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The Sculptures of the Parthenon: Aesthetics and Interpretation

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    Playing Tennis Without the Ball

    One of the great scholars of the ancient Greek world, Sir John Boardman, has written, ¿[T]he Parthenon and its sculptures are the most fully known, if least well understood, of all the monuments of classical antiquity that have survived.¿ Ms. Lagerlof¿s book does nothing to change Sir John¿s candid but sad assessment. I say ¿sad¿ because the sculptures of the Parthenon were the Greeks¿ primary instrument of expression to future ages, and yet they mean virtually nothing to today¿s scholarly world; and what is worse, those for whom they were meant¿the average citizens of our fundamentally Greek culture¿give them no thought whatsoever. Neither Ms. Lagerlof nor anyone else can possibly explain the sculptures unless they see the simple truth that Athena is the Eve of Genesis worshipped as the one who brings the serpent¿s enlightenment to mankind. The simple secret is that the Parthenon Sculptures and the Book of Genesis tell the same story from opposite viewpoints. Ms. Lagerlof studied the ancient Greek world in some detail. How could she look at a vase depiction of the Hesperides with the fruit tree and the serpent without thinking of Eden? How could any scholar examine a vase picturing Athena coming out of Zeus full-grown without thinking of the way Eve came out of Adam? Or look at a marble sculpture showing a giant bearded snake being worshipped as Zeus without thinking of the ancient serpent? Or view a metope of Herakles presenting the sacred apples to Athena without thinking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Or see a vase picture of the half-man, half-serpent Kekrops without thinking: ¿The serpent¿s man!¿? As I point out in my book, Athena and Eden: the Hidden Meaning of the Parthenon¿s East Façade, there is a more basic question. Meeting the ancient Greeks at eye level as they entered the Parthenon was the statue base of the great idol-image of Athena. In the center of it, surrounded by gods giving her gifts, stood a sculpted Pandora, the woman who according to Greek myth was responsible for letting evil out into the world. Could not a schoolchild grasp that Athena¿s gold an ivory grandeur above Pandora was literally based on this obvious picture of Eve? Unable to see the Genesis connection, Ms. Lagerlof drags her analysis of the sculptures through a dark and dismal Platonic swamp wherein her heavy illogic sinks, and the reader cries for a way out. I give the book three stars because there is valuable information in it, some wonderful photographs of the sculptures, and because Ms. Lagerlof, lacking the crucial key to understanding what the Greeks were trying to tell us about who they were and where they came from, did the best she could.

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