The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet

The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet

The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet

The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet

Excerpt

LESS than two hundred and fifty years ago, the little temple of Athena Nike was still standing, nearly intact, damaged not at all by men and very little by time. Suddenly it disappeared from travellers' accounts and visitors' recollection. It had been dismantled to its lowest courses, and the blocks had been employed by the Turks to build retaining walls and a battery at this western outpost of their fortress of the Acropolis. Smooth wallblocks and delicately carved archi? tectural members were with equal unconcern employed for this new enterprise.

After the Greek liberation from the Turks, and under official patronage of the new king of the Hellenes, the architect Ross cleared away these accretions of unpleasant memory, identified the ancient stones, and re?erected the little temple on its dizzy bastion. At this same time, broken fragments of a relief began to come to light, which after a brief bewilderment were recognised as portions of a parapet once surmounting and surrounding the bastion of the temple. The lovely "Sandalbinder" (No. 12) and the virtually complete slab of the Victories with the sacrificial bull (No. 11) were among the first pieces to be found.

Ross published five fragments of this frieze. By 1842 there were thirteen pieces known. In 1852, Beulé while digging out the approaches to the Propylaea found six additional fragments. In 1867 Kekulé was able to increase the total number to twenty seven. Subsequent investigators have succeeded in adding piece by piece to the collection. The Acropolis Museum and its storerooms have proved fertile in minor fragments previously unidentified. As recently as 1909 it was still possible for Heberdey to find a large piece of a slab (No. 3) built into the south wall of the bastion; and it is the considered opinion of Dinsmoor that "the number of sculptured fragments might be greatly enlarged if the Turkish facing of the south side of the bastion could be demolished".

To?day there are in the Acropolis Museum important portions of at least twenty slabs of the Parapet, besides more than a dozen more minute remnants. Altogether, the catalogue lists forty separate items. Although this count makes it wholly possible that some portion of every one of the twenty?four slabs has survived, there is actually too little to give a consecutive impression of the original appearance. Heberdey estimated a series of exactly fifty figures; and with this number the present study concurs. Yet of this total there are to?day only one half whose pose we can still actually see or reasonably infer; while barely half again of these are sufficiently preserved to permit us to enjoy them . . .

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