To cheat or not to cheat: Poseidon's eris with Athena in the west pediment of the Parthenon

Marion Meyer


For more than 2000 years (from the 430s BC to 1801), visitors of the Acropolis who had passed the Propylaia were faced with an imposing image at the most prominent building of the sanctuary, the Parthenon. Its west pediment, almost 30m wide, presented a composition of more than two dozen marble figures, bigger than life-size. The sculptures were comparatively well preserved when the Marquis de Nointel visited Athens in 1674 (thirteen years before the disastrous explosion during the Venetian siege in 1687) and a Flemish artist in his entourage made a drawing (falsely attributed to Jacques Carrey; fig. 1-2). It documents only minor damage (the head of the female protagonist was missing, as were the horses in the southern half of the pediment). Thanks to this drawing and to intensive research of numerous scholars it was possible to achieve a widely accepted reconstruction of the composition. Since 2009, the New Acropolis Museum presents the sculptures preserved in Athens combined with casts of the pieces kept in the British Museum and elsewhere.

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