Marble relief (Block V) from the East frieze of the Parthenon. The frieze shows the procession of the Panathenaic festival, the commemoration of the birthday of the goddess Athena. This Block shows five gods and five figures involved in a ritual. On the left of the Block stands Iris, who arranges her hair. The surviving fragment of her head is in the Acropolis Museum, Athens. Hera sits in front of Iris and makes the bridal gesture of holding out her veil. By the side of Hera, Zeus leans over the back of a throne. In his right hand he holds a sceptre or thunderbolt. As father of gods, his seat is distinguished from those of the other gods, who occupy simple stools. The arm-rest is supported by a miniature sphinx. On the extreme right of the Block, Athena is shown seated with Hephaestus. In her lap can be seen the snake fringe of the aegis, which the goddess wore for protection. Drill-holes on her right side indicate the line of her spear. Hephaestus is heavily muscled but supports his right side with a crutch under the arm. Between the two ranks of seated gods a group of five figures is involved in a ritual which has to do with the piece of cloth held up by a man and a child. This is thought to be the peplos of Athena, dedicated on the occasion of the Panathenaic festival. The man wears the long unbelted tunic of a priest and is usually identified with the chief magistrate and overseer of Athenian state religion, Archon Basileus. The child is probably a boy and may be identified as a temple-server. The woman with her back to the priest is likely to be the priestess of Athena Polias, goddess of the city. She is about to receive the cushioned stool carried by the girl approaching her. Another girl approaches behind the first, carrying both a stool and, on her left arm, a footstool. This last is much damaged but the unmistakable paw-shaped foot of one leg is preserved. The central Block of the East frieze was placed over the approach to the East doorway of the temple that gave access to the statue of the goddess within. The Block was removed during the Christian re-use of the Parthenon as a church. It was not destroyed, however, and survived on the Acropolis built into a wall, where it was found and rescued by Lord Elgin’s men. For more information on the pedestrian-procession see East frieze Block III.
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