ACROPOLIS MUSEUM, First Floor Lioness Pediment

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English / USA Language: English / USA

This area on the first level of the museum is home to the oldest exhibits, pre-dating the construction of the Parthenon and thus belonging to the Archaic Period.

The first masterpiece I’d like to mention is the lioness pediment, sculpted towards 570 BC, which once adorned the temple that was replaced by the Parthenon, known as “Hekatompedon”, meaning 100 feet long. The fragments have been reconstructed so the scene can be more easily recognized.

At the center, a bull has collapsed to the ground and is being attacked by two lionesses. The animal is in the final spasms before death, and the scene is so realistic we can almost hear it gasping for breath. On the left is a nude male figure battling with a monstrous snake, representing the mythical hero Herakles battling with the Triton, part man and part sea monster, the son of the god of the sea, Poseidon.

Depicted on the right are three smiling figures with moustaches and beards, their bodies joined into an incredible knot shaped like a snake. The figures represent a demon with three bodies, each of which is holding a natural element: the first water, the second fire, and the third a bird, symbolizing air.

Traces of color can still be seen on the limestone sculptures; most of the ancient sculptures today appear white, but they were in fact once painted in bright colors, which have faded with the passage of time.

From here, turn right and follow the circular route through the history of the Acropolis.

 

Now press pause and restart when you come to a long base with a monumental figure standing upright, wearing a cape hemmed with snakes.

 

This is Athena fighting the Giants, a scene illustrating the legend of the giants that once tried to climb Mount Olympus, the dwelling place of the gods, during the battle known as the Gigantomachy. The work represents the victory of Good – i.e. the Greeks – over Evil, its enemies. This was also a pediment from the temple of Athena Polias which replaced the Hekatompedon.

 

An interesting fact: after the Persians sacked and destroyed the Acropolis in 480 BC, the Greeks burned the debris and the works that were irrecoverable and buried them. Curiously, these works, given the name Perserschutt (German for “Persian rubble”) by archeologists, account for a large part of the collection you can see in this part of the museum.

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