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DiMenna-Nyselius Library

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The image features a plaster cast of two heavily damaged figures. The female figure on the right reaches out to the male figure on the left who begins to outstretch his arm in response.

Open Access

Athena and Theseus

Metope Block 5, The Athenian Treasury at Delphi
Artist: Unknown Greek Artist Primary
Date: ca. 480 BCE
5th century BCE
Dimensions: 27.5 x 24.5 x 6 in. (69.85 x 62.23 x 15.24 cm)
Object Type: Plaster Cast
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster cast after Parian marble original
Credit Line: Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Accession Number: 2019.04.35
On View: DiMenna-Nyselius Library - Graduate Study Room

The Athenian Treasury was located below the Temple of Apollo on the Sacred Way in Delphi. It was built as a Doric structure around 490 BCE; a time of transition from the Late Archaic to the Early Classical period in Greek Art.

This Treasury, which was just one of many such structures at Delphi, functioned on several levels. It was, for example, a votive offering, dedicated to Apollo and the Delphic Oracle in recompense for their perceived help in defeating the Persians. On a more prosaic level, the structure functioned as a repository for rich gifts left by worshipers, in addition to providing an important, visually compelling, place to display war booty.

The metopes of the Treasury depict some of the Labors of Herakles as well as the Deeds of Theseus. On the south side, for example, Theseus confronts various monsters and barbarians, including a Minotaur and an Amazon; both frequent metaphors for the Persian enemy, whose defeat by the Athenians is celebrated in the sculptural program.

The metope represented here shows a meeting between Athena (on the left) and Theseus (on the right). The goddess bestows her blessing upon the Athenian hero, thus emphasizing the special relationship and protection she offers him and, by extension, the entire city of Athens. Theseus stands quietly, unlike the other metopes in which he battles mythological beasts or uncivilized foes.


Bibliography

"Highlights of the Plaster Cast Collection" published by the BMA 11/10 in conjunction with the exhibition, Gift from Athens, p. 4-5



Keywords

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Athens
Was an ancient metropolis of great importance; settled in Neolithic times. Acropolis was fortified by 1200 BCE; became great city-state, ruling and colonizing over a wide area. It was the center of culture influencing all of the Western world in philosophy, theater, and art. The name refers to the goddess Athena. In Homeric Greek the city's name was in the singular form (Ἀθήνη) then changed in the plural.
Apollo
Ancient Greek god of light, oracles, music, and medicine. He was believed to be the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin brother of the goddess Artemis.
Theseus
Ancient Greek mythical king, believed to have unified Attica under the control of Athens and founder of the Panathenaic festival.

"The greatest mythical hero of the Athenians, son of Aithra and king Aigeus, or god Poseidon. Before he ruled over Athens he undertook many enterprises that benefited the city. When he ascended to the throne he unified the small municipalities of Attica under a common administrative system centered in Athens and reorganised the Athenaia, the annual celebration in favour of goddess Athena. This celebration after the unification of all the municipalities was renamed Panathenaic festival."
Delphi
Town located on the ancient site, seat of Delphic oracle, & site of worship of Apollo, Pythius & Dionysus; site of Pythian games every 4 years; was sacked several times for rich gifts left here by pilgrims, notably by Phocians in 4th cen. BCE & by Sulla & other Romans.
Classical
Refers to an ancient Greek style and period that begins around 480 BCE, when the Greek city-states defeated the Persian invaders, and ends around 323 BCE, with the death of Alexander the Great. It is characterized by the rebuilding of cities after the Persian wars, the flourishing of philosophy, drama, architecture, sculpture, painting, and the other arts. In the visual arts, it is known for the mastery of the human form and sophistication of architectural design.
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.
Ancient Greek
Refers to the culture and styles of ancient Greece, generally excluding modern and prehistoric periods, but including periods between around 900 BCE to around 31 BCE. For the culture of Greece in general, including modern Greece, see "Greek."
metopes
Panels between triglyphs in the Doric frieze, often carved.
mythology
Genre and tradition concerning the study of a culture's body of myths, belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition in an authoritative and official fashion and through symbolic narrative, iconography, or characterization, usually through the forms and personalities of deities.
sculpture
Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

Portfolio List

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