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The Parthenon Sculptures

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1816,0610.12

  • Title (series)

    • The Parthenon Sculptures
  • Description

    Marble metope from the Parthenon (South Metope XXVIII). This metope is from the eastern half of the south side of the temple. The South Metopes in the British Museum show the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths at the marriage feast of Peirithoos.

    A Centaur rears triumphantly over a fallen Lapith. A feline skin hangs on the Centaur’s extended left arm, the ends of the feline’s skin flying behind him. The Lapith lies on his chlamys, his head rolled back, his right leg bent up and his right hand lying over his right flank. Both heads, the Lapith’s arms and right knee, the Centaur's right arm, left hand, front legs and right hind foreleg and parts of the frame are missing.

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  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 447BC-438BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 134.5 centimetres
    • Width: 134.5 centimetres
    • Depth: 41.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    The sculpted decoration of the Parthenon included ninety-two metopes showing scenes of mythical battle. Those on the south flank of the temple included a series featuring human Lapiths in mortal combat with Centaurs. The Centaurs were part-man and part-horse, thus having a civil and a savage side to their nature. The Lapiths, a neighbouring Greek tribe, made the mistake of giving the Centaurs wine at the marriage feast of their king, Peirithoos. The Centaurs attempted to rape the women, with their leader Eurytion trying to carry off the bride. A general battle ensued, with the Lapiths finally victorious.

    This scene on South Metope XXVIII is comparable with that on South metope VIII.


    Further Reading

    For general accounts of the Parthenon sculptures, see:

    J. Boardman and D. Finn, The Parthenon and its Sculptures, London 1985.

    A. Delivorrias, ‘The Sculptures of the Parthenon’, in Tournikiotis (ed.) The Parthenon and its Impact in Modern Times, Athens 1994., pp. 100–135.

    I. Jenkins, Greek Architecture and its Sculpture in the British Museum, London 2006, ch. 4, pp.71–107.

    I. Jenkins, The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, London 2007


    For an account suitable for children, see:

    I. Jenkins & K. Morton, Explore the Parthenon. An Ancient Greek Temple and its Sculptures, London 2009


    For the metopes, see:

    A. Mantis, ‘Parthenon central south metopes: new evidence’, in D. Buitron-Oliver (ed.), The Interpretation of Architectural Sculpture in Greece and Rome. Studies in the History of Art 49, Washington DC 1997, pp. 67–81. Gives references to further articles by the same author.

    K. Schwab, ‘Celebration of victory: the metopes of the Parthenon’, in Neils (ed.), cited above, pp. 159–97.


    For the nineteenth-century reception of the Parthenon sculptures, see:

    A.H. Smith, ‘Lord Elgin and his collection’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 36 (1916), pp. 163–372.

    J. Rothenberg, ‘Descensus ad Terram’: the Acquisition and Reception of the Elgin Marbles, New York and London 1977.

    I. Jenkins, Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800–1939, London 1992.


    For the Parthenon and its history, see:

    Essays collected together in P. Tournikiotis (ed.), The Parthenon and its Impact in Modern Times, Athens 1994.

    M. Beard, The Parthenon, London 2002.

    J. Neils (ed.), The Parthenon from Antiquity to the Present, Cambridge 2005.


    For the conservation history of the building and its sculptures, see:

    Essays collected together in R. Economakis (ed.), Acropolis Restoration: the CCAM Interventions, London 1994.

    I. Jenkins, Cleaning and Controversy: the Parthenon Sculptures 1811–1839, British Museum Occasional Paper 146, London 2001.
    (available at http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications/online_research_publications/cleaning_and_controversy.aspx)

    For N. Balanos, see Ch. Bouras, ‘Restoration Work on the Parthenon and Changing Attitudes towards the Conservation of Monuments’, in Tournikiotis (ed.), cited above, pp. 310–39.


    For the pediment sculptures, see:

    O. Palagia, The Pediments of the Parthenon, Leiden 1993.


    For the frieze, see:

    I. Jenkins, The Parthenon Frieze, London 1994.

    J. Neils, The Parthenon Frieze, Cambridge 2001.

    A. Delivorrias, The Parthenon Frieze, Athens 2004 (in Greek).

    I. Jenkins, ‘The Parthenon Frieze and Perikles’ calvary of a thousand’, in J. Barringer and J. Hurwit (eds), Periklean Athens and its Legacy: Problems and Perspectives, Austin, Texas, 2005, pp. 147–61.

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  • Bibliography

    • MacGregor 2010 27 bibliographic details
    • Sculpture 317 bibliographic details
    • Smith 1910 p.36, pl.22 (fig.2) bibliographic details
    • Choremi-Spetsieri 2004 p.85, fig.51 bibliographic details
    • Brommer 1967 pp.120-121, pl.221-223 bibliographic details
    • Smith 1892 pp.141-142 bibliographic details
    • Berger 1986 pp.95-96, pl.104-105 bibliographic details
  • Location

    G18

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1816

  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number

    1816,0610.12

  • Additional IDs

    • South Metope XXVIII
Marble metope from the Parthenon (South metope XXVIII). This metope is from the eastern half of the south side of the temple. The South metopes in the British Museum show the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths at the marriage-feast of Peirithoos.  A Centaur rears triumphantly over a fallen Lapith. A feline skin hangs on the Centaur’s extended left arm, the ends of the feline’s skin flying behind him. The Lapith lies on his chlamys, his head rolled back, his right leg bent up and his right hand lying over his right flank. Both heads, the Lapith’s arms and right knee, the Centaurs right arm, left hand, front legs and right hind foreleg and parts of the frame are missing.

Marble metope from the Parthenon (South metope XXVIII). This metope is from the eastern half of the south side of the temple. The South metopes in the British Museum show the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths at the marriage-feast of Peirithoos. A Centaur rears triumphantly over a fallen Lapith. A feline skin hangs on the Centaur’s extended left arm, the ends of the feline’s skin flying behind him. The Lapith lies on his chlamys, his head rolled back, his right leg bent up and his right hand lying over his right flank. Both heads, the Lapith’s arms and right knee, the Centaurs right arm, left hand, front legs and right hind foreleg and parts of the frame are missing.

Image description

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