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Dionysos Attacking a Giant

East Metope 2, Parthenon, 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: Relief Sculpture
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.

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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