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The Parthenon Frieze

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2003

    Getting a Grip on Athena's Cloak

    If I asked 10,000 people at random if they had ever heard of Athena¿s peplos, or cloak, I¿d be surprised if just one of them said yes. And yet, every year for nearly a thousand years, the ancient Greeks (you know, those people who created the living basis of our culture) presented Athena with an embroidered cloak as the centerpiece of their most important festival. They even carved the procession culminating in the presentation of the cloak and the presentation itself on a 160-meter wrap-around frieze on their most treasured temple, the Parthenon. That¿s where Jenifer Neils comes in. Dr. Neils is a brilliant art historian and scholar. I¿m on my third read of her THE PARTHENON FRIEZE because it is so well-written and rich in detail and insight. Her book helped me understand the purpose and meaning of the great Panathenaic festival. All of it is excellent, but to me, just her description of the peplos ceremony itself is worth the price of her book. If you¿re reading this, you¿ve now heard of Athena¿s cloak, if you hadn¿t before. And you should be wondering exactly what was embroidered on it. The embroidery depicted the Greek gods defeating the Giants. This theme also was sculpted on the fourteen east metopes of the Parthenon, and it was painted on the inside of the shield next to Athena¿s great gold and ivory idol-image. The defeat of the Giants meant everything to the Greeks. As I point out in my book, ATHENA AND EDEN, in the Greek story of the gods defeating the Giants, the gods represent the Greek religious system and the Giants are the Yahweh-believing offspring of Noah. Greek myth is history, and that¿s what really happened. The Greek religious system overcame Noah¿s system. The Parthenon frieze should thus mean something to all of us. In addition to numerous interesting illustrations, Dr. Neils¿ book contains a complete fold-out line drawing of the entire frieze and a CD-ROM of all the extant frieze sculpture.

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