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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: 53.5 x 52.75 x 5 in. (135.89 x 133.99 x 12.7 cm)
Object Type: Relief Sculpture
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster Cast
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

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.

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