The iconography of the horse on the parthenon frieze
Moore, Dana Martin
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For the past two centuries, the Ionic frieze, one of the three types of architectural sculpture that decorated the Parthenon, has been a target for scholarly interpretation which has proven at times to be controversial. Most scholars believe that the frieze illustrates an actual religious festival or ceremony referred to as the Panathenaic procession, which honored the patron goddess of Athens, Athena, on her birthday. Although the east side of the frieze, situated over the temple's entrance and illustrating the handling of the peplos-robe in honor of Athena, has been the cause and perhaps the most appealing topic for extensive and intensive research, my thesis will focus primarily on the remaining three sides which encompass a large number of Athenian cavalry. The Parthenon, a product of Athens' premier statesman Pericles, was begun in 447 BC and completed in 432 BC. The frieze was constructed between 442 BC and 432 BC, while the cavalry was increased first to 300 men in 457 BC and then later to 1,000 men between 446 and 431 BC. The change in the Athenian cavalry force, of which Pericles was also the mastermind, was necessitated by the change not only in military demands but also in political adjustments generated by the newly-founded democracy. Is it at all possible that the same military and political reasons which justified the increase in the Athenian cavalry force also inspired Pericles to consider an entirely new iconography and significance for the Athenian hippeis (cavalrymen)? It appears that Pheidias, the master designer of the Parthenon sculptures, served as the executant of a newly-formulated political, and propagandistic iconography, unprecedented in the history of Athenian sculpture. This thesis first examines the structural changes in the Athenian cavalry force, necessitated by military and political demands. It is then demonstrated that the same political components that inspired Pericles to expand the Athenian cavalry force also influenced him to instruct Pheidias to place an enormously large amount of cavalry on the Parthenon frieze.