east pediment

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Temple  of Athena Nike

Athens’ Acropolis, Greece

420 BCE

Stylobate: 8.27 m x 5.64 m; height: ca. 4 m.

The Temple of Athena Nike was named after the Greek goddess, Athena Nike. The temple is the earliest fully Ionic temple on the Acropolis. It was a prominent position on a steep bastion at the south west corner of the Acropolis to the right of the entrance, the Propylaea. In contrast to the Acropolis proper, a walled sanctuary entered through the Propylaea, the Victory Sanctuary was open, entered from the Propylaea’s southwest wing and from a narrow stair on the north. The sheer walls of its bastion were protected on the north, west, and south by the Nike Parapet, named for its frieze of Nikai celebrating victory and sacrificing to their patroness, Athena Nike.

Nike means victory in Greek, and Athena was worshipped in this form, as goddess of victory in war and wisdom. The citizens worshipped the goddess in hope of a successful outcome in the long Peloponnesian War fought on land and sea against the Spartans and their allies.

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Colored cast of the head of a warrior from the East Pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina.

Επιχρωματισμένο εκμαγείο της κεφαλής πολεμιστή από το Ανατολικό Αέτωμα του Ναού της Αφαίας στην Αίγινα.

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The temple of Aphaia, Aegina:

The sanctuary of Aphaia in Aegina lies above the headland of Ayia Marina on a hill offering a panoramic view over the sea. Worship on the site of the sanctuary goes back to prehistoric times, around 1300 B.C, when  it was associated with a female fertility deity, as is clear from finds brought to light by archaeological excavations.


It was originally thought that the temple of Aphaia was built in honour of Athena, whose figure dominated the two pediments of the temple. During excavations by German archaeologists in 1901, however, an inscription was found referring to the name of the local goddess Apha (Aphaia), making it clear that the temple was dedicated to Aphaia and not Athena.

According to myth, Aphaia, who is identified with Britomartis, daughter of Zeus and Karme, was loved by Minos and to escape his attention, jumped into the sea and emerged in Aegina, where she became “invisible” (άφαντη/αφαία, unseen) in a grove. She hid in a cave, probably the one on the north-east corner of the Archaic enclosure, in which many terracotta figurines and other votive objects dating from the Mycenaean period have been found.

In historical times, three temples were built in different periods on the same site near the area associated with the prehistoric cult. Of the first temple, which is dated to the early 6th century BC, only traces of the foundations survive. The second temple was larger, with an altar in the front of the east side. The surviving temple is the third, which was built in about 500 B.C.
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The pediments of the temple of Aphaia, which are dated to 490/480 BC, were adorned with scenes from battles fought inTroy and watched by Athena, whose figure was the predominant one at the center of both pediments. The east pediment depicted the campaign of Herakles against king Laomedon, and the west the Greek expedition under Agamemnon against Priam’s Troy. Part of the east pediment was destroyed during the Persian Wars, possibly from a thunderbolt.

The statues that survived were set up in the sanctuary enclosure and those that were destroyed were buried according to the ancient custom (in general old votive offerings and other objects of worship that had been weathered down, were not discarded, they were either buried, stored, or even “built in” the foundations of the temples).

The old composition  was replaced by a new one with a battle scene featuring Athena at the center. The pedimental sculptures were excavated in 1811 by Baron von Hallerstein and the architect C.R. Cockerell. They were put up in auction in Italy and purchased in 1813* by Ludwig I, king of Bavaria and father of Otto, first king of Greece. They were raken to the Glyptothek in Munich, where they have been on display ever since. Parts of the destroyed east pediment were found furing Furtwangler’s excavation and are now displayed in the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens.

Texts by L. Katsa

Part of the “reasons” listed by foreign museums that forbid the return of artifacts belonging to monuments, is that they have been owned by them for two centuries more or less. However, the greek state still paid off loans plus interest that were taken during the greek war of independence- that is before the existence of the official greek state- well into the 20th century*. Because of these loans greek lands had been mortgaged to foreing banks, and it was impossible for these lands to be redistributed to farmers. And what’s even more is that despite that Greece had loaned a certain amount, it actually received roughly a little over 50% of these money. The state still paid off however the whole amount plus interest on the 100%. So personally, I don’t see how we can both owe and pay off money we never received two centuries ago, but parts of monuments that belonged to Greece for over 2 milleniums can’t be owed to us.

So whenever you hear about the greek debt just replace everything with Greece was the best client of foreign banks for two centuries, and circa 2010 when there was a chance we wouldn’t owe as much we had to have an artificial crisis so we can owe money for two centuries to come. And whenever you hear about greek artifacts belonging more to foreign museums than Greeks just replace everything with Non-Greeks that don’t live in Greece believe that Greeks in Greece are not greek enough to have greek stuff from Greece.

*I was born in the 20th century, for all you youngsters.

Roman Luna on a Globe Statuette, 2nd-3rd Century AD

Luna was the personification of the moon, equivalent to Greek Selene, often shown as an aspect of the Roman triple goddess (diva triformis), along with Proserpina and Hecate. Her billowing robes represent the endless forward motion of the goddess in her celestial chariot, while the silver detailing of the figure evokes moonlight.  Her chief temple was on the Aventine Hill in Rome.

Her Greek name means “light’ or radiance” and she was the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister to Helios, the sun god, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. The poet Aeschylus calls Selene “the eye of the night” and other ancient literary references describe her the “bright and beautiful haired.” The Orphic Hymns give Selene horns and a torch, describing her as “all-seeing”, “all-wise”, a lover of horses and of vigilance, and a “foe of strife” who “gives to Nature’s works their destined end”. Paired with her brother Helios, Selene adorned the east pediment of the Parthenon, where the two framed a scene depicting the birth of Athena, with Helios driving his chariot rising from the ocean on the left, and Selene and her chariot descending into the sea on the right.

From Pausanias, we learn that Selene and Helios also framed the birth of Aphrodite on the base of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. There are indications of a similar framing by Selene and Helios of the birth of Pandora on the base of the Athena Parthenos. Selene also appears on horseback as part of the Gigantomachy frieze of the Pergamon Altar. Due to her association with the moon she was the tutelary deity of magicians and sorcerers.

Metope depicting the eleventh labor of Hercules holding the sky, aided by Athena as Atlas holding the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Decoration of the Temple of Zeus in the Sanctuary of Olympia. Parian marble. East pediment. 460 B.C.

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The dramatic coastal location of Soúnio (Cape Sounion) in southern Attica was an ideal spot for a Temple of Poseidon, god of the sea. Standing atop sheer cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea, the marble temple has served as a landmark for sailors from ancient times to today.

Local marble was used for the Temple of Poseidon’s Doric columns; 15 of the original 34 survive today. The columns were cut with only 16 flutings instead of the usual 20, which reduced the surface area exposed to the wind and sea water.

On the east side of the main path is an Ionic frieze made from 13 slabs of Parian marble. Badly eroded now, it depicted scenes from the battle of the Lapiths and centaurs and from the adventures of the hero Theseus (son of Poseidon in some legends).

The east pediment, on which only a seated female figure is preserved, probably once depicted the battle between Poseidon and Athena for the domination of Attica.

Lord Byron carved his name in the marble of one of the columns in 1810. He set an unfortunate precedent, as the temple is now covered in scrawled signatures and initials.