The panathenaic procession on the Parthenon frieze : an analysis of the subject matter
Hoffman, Judith Chapp
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Construction began on the Parthenon in Athens in 447 B.C. It was a time in the history of Western civilization in which man became the "measure of all things." One of the three areas of sculptural decoration on the Parthenon—its Ionic frieze—devoted its subject matter to this representation. For the first time in the tradition of Greek temple decoration, the human figure was employed to represent non-heroic man. In spite of new suggestions of present day scholars, the traditional interpretation of the scene is that it depicts the quadrennial religious celebration of the Great Panathenaia in which the citizens of Athens presented their patron goddess, Athena, with a new peolos (robe) in a time-honored celebration. Examination of the subject matter reveals that in a historical, economic, social, political, religious, literal and intellectual context, the frieze was a product of a 5th century B.C. imperial mood. As a result of this examination, as well as an examination of documentation and remains of the frieze, great scholarly debate has arisen. It can be concluded that the message it evokes is more universal than one that could apply to a particular time and place in history. It provokes this interest because, in context, it reiterates the frailties, failures, capabilities and accomplishments of the human mind.