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Amazonmachy Frieze, Bassai, Temple of Apollo
Unknown Greek Artist
51 x 58 x 8 in. (129.54 x 147.32 x 20.32 cm)
Medium and Support:
Plaster cast from Pentelic marble original
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Not on view.
The Amazonomachy frieze comes from the Doric temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai (Bassae) in Phigaleia. Dating to approximately 400 BCE, the temple was built mainly out of a dark grey local limestone covered in a stucco finish. The sculpted elements in the temple, such as the capitals on the columns and the interior frieze were carved from marble. The frieze was designed for the interior of the cella, which is attributed to the architect Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon.
A few distinct characteristics make the temple at Bassai unique. The temple faces north and south instead of east and west, and the main room includes an interior alcove. The alcove is defined by the placement of a single Corinthian column on the central axis (which is the earliest known use of this particular column style). The inner room of the temple contains a row of engaged Ionic columns with marble capitals which support an extensive interior frieze.
Two mythological battles are illustrated in the frieze: a Centauromachy and an Amazonomachy. Our block is taken from a pitched battle in the Amazonomachy where neither Amazon nor Greek has yet gained the upper hand. The exact order in which these two themes were arranged remains the subject of debate. Although the frieze is carved in high-relief, it was placed at a considerable height and would not have been well lit, thus making it difficult to see. The execution of the frieze blocks is rough and the pieces are carved in thick curves and lines. While the subject of the Amazonomachy is uncertain, it is thought to depict an attack on Themiskyra by Herakles. Themiskyra was the Amazon capital on the coast of the Black Sea.
Current location of marble original: British Museum, London