Public Art In Greece: To What Extent And In What Ways Does The Parthenon Perform The Function Of A Gigantic Billboard For The Late Fifth Century Athens? For Whom Is It Intended?

1808 words - 7 pages

The Parthenon (447-432BC) was dedicated to Athena, daughter of Zeus, and she was therefore one of the major figures in the Greek Parthenon. She was the goddess of wisdom, learning, the arts, household crafts and was the patroness and protector of Athens. Thus, Greek society was focused towards a state of enlightenment as opposed to (Persian) barbaric darkness, chaos and violence. It symbolized a civilized world of beauty, stability and harmony. But the Parthenon statues could also stand for political power and imperial ambition. It was built on the site of an earlier temple destroyed by the Persians. Its location - it sits on the Acropolis - dominates Athens. It draws the citizen's eyes upwards, automatically elevating him in body and spirit, filling him with awe, civic pride, perhaps even fear of such an impressive monument of power and beauty. This could, so to speak, make him 'tow the line', uphold the status quo, and remain an upright, law-abiding citizen.

The sculptures of the Parthenon expressed great religious and mythic history and beliefs. When the Athenian citizen of ancient Greece looked up to the entrance of Athena's temple, he saw "those Olympian gods, with their beautiful bodies richly clothed...their mythical personalities symbolized in their poses and attributes - figures from a living religion whose cults went back to the Bronze Age" . This was proof that "the Athenian artists had not lost touch with their religious roots" . Their work was visible proof and reinforcement of a lasting legacy of a deep-seated cultural/religious heritage, not only for Athenians but the rest of the world.

"The influence of the Parthenon was vast because it stood as a symbol for civilization and rationality. Its sculpture was highly public - the official manifestation of city and cult, a statement of the ascendancy of Athens and the Athenians" . It was a beautiful, powerful propaganda tool - "we can see as clearly as any ancient viewer what the Parthenon was about: very simply the glorification of Athens, Athena and everything Athenian" . It was a monument to the Athenian victory over the Persians after forty years of war. It would have fostered great civic pride, symbolized intimidating dominance, power and wealth to other societies and kept them at a subservient distance. "In classical Athens public wealth was joined to the will of (the reigning statesman) Pericles and his ambition to express in architecture the power of the state of which he was head" . This is not unlike many other ego-driven, power-hungry heads of states in history (i.e. Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini).

Sections of the Parthenon, heroized figures on the frieze of those who fell at...

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