the parthenon enigma

ParthenonEric Wills at The Washington Post:

For centuries, scholars have argued that the frieze’s grand procession of soldiers and chariots, musicians and maidens, and figures bearing offerings for sacrifice depicted the Panathenaia, a yearly festival of games and religious rites in ancient Athens.

In her radical reinterpretation, Connelly argues that the frieze in fact celebrated a mythical tale of human sacrifice. That may come as a surprise to those who have projected an idealized, post-Enlightenment version of democracy onto the Parthenon, Connelly argues — a version mirroring our current preference for the primacy of individual rights and of reason over belief. The Parthenon’s frieze broadcast a much different message to the battle-hardened citizens of ancient Athens: Democracy, she writes, is “no mere political arrangement but ultimately a spiritual one.”

Connelly developed her theory after happening upon a mention of a long-lost play by Euripedes when she was researching a book on Greek priestesses. “Erechtheus,” as the play was titled, had languished for centuries before it was unearthed in fragmentary form by archaeologists in a Hellenistic cemetery in Egypt.

more here.