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by the names of places, and by the tombs of those that perished
there." The Amazons, according to fabulous history, were a warlike
race of women, who reared only their female children, and lived as a
nation apart from the male sex. They are said to have founded many
cities in Asia Minor, to have been expert horsewomen, and to have
amputated their left breast the more easily to use their bows. Greek
sculptors delighted to avail themselves of this mythic war between men
and women, in which the heroes do not appear to have used their
weapons lightly, in consideration of the sex of their opponents. The
splendid group by Kiss, casts of which are now in many English homes,
shows that the capacity to deal with the classic subject has not
altogether faded from the world. The Amazons themselves bid fair to
accomplish a resurrection across the Atlantic. Rumours reach us here
in England of female societies associated to make war upon the tyranny
of the opposite sex, and to adopt certain eccentricities of costume.
It is not improbable that these agitators will soon constitute
themselves into a distinct nation, and defy the valour of the
masculine Yankee.

The visitor, on turning, thus far informed, to the slabs upon which
the war with the Amazons is represented, will notice that these mythic
females present no appearance of the rumoured amputation. The weapons
that should be in the hands of most of the figures are lost, but it is
believed that they were of bronze, and the holes by which they were
fastened to the hands of the figures may yet be traced. On presenting
himself before the first slab (12), the visitor will see the figure of
an Athenian dragging an Amazon to the ground by her hair, while
another Amazon is protecting a fallen sister in the corner. This scene
will shock the gallantry of the unprepared visitor, who should,
nevertheless, compose himself to explain to his partner the kind of
women with whom the Athenians had to deal. The second slab (13),
represents a wounded Amazon sinking to the earth, and an Athenian and
an Amazon in full combat, but upon the third (14), the visitor will
remark the havoc which the Amazons could make. Here, on the right, an
Athenian protecting himself from attack with his shield, is leading a
wounded man from the field, and to the right a male figure is bearing
off a body, from which a central Amazon is snatching a shield. On the
next slab (15), two Amazons are engaged with two Athenians. To the
left, where the head of the vanquished Amazon remains, the slab is
much injured; but to the right the Athenian felled by the Amazon is
clearly distinguishable. A wounded Athenian lies in the left corner of
the next slab (16), supported by a companion; while another Athenian
is endeavouring to beat off a lusty Amazon, who appears determined to
fight for every inch of the ground. For the first time an Amazon
occurs on horseback on the next slab (17). Here a sturdy Athenian is
dragging her from her seat, while another Amazon is warding off a
blow, and preparing to strike one at the same time, in the right
corner. The central figure of the next slab (18), (the longest in the
collection,) is the hero Theseus, recognisable by the lion's skin
about him, the huge paw of which lies against his left leg. Theseus,
who is about to deal a deadly blow at a mounted Amazon (whose body is
effaced), is prevented by an interposing Amazon, while an Athenian,
who is trampled upon by the horse, is preparing to do severe work with
his sword. To the right, an Athenian is unceremoniously removing a
wounded Amazon from her fallen horse. The next group (19) represents
two couples fighting: an Athenian, protected by a helmet and cuirass,
has thrown an Amazon, and on the right of the slab an Amazon has
thrown an Athenian. The next slab (20) is severely mutilated; but an
Amazon attending to a wounded companion, and others fighting in the
left corner are distinguishable. The next tablet represents two
Athenians and two Amazons; the central figure (an Athenian) has his
foot upon the knee of a fallen Amazon, who appears to be asking mercy.
The last slab but one (22) represents an Athenian dragging an Amazon
from an altar, while to the right an Amazon is vigorously assailing
another Athenian. Upon the last slab (23) are four Amazons and one
wounded Athenian, who is endeavouring to ward off an impending blow
from the central figure. Having noticed these slabs, the wondrous
workmanship of which must surprise the most indifferent and
ill-informed observer, the visitor should at once turn to the other
fragments arranged and numbered in the saloon. The fragments marked
successively from 24 to 40, are parts of the temple to Apollo, from
which the Phigaleian slabs were taken. Having cursorily examined
these, the visitor should at once turn to the fragment of a
bas-relief, marked 41, which properly belongs to the Elgin collection.
Here Hercules is represented holding Diomed, King of Thrace, by the
head, and is about to strike him. Further on are some interesting
relics, collected by Colonel Leake. First, there is a headless female
statue, draped, from Sparta (43); then the torso of a naked Apollo
from the Peloponnese; then a small, shattered Hercules, without head,
arms, or feet, found on the coast of Laconia. Proceeding with his
examination of the miscellaneous objects in the saloon, he may notice
successively, the head of Jupiter, from Phrygia (47); a curious
sepulchral inscription from Halicarnassus (48), forbidding any one,
except relations, from occupying the tomb to which it belonged; a
bas-relief from Thessaly (51) representing a dedication of hair to
Poseidon: an alto-relievo torso of Triton (56); and the pedestal of
the statue of Jupiter Urius (55), which stood in the temple of that
god, at the mouth of the Euxine.

Directing his attention to the fragments which occupy the wall space
below the Phigaleian frieze, he will find eleven fine bas-reliefs from
the celebrated tomb erected at Halicarnassus, in the year 353 B.C., in
honour of Mausolus, King of Caria, by Artemisia, his wife. Here the
power of the later Greek sculptors is employed upon the battles of the
Athenians with the Amazons. Above the Phigaleian frieze, against the
walls are placed two pediments, copied from those which ornamented the
western and eastern ends of the temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, in

Among the miscellaneous fragments in the saloon, the visitor has yet
to notice a fine torso of a nude Venus; a statue of Discobolus, who is
throwing a quoit, found in Hadrian's Villa Tiburtina; part of a statue
of Hymen; and at the ends of the saloon the visitor should notice some
specimens from the old temple of Selinus, which are valued as probably
representing some of the earliest extant specimens of Greek art. Among
the subjects represented are Perseus killing the Gorgon Medusa, and
Hercules and the Cecrops. Having examined these objects, the visitor
has brought his examination of the Phigaleian Saloon to a close, and
he should forthwith enter upon the great labour of his fourth visit,
by proceeding to the west into the noble room devoted to the


These marbles have become celebrated throughout the civilised world,
and the name of Elgin is inseparably connected henceforth with the
finest extant specimens of the power of Phidias. The artistic
excellencies of these relics of a remote civilisation have been so
frequently explained to the public, and their beauties are so
generally felt, that it suffices to introduce the general visitor to
the room, and to guide him about it, without bidding him halt to learn
the estimation set upon these works by great art authorities. After he
has received the natural impression which these works cannot fail to
produce on his mind, he may wish to know something of the times and
men which these represent; he may be glad to learn so much as is known
of Phidias. No man even with the poorest sense of the beautiful can,
we apprehend, wander about this saloon without being touched.
Therefore we proceed at once to guide the visitor on his journey. But
it is necessary that he should know something of the building, of
which these fragments formed parts: - "The Parthenon," says Colonel
Leake, "was constructed entirely of white marble, from Mount
Pentelicus. It consisted of a cell, surrounded with a peristyle, which
had eight Doric columns in the fronts, and seventeen in the sides.
These forty-six columns were six feet two inches in diameter at the
base, and thirty-four feet in height, standing upon a pavement, to
which there was an ascent of three steps. The total height of the
temple above its platform was about sixty-five feet. Within the
peristyle at either end, there was an interior range of six columns,
of five feet and a half in diameter, standing before the end of the
cell, and forming a vestibule to its door. There was an ascent of two
steps into these vestibules from the peristyle. The cell, which was
sixty-two feet and a half broad within, was divided into two unequal
chambers, of which the western was forty-three feet ten inches long,
and the eastern ninety-eight feet seven inches. The ceiling of the
former was supported by four columns, of about four feet in diameter,
and that of the latter by sixteen columns of about three feet. It is
not known of what order were the interior columns of either chamber.
Those of the western having been thirty-six feet in height, their
proportion must have been nearly the same as that of the Ionic columns
of the vestibule of the Propylaea, whence it seems highly probable
that the same order was used in the interior of both those
contemporary buildings. In the eastern chamber of the Parthenon, the
smallness of the diameter of the columns leaves little doubt that
there was an upper range, as in the temples of Paestum and AEgina. It
is to be lamented that no remains of any of them have been found, as
they might have presented some new proofs of the taste and invention
of the architects of the time of Pericles.

"Such was the simple construction of this magnificent building, which,
by the united excellencies of materials, design, and decorations, was
the most perfect ever executed. Its dimensions of two hundred and
twenty-eight feet by a hundred and two, with a height of sixty-six
feet to the top of the pediment, were sufficiently great to give an
impression of grandeur and sublimity, which was not disturbed by any
obtrusive subdivision of parts, such as is found to diminish the
effects of some larger modern buildings, where the same singleness of
design is not observed. In the Parthenon, whether viewed at a small or
at a great distance, there was nothing to divert the spectator's
contemplation from the simplicity and majesty of mass and outline,
which forms the first and most remarkable object of admiration in a
Greek temple; and it was not until the eye was satiated with the
contemplation of the entire edifice, that the spectator was tempted to
examine the decorations with which this building was so profusely
adorned; for the statues of the pediments, the only decoration which
was very conspicuous by its magnitude and position, being enclosed
within frames, which formed an essential part of the design of either
front, had no more obtrusive effect than an ornamented capital to a
single column."

Bearing this outline of the building in mind, the visitor may at once
proceed to examine the ruins of this fine monument of ancient genius,
which are deposited in the Elgin Saloon of our National Museum. First,
he may notice those alto-relievos, known as the


The subject of these sculptures has been familiarised to the visitor
in the Phigaleian marbles. Here, again, is the war of the Athenians,
on behalf of the Lapithae, with the Centaurs, the sculptor's subject.
On entering the room, the visitor will notice various numbers on each
marble: THE RED NUMBERS are those to which we refer throughout.

The first metope to which the visitor will, in natural order, direct
his attention, is that marked 1. Here an Athenian has his knee upon
the back of a Centaur and one arm round his neck, while the other
(which is broken off) was evidently represented raised to strike a
fatal blow into the Centaur's body. The second metope (2) also
represents an Athenian subduing a Centaur. This group is much injured,
the head of the Athenian and that of the Centaur being missing; but
the Athenian has his knee firmly planted upon his brutal enemy's hind
quarters, and his arm (strongly developed) was evidently firmly
clutching the Centaur's hair. The third metope (3) shows an Athenian
under very disadvantageous circumstances. Here a Centaur is about to
deal a tremendous blow with a wine vessel at the head of his crouching
enemy, who is endeavouring to ward off its effects with his ample
shield. The heads of these figures are casts from the originals, which
are in the Royal Museum at Copenhagen. The fourth metope (4) has been
so mutilated that the figure of the Athenian, which was once upon it,
is wholly effaced, and the Centaur has the head, part of two legs, and
both arms, wanting. Originally the Centaur was holding an Athenian by
his hair. The fifth metope (5) is also much mutilated; but here both
figures were evidently represented mutually confident of victory. A
vigorous action is represented upon the sixth metope (6), where an
Athenian is seizing a Centaur by the throat, while, with the right
hand, he is prepared to deal a fatal stroke. The seventh metope (7) is
much mutilated; but the figure of an Athenian thrown, and a Centaur
trampling upon him, are clearly discernible. There is fine action in
the eighth metope (8), where the Centaur has seized his adversary by
the foot, and is hurling him backwards to the earth. Under the
Athenian the visitor will notice a circular drinking vessel,
indicative of the revel at which the cause of quarrel originated. The
next metope (9) (or rather a cast from the metope in the Louvre at
Paris) represents a Centaur in the act of seizing a female, who is
resisting him: both heads are wanted. The drapery about the female is
beautifully executed. Matters have arrived at a desperate pitch with
the combatants represented on the tenth metope (10), where the
Centaur, with starting eyes and uplifted arms, is about to strike a
determined Athenian, who has planted his foot against the Centaur's
breast, and is determined to do his work. The next metope (11) is a
fine specimen of sculpture. Here an Athenian has seized a Centaur by
the jaw, from behind. The drapery that falls from the fine form of the
Greek is exquisitely folded, and the figure itself is finished with
masterly skill. A victorious Centaur holding forth a mantle of lion's
skin, is the central figure of the next metope (12). Below lies the
dead body of an Athenian: all the muscles marked and rigid. It is
supposed that the following metope (13) represents the Centaur
Eurytion carrying off Hippodamia. The drapery of the female figure is
exquisite. The fourteenth metope (14) represents an Athenian thrown by
a Centaur. The Athenian, however, is not idle, having buried a weapon
in the left side of his adversary, and attempting to seize a stone
with his left hand. The fifteenth metope (15) represents a Centaur
holding an Athenian; while the Athenian has revenged himself by
planting that decisive kind of blow known in pugilistic circles as "a
bruiser" upon the Centaur's cheek. This metope is more angular in
execution than the other metopes; and was probably executed, under the
guidance of Phidias, by one of the old school of Greek sculptors. The
last, or sixteenth metope (16), is supposed to have been executed by
the same inferior hand as that employed upon the fifteenth. Here the
contest between the Centaur and the Athenian is undecided. Metope 16c
has been recently discovered at Athens.

Having fully examined these fine specimens of Greek sculpture, the
visitor may at once turn to other parts of the great temple, examining
now and then, to guide his impressions, the restored model which
stands near the south-east corner of the room. His business is now
with the frieze that ran round the building behind the columns, and
upon which a series of bas-reliefs were sculptured; of which Sir Henry
Ellis gives the following clear outline: -


"One of the richest objects with which Phidias embellished the outside
of the temple of the Parthenon, was, without doubt, that uninterrupted
series of bas-reliefs which occupied the upper part of the walls
within the colonnade, at the height of the frieze of the Pronaos, and
which was continued entirely round the building. The situation
afforded to the work only a secondary light, and, so far, prescribed
to Phidias the manner in which he was to direct the execution of the

"From the position intended for it, it was evident that the direct
rays of the sun could never reach the Panathenaic frieze. Being placed
immediately below the soffit, it received all its light from between
the columns, and by reflection from the pavement below. The flatness
of the sculpture is thus sufficiently accounted for; had the relief
been prominent, the upper parts could not have been seen; the shade
projected by the sculpture would have rendered it dark, and the parts
would have been reduced by their shadows. The frieze could only be
seen in an angle of forty-two degrees and a half.

"The subject represented the sacred procession which was celebrated
every fifth year in honour of Minerva, the guardian goddess of the
city, and embraced in its composition all the external observances of
the highest festival of the Athenians.

"The blocks of marble of which the frieze was composed were three feet
four inches high; they were placed about nine feet within the external
row of columns; and occupied, slab after slab, a space of five hundred
and twenty-four feet in length. As a connected subject, this was the
most extensive piece of sculpture ever made in Greece. The images of
the gods, deified heroes, basket bearers, bearers of libatory vessels,
trains of females, persons of every age and sex, men on horseback,
victims, charioteers - in short, the whole people were represented in
it conveying, in solemn pomp, to this very temple of the Parthenon,
the sacred veil which was to be suspended before the statue of the
goddess within.

"Meursius, in his Panathenaea and Reliquiae Atticae, has collected
from ancient authors many particulars concerning this Peplus. It was
the work of young virgins selected from the best families in Athens,
over whom two of the principal, called Arrephorae, were
superintendents. On it was embroidered the battle of the gods and
giants; amongst the gods was Jupiter hurling his thunderbolts against
the rebellious crew, and Minerva, seated in her chariot, appeared as
the vanquisher of Typhon or Enceladus. In the Hecuba of Euripides, the
chorus of captive Trojan females are lamenting, in anticipation, the
evils which they will suffer in the land of the Greeks. 'In the city
of Pallas, of Athena, on the beautiful seat in the woven peplus I
shall yoke colts to a chariot, painting them in various different
coloured threads, or else the races of the Titans, whom Zeus, the son
of Kronos, puts to sleep in fiery all-surrounding flame.' The names of
those Athenians who had been eminent for military virtue, were also
embroidered on it. This will explain the following allusion in the
Knights of Aristophanes, where the chorus says - 'We wish to praise our
fathers, because they were an honour to this country and worthy of the
_peplus_: in battles by land and in the ship-girt armament conquering
on all occasions they exalted this city.' When the festival was
celebrated, this peplus was brought from the Acropolis, where it had
been worked, down into the city; it was then displayed and suspended
as a sail to the ship, which on that day, attended by a numerous and
splendid procession, was conducted through the Ceramicus and other
principal parts, till it had made the circuit of the Acropolis; it was
then carried up to the Parthenon, and there consecrated to Minerva."
This splendid series of sculptures forms the gem of the Elgin
collection. The museum possesses no less than two hundred feet of the
original frieze, in addition to upwards of seventy feet in casts. The
wonderful variety, the perfect drawing, the classic grace, and the
unity of conception displayed in this work, entitle it to rank as the
most precious relic of antiquity saved to moderns from the wrecks of
time. Starting from the left side of the entrance door to the south,
the visitor begins his inspections of


or those portions which decorated the eastern end of the Parthenon.
These are marked from 17 to 24. The introductory slab (17) represents
a procession of Greek virgins, with their long flowing draperies
beautifully modelled, as the visitor will at once perceive. Some are
carrying vessels for the libations. The next slab (18) has some
interesting figures. The four standing figures, which are to the left
of the two, supposed to represent Castor and Pollux, are supposed to
represent Hierophants explaining away mysteries, while the others are
students of the doctrines taught at the festival. The next slab, which
is the longest in the collection (19), is said to have been originally
placed above the eastern gate of the temple. Here are females
delivering offerings in baskets to one who appears to preside. On the
left, a man of dignified bearing is receiving a large roll from a
youth, which Visconti supposed to be the embroidered veil. Here seated
on a throne is Jupiter, with the arms supported by two sphinxes. Here,
too, is a goddess removing her veil, supposed by some to be Juno, and
by others Mercury. At the end of the slab the visitor will remark old
AEsculapius, and the figure of his daughter with a serpent twined
about her left arm, as Hygieia, or Health. The marble let into the
wall below the frieze, and marked 20, is a perfect cast from a marble
partly in that marked 21 and partly in that marked 22. Slabs 23, 24
have continuations of the procession, consisting of females draped,
bearing vessels and torches. These women were selected from the
noblest families of Athens. The fragment marked 25 closes those which
adorn the eastern front. It represents a mutilated figure of one of
the Metoeci, or strangers, bearing a tray filled originally with
provisions. From the eastern the visitor should proceed to the slabs
of the


These are marked from 26 to 46. On the first of this series a youth
was originally represented receiving a crown of honour in a chariot
race. Then follow successively five slabs, all bearing bas-reliefs of
chariots and charioteers. These slabs are greatly admired by artists,
and are said, at the present day, to be perhaps the finest specimens
of bas-relief extant. After the chariots with more notable people
forming the procession, the successive marbles marked 32 to 43 are
filled up with the groups of horsemen who followed the chariots. The
forms of the animals are beautifully grouped and executed; and may,
after the many centuries of time that have elapsed since they were
placed behind the Parthenon columns, be consulted by the modern artist
as the finest extant models upon which he can exercise his student's
hand. On the slabs 36, 7, how finely are the horses and riders
grouped, and how firmly and gracefully is the rude figure upon the
central horse of the second slab posed! Having sufficiently admired
these fine groups, the visitor should at once turn to the slab marked
46. Here, a young man standing near his horse is about to crown
himself; while a standing figure to the right appears to have
dismounted, and to be suffering some adjustment of dress by a servant
behind him. At the right end of this slab is a figure seen sideways,
and representing the first part of the decoration of the


Only one of the fifteen slabs of the western frieze is the original
marble: - the rest are casts from the frieze still adorning the ruins
of the temple. The western frieze is included in the slabs marked from
47 to 61. The marble in the possession of the museum from the western
frieze is, however, one of great value. It represents two mounted
horsemen - the whole exquisitely carved. Passing forward from this, the
forty-eighth slab (48) represents a horse to which three men are
attending. Mounted horsemen also fill up the next two slabs (49, 50).
On the fifty-first a rider is represented habited in full armour, with

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Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 15 of 17)