heads,
hoofs and tails in stone or
drawing.48
If numbers
were
important,
as I
believe,
I
reject
the
objection
that it would have been difficult to check
them;
we know there are 50 stars on the Stars and
Stripes
without
having
to count them
every
time;
the
fifth-century
Athenian would have known the
significance
of the
long
cavalcade. For
the riders it is now clear that we have on both north and south
sixty
riders each in ten
groups,
answering
the ten tribes of Athens. The total of males in the cavalcade could be
remarkably
close
to,
if not
exactly,
the 192
quoted by
Herodotus. Some counts
might
have added in the
Plataean dead: there were eleven bodies in their
tumulus, including
a
boy
of
ten,
and the role
of the Plataeans was
acknowledged by linking
them with the Athenians in the
prayers
for bles-
sing
at the Great
Panathenaea;
in other
words,
Marathon was
important enough
in the Pan-
athenaea for its
fighters,
citizens and
allies,
to be remembered when the Parthenon's
goddess
was
being worshipped.49
We do not know whether 192 was the number
generally accepted
in Athens
-
it is
suspi-
ciously
related to the
alleged
number of Persian dead
(192/3x100=6, 400),
50
and it has itself a
suspiciously mathematically-regular composition being
3x4x4x4.
Or,
43x
100=6,400
Per-
sians;
43x3=192 Greeks. At best we
might judge
that a number of that order was
thought right
though
the detail
may
have been
mathematically regularized,
a
procedure
familiar in Greek
writers. What cannot be
ignored, however,
is that the
designer,
with 138 m of frieze for the
main
procession
to fill
(on south,
west and
north)
chose to
excerpt
the officials of the
proces-
sion
pars pro
toto
,
with
just
a handful of
musicians, tray-bearers
and
animals,
but to
give
the
cavalcade such full
value,
over 80% of the 138
m,
as to lead one to
suspect
that this was deli-
berate,
and that its sheer
length
and
possibly
even the numbers had a
special significance,
and
excluded the
possibility
of
showing
other
expected participants.
The heroic character of the
47. I take the
point
that there are some hero
charioteers, but
on the frieze
they
are not
being heroic, merely driving.
48. I.
Jenkins'
count
gives
us 143 men with or on horses, at-
tended
by
9 others
(boys, marshals),
21
apobatai ,
21 chario-
teers, and 16+ attendants for the chariots. That is, 189+ with-
out charioteers, 2 10+, with.
49. S.
Marinatos, Further Discoveries at Marathon, Annals
of
Athenian
Archaeology i 3, 1970, pp.
357-65. The
prayers:
He-
rodotus 6,
111.
Perhaps they
account for the "extra" eleventh
chariot on the north frieze, for which no
satisfactory explana-
tion has been found. 1:20 chariots is
roughly
as 11:192 dead!
But this is
merely guessing.
50. W. F.
Wyatt,
The Persian Dead at Marathon,
Historia ,
25, 1976, pp.
483-4.
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The Parthenon Frieze , a Closer Look 329
cavalcade is obvious. The
only
other stretches of the frieze where a full
complement
of
figures
was
necessary
was for the Heroes and Gods on the east. The observation makes a nonsense of
explanations
that
posit
a
non-specific
air of
religiosity
for the whole
frieze,
a sort of
pot-pourri
or theme
park
of Athenian
religion;
there can be no
generalized religiosity
about a
procession
of which 80% is
horsemen,
while the east frieze centre slab is
specific enough
-
of
something.51
Cavalry
were
becoming politically important
in Athens in these
years,
much fostered
by
Peri-
cles;52
this could have enhanced the
appeal
of the cavalcade but could
hardly
have
justified
allowing cavalry
to
monopolize
the frieze to the exclusion of the rest of the citizen
body,
mili-
tary
and civilian.
At this
point
we should not
forget
the relevance of the
metopes,
which were
larger
and
more visible than the frieze.
They
would have seized the attention of
any
viewer
long
before
the
frieze,
which could
easily
have been overlooked. On the three sides of the frieze with the
cavalcade the
metopes express
the
victory
of Greek heroes over the barbarian and
barbaric,
just
as the frieze does of mortal
victory.53
The
metopes
at the west
(Greeks
and
Amazons)
even
have an Athenian/Marathonian connotation since the
story
echoes the barbarian invasion of
Attica. Indeed the mortal horsemen of the west frieze seem a
commentary
on the heroes of the
metopes
which
appeared
above them. And at the east end the
gods
in the
metopes
are asssu-
ring
the survival of the role of the
Olympians
in Greek life
by defeating
the
Giants,
while
behind
(below)
them
they
sit in the frieze to do honour to mortals who had achieved much the
same
goal.54
The
relationship
of frieze and
metopes
has to be taken into consideration in
any
interpretation
of either.
I still believe that
this,
or
something
like
it,
is the
only explanation
for the frieze which
does
justice
to its
physical appearance,
the conventions of classical
art,
the essential
unities,
and the climate in which it was
conceived,
but will not
argue
the matter further here. Now I
look
again
at the old men.
Surely,
in the context of
my argument, they
can
only
be the veterans
of
Marathon,
the Marathonomachoi
,
still held in esteem in
Athens,
as
Aristophanes
soon after-
wards reminds
us,
in a context in which the Panathenaea are also recalled.55 We can even dis-
tinguish
the Officers and Other Ranks in the few
figures
that survive
by
their
posture
and
hairstyle.
The old men mark the transition between the
young
men of the cavalcade
-
those
who die in battle are
eternally young
-
and the rest of the Panathenaic
procession,
which leads
51. The
explanation
is
only
attractive because it cannot be
proved
or
disproved,
but seems to me to
collapse
in the face of
the whole
composition.
It is favoured
by
the more senior Ame-
rican scholars: B. S.
Ridgway, Fifth-Century Styles
in Greek
Sculpture , Princeton, 1981, pp.
77-8
-
"a
general display
of reli-
giosity";
E. B.
Harrison, op.
cit.
(n. 20), pp.
198-214
-
"Time
exists here, but in the broadest sense"; J. J. Pollitt, in The Inter-
pretation of
Architectural
Sculpture
in Greece and Rome
, ed.
D.
Buitron-Oliver, Washington, 1997, pp.
51-64
-
"an evoca-
tion of all the
ceremonies, contests, and forms of
training
that
made
up
the cultural and
religious
life of Classical
Athens";
J.
M.
Hurwit, op.
cit.
(n. 5), p.
227
-
"a
synopsis
of
many
events, a collection of
excerpts".
52.
J.
M. Hurwit, op. cit., p.
223.
53. "As a result of
[Pheidias'] efforts, the Parthenon consti-
tuted the most strident artistic
expression
of the Hellene/Barba-
rian antithesis
yet attempted
on a
public
Greek monument":
D.
Castriota, Myth , Ethos and
Actuality, Madison, 1992, p.
174.
54. It is
tempting
in this context to think that the "Mour-
ning
Athena" relief from the
Acropolis
shows the
goddess
contemplating
a list of war dead:
J. Boardman, Greek
Sculpture,
The Classical Period , London, 1985, fig.
41.
55. Acharnes, 181, as still alive, gnarled
"hearts of oak". And
Nubes, 986, reflecting
on how the
young
of
today
could not
dance for the Panathenaea. The
plays
were
produced
in 425
and 423 BC
respectively.
He often refers to Athens' hour of
glory
at Marathon.
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330 John Boardmari
them
all, eventually
even the
veterans,
to their meed of heroic
immortality
before the
gods
of
Greece. If the frieze was
designed
before about 440
bc,
less than
fifty years
after the battle
fought by
men
aged mainly
from
eighteen
to
thirty-five,
such a cluster of veterans would be
predictable. They may
even be
something
like a full
complement
for the
period,
like the caval-
cade,
Heroes and Gods.
Aristophanes
in 425 bc refers to
gnarled
Acharnian veterans as
living.
The
juxtaposition
of the
living
and the "dead as in
life",
here linked
by
their role at
Marathon,
is
paralleled
on the
grave
reliefs of
Athens,
where the link is familial.
People
in different
places
and
periods
treat their honoured war
dead,
and the
survivors,
in
very
similar fashions. A modern
analogy
is almost too close.
Every year
in hundreds of villa-
ges
and towns in
Britain,
Remembrance
Day
is
celebrated, originally
Armistice
Day
for World
War I. In
my
town of
Woodstock,
and it is much the same in most
others,
and no doubt in
other
countries,
there is a
procession, mainly
of the
young
from
schools,
while their
parents
stand and
watch,
but the
procession
is headed
by
veterans of World War
II, by
now no more
than about twelve of them.
They parade
before the war memorial outside the church. The
Rector reads the names of those townsfolk who died in the war
-
there are 44 of World War
I,
16 of World War II. The
flags
are lowered in
silence,
the Last Post is sounded
by
a
bugler
as
1 1 o'clock
strikes,
then the
flags
are raised
again
and the lines of Laurence
Binyon
read aloud
by
a veteran:
They
shall
grow
not
old,
as we that are left
grow old;
Age
shall not
weary them,
nor the
years
condemn.
At the
going
down of the sun and in the
morning,
We will remember them.56
"Men who knew their
duty
and had the
courage
to do it. .
.,
who
freely gave
their lives to
their
city
as the fairest
offering
which
they
could
present
at her feast. The sacrifice which
they
collectively
made was
individually repaid
to
them;
for
they
received
again
each one for himself
a
praise
which
grows
not
old,
and the noblest of all
sepulchres
-
I
speak
not of that in which
their remains are
laid,
but of that in which their
glory survives,
and is
proclaimed always
and
on
every fitting
occasion both in word and deed"
-
as Pericles
might
have said.57
John Boardman,
1 1 Park Street,
Woodstock,
Oxford
OX20
1SJ,
G.-B .
56. In cold
print
the lines are a cliché, but not on a chill No-
vember
morning.
57.
Thucydides, 2, 43, trans. B.
Jowett (1881). "grows
not
old"
-
Binyon
was
studying
Greek in Oxford soon after
Jowett
published
his translation of
Thucydides.
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