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THE PARTHENON PEDIMENTS The pediments were two triangular shaped areas at each end of a Greek temple.

The Parthenon pediments were filled with magnificent groups of sculpture, probably designed by Pheidias, and executed between 438 and 432 BC. This triangular shape was a difficult one for sculptors to fill with a composition especially the narrowing sides which were restricting. The pediments on the Parthenon were filled with larger than life-size figures which were free-standing, even their backs which they thought would never be seen were beautifully carved. There were probably about 50 figures in all. The west pediment told the story of the contest between Athene and Poseidon for the patronage of Athens. Athene offered the city an olive tree, Poseidon threw his trident striking the acropolis where a salt-spring came up. (These two gifts symbolized two great sources of Athenian wealth and power, olives and the sea). The contest was won by Athene. The scene showed the two contesting gods in the centre, each attended by a chariot, horses and drivers (Amphitrite on Poseidon's side), the two messengers, Iris and Hermes and other figures who are probably the important ancestral families of Athens. At the extreme left angle of the pediment is a reclining male figure, usually called Ilissos. On the east pediment is depicted the story of the birth of Athene. She sprang fully grown and armed from the head of her father Zeus as his head was opened by Hephaestus wielding an axe. The east pediment had been very badly damaged in early Christian times when the temple was converted to a church, so when Jacques Carrey, a French artist, drew the pediments in 1674 it was already in bad condition. The whole centre section is lost. The only reason we know that it showed the birth of Athene is from the description of Pausanias in the 2nd century AD. We have to guess at the identities of the surviving figures. They may be of Artemis or Hebe, a cup-bearer of the gods, Demeter and Persephone, Dionysus or Heracles on the left side of the pediment and on the other side, perhaps Hestia, Aphrodite and her mother Dione. Pheidias came up with a brilliant and innovative way to fill the angles of the pediment. Instead of reclining figures he has the horses of

Helios the sun god rising up from the ocean full of energy on the extreme left and the exhausted horses of Selene, the moon goddess sinking down on the right. The horses of Selene survive but those of Helios were shattered in an attempt to move them by the Venetian general Morosini. The style of these sculptures is classical and ideal. The figures are lifelike and natural, in realistic poses full of expressive movement and magnificent drapery. Gone are the wooden stiffness and rigid poses of Archaic sculpture.