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Museum of Classical Archaeology Databases

Parthenon, East Pediment

It is fortunate that the ancient travel writer Pausanias tells us that the subject of the East Pediment is the birth of Athena, since the damage done to the Parthenon before 1674 makes it impossible to tell from the sculpture that remains. This is compounded by the fact that the birth of Athena is a mythical subject rarely tackled in ancient Greek art.

At far left, Helios the sun god emerges from the sea pulled by horses. Next is the only figure still to have a head, the reclining Dionysos, then the daughter and mother pairing of Persephone and Demeter. Then a young female figure is shown in rapid movement leftwards. The central group, Athena being born from the head of Zeus after Hephaistos had struck his head with his axe, has been lost. Remaining is a group of three goddesses, possibly Hestia, Dione and her daughter Aphrodite. Next right is the head of the weary horse (illustrated) pulling the moon goddess Selene’s chariot, with flaring nostrils and gaping mouth overhanging the cornice.

The carving is remarkable for the lavish detail, much of which would have been invisible to a viewer standing in front of the temple

Pentelic marble
Location of Original: 

London British Museum

27.5m x 3.3m

Bought 1888-9


Lippold: Griechische Plastik, 152-
Richter: Sculpture & Sculptors of the Greeks (1950), 124-, figs.69-71, 91, 119, 292, 351, 394-6, 500, 622
Walston: Catalogue of Casts in the Museum of Classical Archaeology (1889), 45-47, no.152-158
Lawrence: Classical Sculpture (1928), 198-
Smith, AH: Sculpture of the Parthenon, 8, pl.1; 9, pl.2; 10-11, pl.3; 11-12, pl.4; 12-13, pl.5; 14, pl.6; 16, pl.7
Smith: Catalogue of British Museum Sculpture I (1892), 103-115, 303

c.438-432 BCE
Pheidias (and workshop of)

Removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin

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