Current time:0:00Total duration:5:22
0 energy points
Studying for a test? Prepare with these 5 lessons on Ancient Mediterranean: 3500 B.C.E.-300 C.E. .
See 5 lessons
Video transcript
SPEAKER 1: We're in the British Museum, and we're looking at the frieze that went around the Parthenon. SPEAKER 2: Not exactly on the exterior of the Parthenon. SPEAKER 1: Inside the porch, basically. They're carved quite shallow. And although they would have been painted more brightly, I still think it would have been a little tough to see. SPEAKER 2: Essentially, what we have is the procession of the citizens of Athens on the birthday of Athena, patron goddess of Athens. SPEAKER 1: And it would wind its way through the city, until it actually reached her temple. SPEAKER 2: Right, the Parthenon. And inside the Parthenon was a giant sculpture by Phidious of the goddess Athena. SPEAKER 1: What we have here, then, is actually not a representation of some mythology, but actually a representation of something that the Athenians would have lived themselves. SPEAKER 2: Yes, and they're putting themselves in the realm of the gods, because they take part in the procession, looking very ideal, and very noble, and the procession ends with a sacrifice to the gods, in the presence of the gods and goddesses. And so, in a way, the human realm and the divine realm-- SPEAKER 1: That definition dissolves. SPEAKER 2: Right. SPEAKER 1: Let's take a close look at the procession, because first of all, it's extremely long. It was on two sides of the building. The procession actually starts off kind of slowly here. SPEAKER 2: Right, and it gathers momentum and energy. And we're talking about dozens of horses, dozens of riders, each one depicted slightly differently. Horses overlapping horses, overlapping riders. SPEAKER 1: There's an incredible sense of rhythm, and actually movement. All of this is frozen. It's stone, right? Nothing's moving. But there's such a complexity of the hooves of the horses, of the legs of the horses, of the legs of the riders. SPEAKER 2: The anatomy of the horses. SPEAKER 1: Oh, it's incredible. SPEAKER 2: Their muscles, their veins. SPEAKER 1: And each one, as you said, is in a slightly different position, but all creating this momentum. And to my ear, I almost hear the footfalls of those horses. SPEAKER 2: The male figures have these wide shoulders, and narrow hips, and beautiful torsos, incredible muscles in their arms, but these very beautiful faces that are very calm. SPEAKER 1: We see those humans, these Athenians, actually controlling the power and the wildness of nature represented through the horses. SPEAKER 2: And there's something really wonderful about an animal that's acting very wild and passionate, and a human rider, just sitting holding it. So nobly, maybe turning and looking back behind him, not even worried about that animal that's about to rear up. But in such control that he can even turn his back on it. There's something about that speaks to a kind of nobility and heroism. SPEAKER 1: So if in fact, the frieze depicts the Panathenaic procession-- and that's generally accepted, although there's some art historians that have suggested alternate possibilities-- then most likely what we're seeing is the folding of the peplos here, which was actually woven by the Athenians. It was a great honor. And of course, it was ultimately paraded through the city to drape the statue of the goddess Athena herself, in the temple, the Parthenon. This group of relief sculptures would have been directly over the main entrance to the Parthenon. The Parthenon itself could actually be surmounted from any direction. But in order to walk into the main chamber, you would have walked directly under this. SPEAKER 2: And you would have looked up at the gods. These are in less good condition. And there's a kind of stillness here, and more of an isolation to the figures, than these rough and tumble of the horses, and the riders, and the procession that I love so much. But what's really remarkable in these figures is the treatment of the drapery. It's almost like there was a sculptor who, under Phidious's direction, just loved playing with the patterns of the drapery. They swirl, and move, and gather. We were looking at three figures here, who sit facing each other, but one turns away. And there's one figure here who just-- SPEAKER 1: Ares, the God of war. SPEAKER 2: Is that who it is? SPEAKER 1: Yeah. SPEAKER 2: It's so human and so divine at the same time. And even though we can't see his face, there's a total confidence and idealism to his body. And the way he holds his body, and the way he moves. And he lifts up his knee, and leans back, and looks on, and has a sense of total tranquility. And yet his gesture is so human. SPEAKER 1: There's a kind of complete comfort within his own body that the sculptor is able to express just exquisitely. SPEAKER 2: But it's remarkable for its variety, for its complexity, for its unity. SPEAKER 1: For its understanding of the variety of human experience, of motion, of the relationship between animal and man, and man and God, and very much in that way is a mirror of the way that the Greeks saw themselves in the world.