Athena Parthenos

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Athena Parthenos (Greek: Ἀθηνᾶ Παρθένος; literally, "Athena the Virgin") was the title of a massive chryselephantine sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena made by Phidias and housed in the Parthenon in Athens. Its epithet was an essential character of the goddess herself. A number of replicas and works inspired by it, both ancient and modern, have been made.

It was the most renowned cult image of Athens,[1] considered one of the greatest achievements of the most acclaimed sculptor of ancient Greece. Phidias began his work around 447 BC.[2] Lachares removed the gold sheets in 296 BC to pay his troops, and the bronze replacements for them were probably gilded thereafter; it was damaged by a fire about 165 BC but repaired.[3] It continued to stand in the Parthenon in the fifth century AD, when it may have been lost in another fire. An account mentions it in Constantinople in the tenth century, however.[4]



The ancient historian Pausanias gave a description of the statue:

...The statue itself is made of ivory silver and gold. On the middle of her helmet is placed a likeness of the Sphinx ... and on either side of the helmet are griffins in relief. ... The statue of Athena is upright, with a tunic reaching to the feet, and on her breast the head of Medusa is worked in ivory. She holds a statue of Victory about four cubits high, and in the other hand a spear; at her feet lies a shield and near the spear is a serpent. This serpent would be Erichthonius. On the pedestal is the birth of Pandora in relief.[5]

The general type of the Athena Parthenos, although not its character and quality, can be assessed from its image on coins[6] from its reproductions as miniature sculptures, as votive objects, and in representations on engraved gems.[7]

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