Detail in Focus

The Secrets of the Parthenon East Frieze

Why are there holes in Apollo's hair?

This marble block is an original piece of a frieze, or decorative band of sculpted scenes, from the top of the eastern side of the Parthenon, the most important surviving building of Ancient Greece. This particular section presents the Greek gods Poseidon and Apollo, and the goddess Artemis. These seated figures are well over lifesize and fill the 100 cm tall space (40 inches). If they stood up, they’d extend well beyond the slab’s upper boundary.

Parthenon, East Frieze, Block VI (Collection: Acropolis Museum)

Even from a great distance, the figures would have been easily recognizable to the ancient Athenians. The use of brightly colored paint (now eroded away) would have also amplified their expressions, gestures, and costumes.

Detail of Apollo from the East Frieze, Block VI, detail of Ap (Collection: Acropolis Museum)

There were originally other clues to the god’s identity. Follow this link to take a closer look at Apollo, the curly-haired figure in the middle of the group. Notice the small drill holes in his hair? These were used for metal pins for attaching a bronze laurel wreath (called a stephane) to his head. The wreath was an important symbol of the god’s identity. Although long gone, the holes in the marble surface provide a kind of treasure map to these lost elements. Can you find others?

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