The Acropolis Museum
For heaven's sake, don't miss the tucked-away, easy-to-overlook Acropolis Museum (behind, to the right, and abit down-hill from the Parthenon), which contains all the many relics and pieces of statuary found on the Acropolis. You'll find some violent sculptures here (lions and lionesses tearing bulls and calves to pieces), the wonderful, Egyptianlooking Kore and Kouros, parts of friezes that adamed the Acropolis temple (look for the ones that decorated the balustrade of the Athena Nike Temple), and the breathtaking, famous bas-relief of "Athena Nike Adjusting Her Sandal"-a show stopper! The Museum is open daily from 08.00 to 17.00, except on Mondays (11.00 to17.00).
Looking down from the Acropolis towards the sea, the plain seems almost toy-like, ridged with rock and dotted with diminutive dwellings. Dark lines of factories begin to streak the landscape as it closes to the harbour of Piraeus. Then carrying the eye further, across the sea and across the crystal gulfs of air, the pointed silhouette of Aegina shows wine-dark against the blue.
In the years following 1830 under the direction of a German, Ross, the Acropolis of Athens was cleared of post-classical structures and the lovely little Temple of Wingless Victory was entirely rebuilt on its platform outside the gates of the Acropolis, assembled piece by piece from fortifications into which it had been built. In these years were sown the seeds of the policy which was to make the Greece of afteryears a paradise for the archaeologist-seeds of national pride in antiquity without super-nationalistic bias, pride which welcomes foreign help in popularizing the heritage of the Greek people. In 1886 the sysmatic excavation of the Acropolis of Athens lead to the discovery of pits of sculpture damaged by the Persian destruction of the city in 480 B.C.. It was a mine of early sculpture, extending over a period of a little more than fifty years. The statues differed fundamentally from those best loved previously; they were so much more elaborate than the Parthenon sculptures.
Greek art was not based on abstract aesthetic principles unrelated to time and place. The very significance of Greek art is to be found in its fidelity to contemporary life. Just as the Greek people, the Greek state, the Greek religion were all parts of a historic evolution and retained to the last abundant traces of earlier conditions, so with Greek art. We must seek at every point for historic rather than for abstract explanations of Greek procedure, both because such explanations are the true ones and because they furnish the only true principle for our own guidance in art, the true Greek principle, fidelity to contemporary life.
THE CALF-BEARER (The Moschophoros)
Marble from Hymettus. Height, 5'6" (1.65 m.). The torso was found on the Athenian Acropolis in 1864, the base made of poros (a kind of limestone) in 1887. It had the plinth with the right foot of the statue attached to it. Acropolis Museum, Athens (Inv. No. 624).
From the inscription on the rectangular plinth we learn that the statue was dedicated by one Rhombos, Bombos or Kombos (the beginning of the name is missing). There is no doubt that this was a distinguished and well-to-do-citizen of Attica who offered his own likeness to the goddess. He is approaching Athene carrying a little calf, his sacrificial offering, on his shoulders. A smooth, thin cloak, closely following the outlines of his body reaches from his shoulders nearly down to his knees. It is open in front. His curls shaped like corals or pearls encircle his forehead and, starting from behind either ear, three plaits fall to his breast. The hair, the surface of which has been left rough at the top of the head to make the colour adhere, is tied with a narrow ribbon. A pointed beard encircles his face, curving around his shaved upper and lower lip. The narrow, curving mouth is firmly outlined. The large, deep-set eyes were made out of coloured stones, now missing, to render the glance more lively.
Man and beast, the donor and his gift, are closely integrated by the pattern formed by the man's arms raised to hold the feet of the calf slung over his shoulders. His hands gripping the hooves form a fitting decorative centre-piece for it.
By its clear and concise form this sculptured group typical in its composition of the early 6th century B.C. achieves a rare and pleasing unity. An Attic sculptor, no other work by whom is so far known, carved it about 570 B.C.
There are remains of blue paint on the skin of the calf.
STANDING BOY (Kritios Boy)
Parian marble. Height 2.9" (0.86 m.). The body was found on the Athenian Acropolis in 1865, the head in 1888, also on the Acropolis but at a different spot. It has been repeatedly and rightly stressed that there can be no doubt as to the connexion between the two fragments. Acropolis Museum, Athens, No. 698.
The figure cannot have been standing on the Athenian citadel for more than a very short time, when the Persians destroyed the Acropolis in 480 B.C. Stylistically it belongs among the latest works from the so-called "Persian rubble". The boy, who has been recognized as a victor in the Panathenaea, the great festival of Athene, stands calmly and confidently. The right leg is bent at the knee, the right thigh thrust forward, the shank placed slightly to the side and to the back, so that the displacement of the weight on to the left leg is also expressed in the upper part of the body and the relation between the axes is shifted a little. The upper arms were drawn back, the left rather more than the right; the forearms were slightly raised from the elbow. The head is turned to the right. The eyes, which were inlaid with coloured material, gazed ahead self-confidently. The hair lies on the head in fine waves running from the crown of the head, and is taken up over a circlet. The down on the nape of the neck is arranged in alternating curls and straight wisps.
The modelling of the body is extremely lively. The stylistic affinity of the head to the Harmodios from the bronze group of the tyrannicides by Kritios and Nesiotes, which was erected in the market-place at Athens in 477 B.C. and has come down to us in marble copies dating from the time of the Roman Empire, led soon after the statue's discovery to its being called the "Kritios Boy" (vide most recently: Sture Brunnsaker, The Tyrant-Slayers of Kritios and Nesiotes, Lund, 1955). Whether this boy is correctly attributed to Kritios remains an open question that does not affect the importance of the work, whose beauty raises it above the conflict of opinion. The importance of this statue -executed by one of the leading Attic masters in about 480 B.C. -- consists above all in the fact that it is a splendid example of the new distribution of weight which was a precondition for the perfectly poised Classical figure.
VOTIVE RELIEF TO ATHENE
White Parian or Pentelic marble. Height 21.6" (54 cm.). Acropolis Museum, Athens, No. 695.
This small, delicate relief was found in 1888 on the Athenian Acropolis, south of the Parthenon, in a wall of poros that was connected with the Parthenon terrace. It seems to have been buried under the earth a few years after it was made.
Athene, in a youthful, maidenly shape, stands with bowed head in front of a rectangular pillar. The weight of the body rests on the right leg and on the spear in her left hand. She is holding the spear-point downwards at a slant and leaning her body, which is tilted slightly forward, and her head, which is seen in profile, against this support. Her left foot, which does not carry any weight, is set back and touches the ground only with the ball and toes; both feet are seen in side view. Her right hand rests on her hip, with fingers extended. The goddess is dressed in the so-called Attic peplos, open on the right side, held together on the shoulders with two clasps, and belted on top of the overfold. It follows the small, bud-like forms of the bust, which is seen almost in front view, but veils the lower part of the body in long parallel folds that make of it an elongated rectangle. Athene is armed with neither aegis nor shield, and apart from the spear has only a Corinthian helmet with a double crest. Her hair emerges from under the helmet in simple, narrow waves.
Elsewhere on and near the Acropolis
No scholar would leave this area without also exploring the HiIls of the Pnyx and the Aeropagus (both former assembly meeting places) and the Hill of Philopappus, with its monument of the same name at the top, built in the second century A.D. by the Roman consul, Philopappus, in honor of his two sons. It has an excellent view. And to be thorough, you'll alsa want to damber along the side of the Acropolis (on Dionysiou Aeropagitou Street) to see the Theatre of Herod Atticus (built in the second century A.D.), the Temple of Aesclepius (he was the God of Medicine; his daughter was Hygeia), the Stoa of Emmenes, and the grand, oldest theatre in Greece, the Theatre of Dionysius.