The sculptures of the parapet of the temple of Athena Nike and their relationship to the Peloponnesian War
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On the southwest bastion-like projection of the Athenian Acropolis stands a small, elegant temple known as the Temple of Athena Nike Apteros. A sculptured parapet was designed and erected as a safety device to protect the temple's visitors from the temple's rather precarious location on the Acropolis. The sculptures of this parapet depict imagery pertaining to the cult of Athena Nike executed in a new stylistic tradition for the rendering of sculptured forms, known as the Rich Style, emerged. At the time that the sculptures of the parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike were being carved and the Rich Style was developing in Athens, a catastrophic war was in progress. This war, the Peloponnesian War, ultimately brought the Athenian Empire to its final collapse at the end of the fifth century B.C. The intention of this thesis is to examine the relationship between the sculptures of the parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike, one of the climaxing artistic achievements of the Athenian Empire, and the eventual historical destruction of the Athenian Empire brought about by the Peloponnesian War. A brief overview highlighting the historical background and the political climate in Athens, during the 5th century B.C., is given in order to illuminate the conditions that affected the creation of the Nike parapet; the evolution of sculpture during the Classical Period and the development of the Rich Style are examined; the major figures of the parapet are analyzed with specific attention directed to the treatment of the drapery; and the relationships between the stylistic development in the sculptures of the Nike parapet and the events of the Peloponnesian War are examined. In the conclusion, it is maintained that the Nike parapet should be viewed as a timeless representation of victory and not the commemoration of a specific event. The development and the use of the restless, agitated Rich Style in the rendering of the parapet figures is a direct reflection of the contemporary society which was experiencing a period of emotional and political upheaval. Furthermore, the production of the Nike parapet in Athens during this period of instability provides evidence of the perseverance of the Athenians and the determination of the Athenians to excel in the visual arts.