Explore the frieze
The frieze of the Parthenon is a continuous band with representations in relief that encircles the upper part of the cella, the main part of the temple within the outer colonnade. The theme represented was the procession to the Acropolis that formed part of the Great Panathenaia. The west side depicts the preparation for the procession. The long sides, North and South, depict the main procession with the groups of horsemen and chariots and the sacrificial procession of offerings and animals. On either end of the east side are the heads of the procession and in the middle the gods and goddesses and the main cult scene with the handing over of the peplos.
Select a frieze side on the model of the Parthenon to explore each block of the frieze.
The west frieze depicts the preparation for the Panathenaic procession of the horsemen in the Kerameikos. Blocks with quiet scenes are interposed with those bearing scenes of action. The clothing of the horsemen is greatly varied, interpreted by some scholars as representative of the 10 or 4 tribes of Attica. Weapons and the horses’ bridle attachments were applied in bronze.
The frieze is divided, part in the British Museum, part in the Acropolis museum. The scenes begin at the northwest corner of the opisthonaos as a continuation of the procession which has already started on the west side. The action develops gradually and from quiet preparation accelerates to a gallop. Even though they may have taken place at a another time or place, these scenes represent activities that were part of the festival of the Panathenaia.
The south side of the frieze is preserved fragmentarily and the sculptured surface was badly damaged in the tremendous catastrophe suffered by the Parthenon in the explosion of 1687. This is why the sequence from block XX on is uncertain. Even so, the Carrey drawings show the representations on many of the missing sections and have enabled us to locate a number of existing fragments.
The east frieze is comprised of nine blocks that are considerably longer than the blocks of the other sides. The surviving blocks and fragments are scattered among various museums. In contrast to the west frieze, the east frieze has a certain symmetry of composition, since it is the focal point of the processions of the other sides, culminating in the main cult scene with the handing over of the peplos.