Neues über den Parthenon

Der kritischen Rezension Mary Beards in The New York Review of Books nach, ist Joan Breton Connellys neues Buch The Parthenon Enigma nur bedingt überzeugend. Ich finde ihre These aber trotzdem interessant, versucht Connelly doch eine komplette Neuinterpretation der berühmten Elgin Marbles:

The pivot of her argument is a reinterpretation of the sculpted frieze that once circled the entire building above the colonnade. With its array of galloping horsemen, charioteers, offering-bearers, and sacrificial animals, this has usually been identified as a representation of the procession that took place at the regular religious festival of the Panathenaia, making its way to the Acropolis in celebration of the goddess Athena. Connelly rejects this, to argue instead that the subject of the frieze is a myth of early Athens. What we see, she claims, are the preliminaries to a human sacrifice, when the daughter of one of the legendary kings of the city, Erechtheus, is sacrificed to ensure Athenian victory over an invading army. The procession depicts the celebrations that honored the girl’s noble act of self-sacrifice. It is not, in other words, a human scene at all, but a moment drawn from myth, and—to modern eyes—a shocking one at that.

Connelly’s interpretation centers on the puzzling scene (now in the British Museum) originally aligned with the main entranceway of the temple, apparently the culmination of the procession. It shows an adult male figure exchanging a large piece of cloth with a child, who may be either a boy or a girl. The clearest diagnostic feature for the sex of the child is its bare buttock protruding from a loose robe—and a large amount of art-historical time and energy has been fruitlessly expended over the past decades in comparing this buttock to those of other girls and boys in classical art, with (unsurprisingly) no definitive answer.

Next to the man, and with her back to him, stands an adult woman, facing two girls who carry stools on their heads. The traditional reading of the frieze, which goes back to the famous study of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett in the late eighteenth century, connects this with the presentation of a newly woven robe (peplos) to Athena—the high point of special, grander Panathenaiac celebrations, which took place every four years. This would mean that we are seeing the child (boy or girl) handing over the new peplos to some male religious official (perhaps the archon basileus, or “King Archon”), while behind him a priestess receives from other young cult servants the stools—on which she and her male partner will later sit.

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