Parthenon East Pediment


The east pediment represented the birth of Athena. According to Greek mythology Zeus gave birth to Athena after a terrible headache prompted him to summon Hephaestus’ (the god of fire and the forge) assistance. To alleviate the pain he ordered Hephaestus to strike him with his forging hummer, and when he did, Zeus’ head split open and out popped the goddess Athena in full armor. The sculptural arrangement depicts the moment of Athena’s.

Unfortunately, the center pieces of the pediment were destroyed before Jacques Carrey created his drawings in 1674, so all reconstructions are subject to conjecture and speculation. The main Olympian gods must have stood around Zeus and Athena watching the wondrous event with Hephaestus and Hera probably near them. The Carrey drawings are instrumental in reconstructing the sculptural arrangement beyond the center figures to the north and south.

The birth of Athena took place at dawn, and this precise chronology is depicted by the heads of the horses that appear at the south corner of the pediment. The horses of Helios (sun) are depicted as if they are about to rise above the horizon pulling behind them the life giving sun. The horse’s faces are depicted in vigorous activity and full of energy, in contrast to the group of horses at the other end (the north) that appear fatigued and labor with bulging eyes, open mouths, and tense muscles to end their journey below the horizon. The horses of Selene (moon) are tired for they are at the end of their journey across the night sky.

The poses of the statues are mostly relaxed and exhibit moderate interaction with each other, while the formal elements of the drapery of the clothes provide most of the visual drama as they are carved in deep relief that provides high contrast between light and shadow. The figures at the center exhibit moderate movement, while the ones at the corners are reclined to accommodate the limited space, and to accurately depict the activity level during the early hours of the morning when most gods and mortals alike await the for the sun to rise.

Also see: The Parthenon's West Pediment



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