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The Historic Plaster Cast Collection

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Image features a large block with figures fighting faintly visible on them. The figure on the left seems to be kicking the figure on the right.

Open Access

Dionysos Attacking a Giant

East Metope 2, Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens
Artist: Unknown Greek Artist Primary
Date: 447-442 BCE
5th century BCE
Dimensions: 53 1/2 x 52.75 x 5 in. (1358.9 x 1339.85 x 127 mm)
Object Type: Plaster Cast
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster cast from Pentelic marble original in the Acropolis Museum, Athens
Credit Line: Gift of the First Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, Acropolis Museum, Athens, 2010
Accession Number: 2010.02.05
On View: Bellarmine Hall Cast Corridor

A theme for the fourteen metopes on the east side of the Parthenon remained obscure until a 19th century scholar recognized Dionysos in East Metope 2. The composition once identified provided the key to our understanding of the entire series as the Olympian Gods fighting Earth-born Giants for supremacy of Mt. Olympus.

This is one of the earliest mythological battles and its placement on the front of the Parthenon was significant because Athena played a major role in the battle and ultimate victory. The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to her. In East 2 Dionysos, at left, strides to the right and attacks a giant dressed as a warrior. A panther leaps alongside and bites the Giant’s torso. A bronze snake, cast separately and attached with nails in the lower half of the metope, also attacks the Giant. This particular composition contains four figures, whereas most of the Parthenon metopes have two figures. The Giant may be running to the right and twisting to escape the animals, but he will not survive.

This plaster cast is taken from the Pentelic marble original now in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

In the photo below, you can see a graphite on paper drawing showing the metope surface in its current condition (© K.A. Schwab, 2005).


First Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, Acropolis Museum, Athens (now called the Acropolis Restoration Project ); gift 2010 to the Fairfield University Art Musuem (now called the Fairfield University Art Museum).


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Athenian Acropolis
An ancient citadel located in the city of Athens containing the remains of several ancient buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
In Greek mythology and elsewhere, beings having human form but of superhuman stature, found frequently in mythic or pseudo-historical traditions and in romantic fiction.
Pentelic marble
A famous Greek marble quarried at Mount Pentelikon near Athens. It is pure white but may turn yellow after long exposure to air; a few miniscule veins of talc sometimes cause a faint greenish tint. It was used in antiquity as early as the 6th century BCE and continued to be popular for both sculpture and architecture; both the sculptural decoration and the architectural members of the Parthenon are made of Pentelic marble.
High Classical
Refers to the middle phase of the Greek Classical period and style, from around 450 BCE to around 400 BCE. In sculpture it is characterized by the complete mastery of the ideal human form, represented in balanced, subtle movement and with drapery that clings to the body to reveal the form beneath. In vase painting, it is characterized by an increased refinement and variety of human forms and facial expressions. In architecture it is characterized by a lightening of proportions and a refinement of earlier established orders.
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.
The higher and usually fortified sections of ancient Greek cities, typically containing temples and some public buildings and used as places of refuge.
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."
Panels between triglyphs in the Doric frieze, often carved.
An ancient temple on the Athenian Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos during the 5th century BCE. The structure was built to commemorate the Greek victory over the Persians and also served as the city's treasury.
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."

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