Parthenon Frieze Logo
EKT logo YSMA logo
Button for smaller text Button for normal text Button for bigger text
Change language to greek
The Parthenon Frieze. Block E V
The portrayal of the gods continues on this block, with Hera (29) and Zeus (30) and a small youthful figure (28) identified either as Nike or more likely as Iris, the wingèd messenger of the gods. The figure is shown at the left standing next to Hera, her body frontal and her head turned toward the procession. She wears a peplos belted at the waist. With her left hand she arranges her hair which was loosened during her flight. In her right hand, at her waist, she will have held some object, perhaps a ribbon. Hera (29), seated on a stool, wears a leafy stephane (crown) and a peplos, falling in a kolpos and belted below a short overfold. She turns toward her husband, Zeus, who sits behind her, and with both hands raised she lifts up the himation that covers her head in the traditional gesture of «revealing» that is found in scenes of bride and groom. Zeus (30) sits behind her in a relaxed position on his throne, with his left leg stretched out in front, and resting his left forearm on the chair-back. He wears a himation that covers only the lower part of his body. His right hand is extended to hold a sceptre, shown partly in relief, partly in applied bronze. The depiction of the god has both simplicity and grandeur. Now follows the central scene of giving the peplos. This is the most important scene of all, yet the most enigmatic. It is the focus and destination of the procession. It takes up the centre of block V and it is composed of five figures (31-35). At the left two maidens (31 and 32), wearing chiton and himation, carry diphroi (stools) upon their heads. One looks out in frontal stance, the other moves forward toward the centre. In her left hand the first holds an object difficult to identify and thought by some to be a kanoun (tabulator) or a footstool. Perhaps these figures are the diphrophoroi, the daughters of settlers who accompanied the kanephoroi (basket-carriers). Yet it is more likely that these are the arrephoroi (maidens who carried the symbols of Athena Polias in the procession), girls aged 7 to 11, in the service of Athena, who took part in the ceremony of starting the weaving of the peplos by the ergastinai designated for the xoanon (ancient wooden statue) of the goddess, made of olive wood and believed to have been thrown down from heaven by Zeus (diipetes). Some scholars have interpreted the stools (diphroi) they are carrying as seats for divinities («theoxenia»). Yet the twelve gods are already seated, so others have suggested that they are designated instead for the absent, Ge Kourotrophos (Earth nourishing her offspring) and Pandrosos, or else the priest and the achon-basileus (king-archon), figures (33) and (34) (E. Simon). M. Robertson, to the contrary, has suggested that the stools were to hold the two peploi, the new and the old, while yet another theory is that the pillows on the stools are actually folded garments (chiton and himation), which might have been offered together with the peplos. To the right of the two stool-bearers stands a woman (33) who has been identified as the priestess of Athena. She wears chiton and himation and turning left she is ready to receive the stool carried on the head of the second girl (32). Behind the priestess is a tall man (34) wearing a long, short-sleeved chiton and turned toward the right. He has been identified as the archon-basileus. He is folding or unfolding Athena’s peplos, aided by a boy (35), over whose left shoulder is thrown the archon’s himation. Surely this is one of the boy – arrephoroi referred to by the Pseudo-Plutarch. On the right side of block V the goddess Athena (36) sits indifferently, with her back to the peplos scene. She wears a peplos with a slack kolpo. She stretches out her left leg while bending her right so that her foot is pulled in beneath the stool. As Mistress of the temple and goddess honoured by the Panathenaic procession, she sits in a position corresponding to that of Zeus. On her lap she will have held the aigis, for traces of the snakes are wound around her wrists. She held a spear, added in bronze, in her right hand, as is clear from the three holes which run diagonally across the goddess’s right forearm. Beside her sits a bearded god toward the right, but turning back to talk to her. The walking-stick beneath his right armpit shows his crippleness and identifies him as Hephaistos. Perhaps the depiction of the two together, side-by-side, reflects their common cult in the Hephaisteion (Theseion) in the Ancient Agora to the northwest of the Acropolis.

Link to
(flash version)
Frieze Side
East Frieze
Subject Category
Gods and Godesses

The peplos scene
Acropolis Restoration Service
Pentelic marble
E 28, E 29, E 30, E 31, E 32, E 33, E 34, E 35, E 36, E 37
Acropolis Museum

British Museum
Stone Number