National Geographic : 1944 Mar
The Panathenaic Procession Brings a New RobetoAthena AFTER the defeat of Mardonius at Plataea (479 B.C.) had removed the Persian threat, the oligarchic landhold ers of Sparta viewed the rising power of Athens and her economic stranglehold on other Greek states as a menace to themselves. Athens had it practically all her own way, however, until the fatal thirty years' war broke out in 432 B.C . During the heyday of Athenian power, one of the famous institutions was the great Panathenaic procession, which every four years brought a new peplos, or robe, to the god dess Athena. The robe, woven by the women and girls of the city, represented the battle of the gods and giants. At early dawn on the feast of the goddess, the procession assembled at the Pompeion, near the Dipylon Gate at the north side of the city, and made its way through the streets to the foot of the west slope of the Acropolis. The chief place in the procession was occupied by a ship on wheels bearing a mast and yardarm on which the peplos was spread. Priests, archons (chief executive magistrates), and dignita ries came first. After them came maidens bearing sacrificial vessels; then foreign residents carrying flat dishes filled with honey cakes, fruit, and other offerings. The sacrificial animals were led in the procession, and there were also youths carrying on their heads large jars possibly filled with tribute money. Finally came the flower of the Athenian army, the cavalry, splendidly mounted. At the foot of the Acropolis the procession halted while the robe was removed from the yardarm and folded, to be carried the rest of the way. Then the procession passed through the great Propylaea, and shortly after turned to the right through a smaller gateway which led toaplaza op posite the west end of the temple. The sacrificial animals,however, probably followed along a different path outside the precinct, while thegreater part of the procession passeddirectly alongside thenorth colon nade of the building to the main entrance attheeast end. There the priest of Athena was waiting toreceive the offering to the goddess. The whole processionhas been preserved forusinthe splendid carved frieze which Pheidias contrived around the top of the cella, or sanctuary proper. In the background of the picture isthe Propylaea, through the wide central openingofwhich comes theprocession. It is not certain whether the cavalry rode up onhorseback, although this would havebeen entirely possible, since itis known that sacrificial animals were ledup,and theusual steps were omitted at thecenter ofthebuilding. To the left, just insidethe Propylaea, was astatue of Athena Hygeia. Next inorder was asanctuary ofArtemis Brauronia, in which stood abronze copy oftheTrojan Horse, faithfully reproduced, even tothe wheels onwhich it was said to have beenmounted, and having two small windows on either side through which thehidden Greeks could be seen peeping out. On the right, behind thegroup ofelders who arewatching the procession, stands the bronze statue ofAthena Pro machos, the goddess whofights intheforefront ofbattle. Her gilded helmet and twinkling spear point could beseen by homecoming sailors soon after rounding Cape Sounion.