*trumpet fanfare*  Welcome to my 201st blog post as a primarily Richard Armitage centered blogger!  (*ahem* see, I was planning this post to mark the 200 milestone, but then s’mores happened and I forgot…).  A little backstory might be useful at this point.  Over the summer, my dear pal Guytly was in London to see some play…I forget the name.  😉  During her sojourn, she visited the renowned British Museum and sent me a picture that sent my Classics and Armitage brain cranking.

Sculpted Marble Fragment Shot by Guylty at the British Museum

Sculpted Marble Fragment
Shot by Guylty at the British Museum

One look at this told me that it came from the Parthenon…the fifth century Temple of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis.   From there the sleuthing began.  Although every student of classical archaeology is familiar with the Parthenon, widely considered the most perfected example of the Doric Order, some are more familiar than others.  My specialty focus is on periods earlier than the High Classical to which the Parthenon belongs, so this image presented me with an opportunity to look at some details of the building that I haven’t looked at in a very long time…if ever.  Just a cursory inspection suggested to me that this comes from the Panathenaic frieze which was located on the interior of the structure.  This fragment of architectural sculpture may or may not belong to a larger group of material from the Parthenon known colloquially at The Elgin Marbles.

Red indicates the location of the frieze on the structure

Red indicates the location of the frieze on the structure

A sculpted frieze course was not typically part of the canonical scheme of a Doric temple, so its presence here is one of the unique features of the Parthenon.  The frieze depicts scenes from the a sacred Athenian festival known as the Panathenaia...specifically, scenes from the Panathenaic Procession.   The goddess Athena was the patron divinity of the city of Athens, and a great deal of Athenian cult practice centered around her worship.  The Athenians celebrated both annual (Lesser Panathenaia) and every fourth year (Greater Panathenaia) festivals to honor Athena.  The Panathenaia included a variety of competitions from atheletic games to musical competitions and culminated in a grand procession during which a new peplos (basically a dress) was presented to the goddess.  It is this procession that is depicted on the Parthenon frieze.

View of West and SW frieze in Acropolis Museum, Athens Source

View of West and SW frieze in Acropolis Museum, Athens

I’ve seen many parts of this frieze many times over the years, but I had some difficulty placing the specific fragment that Guylty had photographed.  The indication of a wheel placed it within the “chariot” sections on the north and south stretches of the frieze.  As is clear from the condition of the fragment, this is a section of the frieze that was heavily damaged…damage incurred by a 1687 bombardment of Athens by Venetian forces.  Fortunately, Jacques Carrey, a French draftsman and painter had been in Athens in 1674 and drawn a great many of the sculptures.  His drawings of the sections of the structure damaged by the Venetian bombardment are the only remaining record of the lost material.

Drawing from Connolly and Dodge, The Ancient City. (after Carrey) Source

Drawing from Connolly and Dodge, The Ancient City. (after Carrey)

There he is…placed back into context.  It seems pretty likely that the fragment Guylty photographed comes from the long north side of the frieze in a section of the chariot races that is depicting a specialty event called the Apobates.  This was a contest where a fully armed hoplite jumped out of a chariot and ran alongside it before jumping back in…a while the chariot was moving at full speed.

While this is all a very interesting trip into an ancient Athenian festival, you might well be wondering what in the world it might have to do with Richard Armitage.  Allow me to elucidate…with a snapshot of our conversation:


Sure enough…a side by side comparison is very telling:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) Spooks 7.1 Source:  richardarmitagenet.com

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) Spooks 7.1
Source: richardarmitagenet.com

23 comments on “RAnathenaia?

  1. guylty says:

    *coughs* Well, there is no denying now that I had very base motives when I went around the Parthenon frieze, feigning interest in classic scuplture *coughs*… I blame Mr A. He had taken hold of my brain after seeing him in TC a couple of days before that.
    On a more serious note – thanks for putting the picture into context, Obscura. Very interesting. Especially as I literally power-walked through the BM. It was a Sunday, I think, and the museum was teeming with visitors. Not my preferred time to visit and enjoy exhibitions. And so I never read any of the explanations in the museum, just took a few snaps, and then spent more time in the members’ lounge than in the exhibition rooms *ooops*.

    • obscura says:

      What’s that they say about great minds? ;). I know what you mean about crowded exhibits. I can stand the giant crowds, so I try to go at off times unless it’s a traveling exhibit…then I guess I grin and bear it! (BTW, IMHO, if you’ve seen one Parthenon marble, you’ve seen them all…*yawn*. I find classical sculpture slightly boring you see.)

      • guylty says:

        If I may admit that here – I was slightly underwhelmed, partly because of the crowds in the museum, but partly because I have had my epiphany re. classical sculpture with the Pergamon Altar in Berlin. I know, I know, it’s not Athenian, but anyway. It just totally blew me away. “altar” – the word is just a little bit too small for that piece of Classical art… anyhow…

        • obscura says:

          See…I totally get that. The Pergamene Altar is Hellenistic in style. I find that stylistic period *much* more evocative than the period illustrated by the Parthenon.

        • Servetus says:

          me too. Although I love the Elgin Marbles as well, I saw the Pergamon Altar first.

          • obscura says:

            Although I sympathize with the Greeks in desiring the repatriation of cultural material (a giant topic of discussion in its own right) the presence of material in museums all over the world allows such a large cross section of people to interact with it up close, even if they are never able to travel to the source.

        • Hariclea says:

          hm i really really need to plan to see this in Berlin, have only been once in a rush and had no time for museum, must remedy as i really loved old statues and freezes, really time to brave the crowds in the BM as well, it’s been a while. I need to check if they do Friday late nights, which i when i tend to creep through other London museums. I love this.

          • obscura says:

            I noticed on the BM’s site that they have late night hours…that sounds like heaven to me. I really dislike the bustle (I think it’s great that school kids go to museums, but I don’t necessarily want to be there with them!)

          • Hariclea says:

            Same here but it did that for the Matisse at Tate and guess what, packed.. with people like us 🙂 Probably best bet would be early morning but i’m not an early morning riser. Nevertheless i’ll go back to BM soon, you laid out temptation for me 🙂 I’m hoping maybe Guylty could do an RA frieze for us? 🙂

          • obscura says:

            LOL! Foiled again! I seem to recall that she doesn’t really like to PS much, but perhaps we might find a way to tempt her 🙂

          • Hariclea says:

            i feel bad for suggesting, she’s just finished the badge action and the Thorin book is next.. sigh. Maybe we can make this a longer term project 😉

  2. Heather says:

    Definitely like ‘early Lucas’ period of Spooks…I just happened to watch that exact episode last night!

  3. jazzbaby1 says:

    Happy 201st post, Obscura! S’mores frequently happen around here, too, as I think we’ve discussed. 🙂 This post, though? Fantastic and totally worth the wait. And thanks to Guylty for corrupti…uh, providing you with the source material. 😉

    • obscura says:

      I’m finding it quite helpful to have friends (I type *fiends* first :). ) supplying me with material from world museums…so much cheaper than transAtlantic airfare!

  4. Servetus says:

    Happy bicentennial!

  5. NYCPAT says:

    Poor skinny Lucas! A sculpture! Armitage is everywhere! 😀 Congrats on your 201st!

    • obscura says:

      Thanks!! Clearly, I’ve corrupted Guylty…next time you take a walk around the Met, report back and let me know “who” you see in the Greco-Roman galleries 😉

  6. dededotti says:

    More note taking today.I tend to take notes about your blog and educate myself on something I am not formilliar with.Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. obscura says:

    That is a huge compliment – Thank you! If you are interested, take a look at the link to the Parthenon Frieze…embedded in it is another link to an interactive site on the frieze…really cool!

  8. Hariclea says:

    And i meant to write friezes not freezes… And congratulations on the 200! (and has anyone in the creative world out there done a photoshop of RA images into a ancient frieze version? i’d love to see one:-))

    • obscura says:

      I like freezes too (blue raspberry is my fave 😉 )

      That would be fantastic! My photo editing skills leave A LOT to be desired 🙂 (for proof…there’s some of my work on and April Fool’s post from earlier this year…)

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