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Museum of Classical Archaeology Databases

Parthenon, West Pediment

The overall subject of the west pediment was the struggle between Athena and Poseidon, by displaying their magic gifts to the people, for patronage over the region of Attica. Poseidon produced water from the ground, while Athena gave the people the first olive tree; she was victorious and Athens bears her name. The west pediment was the one that faced visitors and worshippers as they approached the Parthenon.

The pediment is in a poor state of survival, but drawings made by Jacques Carrey in 1674 show many of the figures now lost, including Athena and Poseidon who dominated the centre. We have casts of two figures from the sides of the pediment. The winged goddess Iris led Poseidon’s chariot and appears to hover above the ground in a striding pose and wearing a short fluttering tunic. The other figure (illustrated) is a youthful, reclining and naked local river god, perhaps Ilissos

Pentelic marble
Location of Original: 

London British Museum

27.5m x 3.3m

Ilissos purchased by the Fitzwilliam Museum from Brucciani, transferred to the Museum in 1884.
Iris purchased in 1884 from Brucciani


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), 43, no.150-151
Lawrence: Classical Sculpture (1928), 198-
Smith, AH: Sculpture of the Parthenon, 14, pl. 6; 16, pl. 7; 11-12, pl. 4
Smith: Catalogue of British Museum Sculpture I (1892), 111, 303j & 119, 304a

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

Removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin

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