Dionysos Attacking a Giant, East Metope 2, Parthenon
Unknown Greek Artist
5th century BCE
53.5 x 52.75 x 5 in. (135.89 x 133.99 x 12.7 cm)
Medium and Support:
Gift of the First Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, Acropolis Museum, Athens, 2010
Bellarmine Hall Cast Corridor
Here we see Dionysos attacking a giant, who was originally fully armed and equipped with helmet and shield. The giant struggles to pull away from the god’s grasp as two animals, a leaping panther and a coiling snake, accompany Dionysos as part of his retinue.
In the 19th century, the German scholar Adolf Michaelis recognized this composition as being directly related to the larger battle of the Gods fighting Giants. His discovery, in turn, provided the key to understanding the east metopes. The difficulty of recognizing the theme was due entirely to severe damage intentionally inflicted on the relief sculptures sometime between the late 4th and 6th centuries during a period of anti-pagan fervor.