Marble Scenes from the Parthenon

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Parthenon Marbles

The British Museum
The British Museum. CC Flickr User Wootang01

The Elgin Marcles or Parthenon Sculptures -- friezes, pediment sculptures, statue and column parts, a caryatid etc. -- were shipped from the Parthenon and other spots in Athens to the UK by the 7th Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803. The British government acquired the collection from Lord Elgin. The Parthenon Sculptures have been on permanent public display in the British Museum since 1817. The British Museum says it houses the following Parthenon Sculptures:

  • Parthenon - 247 ft of the original 524 ft of frieze
    15 of the 92 metopes
    17 pedimental figures; various pieces of architecture
  • Erechtheion - a Caryatid, a column and other architectural members
  • Propylaia - Architectural members
  • Temple of Athena Nike - 4 slabs of the frieze and architectural members

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Centaur and Lapith, Parthenon Marbles
Centaur and Lapith, Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum. CC Flickr User ConsciousVision

"Centauromachy" refers to the battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths of the Peneus Valley, in Thessaly.

In one story of the origins of these two related peoples, Centaurus and Lapithes are the twin sons of Apollo and a daughter of the river god Peneus. Centaurus mated with a mare to produce the first centaur. Lapithes became king of the Lapiths. One of his descendants was Ixion, the infamous king of the Lapiths. Ixion accidentally or intentionally killed his visiting father-in-law, making him the first man in the Greek mythological tradition to do in a relative.

Ixion was not through with his transgressions. When Zeus invited Ixion to Mt. Olympus, he violated guest-host relations once again, but from the guest's side this time. Ixion lusted after Zeus' wife, Hera. Before Ixion could attain his goal, Zeus found out and made a cloud resemble Hera to tempt the foolish mortal. Deceived, Ixion had intercourse with the cloud (which is given a name, Nephele), and became the progenitor of Centaurus or, more directly, of the centaurs themselves. After Zeus executed Ixion with his famous weapon, the thunderbolt, Ixion was attached permanently to a spinning, fiery wheel for all eternity in Tartarus.

A son (or stepson since Zeus is also named as father) of Ixion was Peirithoos, the good friend of Theseus.

The Centauromachy was fought at the wedding of the Lapith king Perithous (Peirithoos) and Hippodameia after the Centaurs, unused to alcohol, became intoxicated and tried to rape the bride. With the help of the Athenian hero Theseus, the Lapiths won the battle.

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Horse of Selene

Head of a horse of Selene from the east pediment of the Parthenon
Head of a horse of Selene from the east pediment of the Parthenon. CC Flick User roblisameehan

Selene is the Greek moon goddess and the sister of the sun god Helios. Helios drives a horse-drawn chariot across the sky by day, while Selene draws one by night.

This is a popular sculpture showing the lead horse of Selene. It is from the Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum.