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The East frieze of the Altar: Zeus

Unknown2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

From the steep road behind the Great Altar sanctuary, a visitor would enter the terrace through the main gate and immediately face the east frieze of the Altar. At the centre of this frieze, the scene of the battle against the Giants isdominated by the Olympians and Herakles. Next to Hera, Zeus’ four-horse chariot is probably led by the messengergoddess Iris (preserved only in one huge wing). The four horses embody the four winds of the weather god Zeus: Euros, Boreas, Zephyros, and Notos. As they charge to the right, they knock their enemies to the ground and trample them underfoot. The emblem on the shield of a fallen Giantre calls the star symbol used by Macedonian kings, referring to recent military history. The rightward movement of the horses leads the eye to Herakles, whose position in the frieze is known only from his name inscribed on the cornice, and to the most important gods in the frieze, Zeus and Athena […]. Surging apart from each other in symmetrical striding poses, they form the perfect focal point in the chaotic battle. Zeus stands between two young enemies already on the ground as he prepares to strike down a third, Porphyrion, leader of the Giants […]. As the god aims his thunderbolt between the smouldering eyes of his opponent, Zeus’ eagle attacks the rearing heads of the Giant’s snake legs. Just to the right, another enemy has fallen backwards. Although visible now only in outline, the inscription labels him as Tartaros – father of the race of Giants, according to Hyginus. Beside him, Athena, daughter of Zeus, storms to the right.

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  • Title: The East frieze of the Altar: Zeus
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE
  • Location: Pergamon / Turkey
  • Type: Frieze
  • Medium: Marble
  • Inv. no.: AvP III.2 GF 15, 1 - 15, 4
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Johannes Laurentius || Text © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Volker Kästner
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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