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The Parthenon Enigma
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Built in the fifth century b.c., the Parthenon has been venerated for more than two millennia as the West's ultimate paragon of beauty and proportion. Since the Enlightenment, it has also come to represent our political ideals, the lavish temple to the goddess Athena serving as the model for our most hallowed civic architecture. But how much do the values of those who built the Parthenon truly correspond with our own? And apart from the significance with which we have invested it, what exactly did this marvel of human hands mean to those who made it?In this revolutionary book, Joan Breton Connelly challenges our most basic assumptions about the Parthenon and the ancient Athenians. Beginning with the natural environment and its rich mythic associations, she re-creates the development of the Acropolis--the Sacred Rock at the heart of the city-state--from its prehistoric origins to its Periklean glory days as a constellation of temples among which the Parthenon stood supreme. In particular, she probes the Parthenon's legendary frieze: the 525-foot-long relief sculpture that originally encircled the upper reaches before it was partially destroyed by Venetian cannon fire (in the seventeenth century) and most of what remained was shipped off to Britain (in the nineteenth century) among the Elgin marbles. The frieze's vast enigmatic procession--a dazzling pageant of cavalrymen and elders, musicians and maidens--has for more than two hundred years been thought to represent a scene of annual civic celebration in the birthplace of democracy. But thanks to a once-lost play by Euripides (the discovery of which, in the wrappings of a Hellenistic Egyptian mummy, is only one of this book's intriguing adventures), Connelly has uncovered a long-buried meaning, a story of human sacrifice set during the city's mythic founding. In a society startlingly preoccupied with cult ritual, this story was at the core of what it meant to be Athenian. Connelly reveals a world that beggars our popular notions of Athens as a city of staid philosophers, rationalists, and rhetoricians, a world in which our modern secular conception of democracy would have been simply incomprehensible.The Parthenon's full significance has been obscured until now owing in no small part, Connelly argues, to the frieze's dismemberment. And so her investigation concludes with a call to reunite the pieces, in order that what is perhaps the greatest single work of art surviving from antiquity may be viewed more nearly as its makers intended. Marshalling a breathtaking range of textual and visual evidence, full of fresh insights woven into a thrilling narrative that brings the distant past to life, The Parthenon Enigma is sure to become a landmark in our understanding of the civilization from which we claim cultural descent.From the Hardcover edition.

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Street Date:
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Language:
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9780385350501
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APA Citation (style guide)

Joan Breton Connelly. (2014). The Parthenon Enigma. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Joan Breton Connelly. 2014. The Parthenon Enigma. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Joan Breton Connelly, The Parthenon Enigma. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.

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Joan Breton Connelly. The Parthenon Enigma. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014. Web.

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        JOAN BRETON CONNELLY is a classical archaeologist and the author of two previous books, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece and Votive Sculpture of Hellenistic Cyprus. She received her A.B. in classics from Princeton University and Ph.D. in classical and Near Eastern archaeology from Bryn Mawr College, where she now serves on the board of trustees. In 1996, Professor Connelly was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She received the Archaeological Institute of America's Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2007 and held NYU's Lillian Vernon Chair for Teaching Excellence in 2002--2004. She has held visiting fellowships at All Souls College, Magdalen College, New College, and Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, and has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Professor Connelly has excavated throughout Greece, Kuwait, and Cyprus where she has directed the Yeronisos Island Excavations since 1990. She is currently a professor of classics and art history at New York University.

      • name: Joan Breton Connelly
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shortDescription

A revolutionary new understanding of the most famous and influential building in the world, a thesis that calls into question our basic understanding of the ancient civilization that we most identify with.

For more than two millennia, the Parthenon has been revered as the symbol of Western culture, the epitome of the ancient society from which we derive our highest ideals. It was understood to honor the city-state's patron deity Athena, and its intricately sculpted surface believed to depict a celebration of civic continuity in the birthplace of democracy. But through a close reading of a lost play by Euripides, accidentally discovered on a papyrus wrapping an Egyptian mummy, Joan Connelly began to develop a new theory that has sparked one of the fiercest controversies ever to rock the world of classics. Now, she recounts how our most basic sense of the Parthenon and of the culture that built it may have been crucially mistaken. Re-creating the ancient structure...

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title
The Parthenon Enigma
fullDescription

Built in the fifth century b.c., the Parthenon has been venerated for more than two millennia as the West's ultimate paragon of beauty and proportion. Since the Enlightenment, it has also come to represent our political ideals, the lavish temple to the goddess Athena serving as the model for our most hallowed civic architecture. But how much do the values of those who built the Parthenon truly correspond with our own? And apart from the significance with which we have invested it, what exactly did this marvel of human hands mean to those who made it?

In this revolutionary book, Joan Breton Connelly challenges our most basic assumptions about the Parthenon and the ancient Athenians. Beginning with the natural environment and its rich mythic associations, she re-creates the development of the Acropolis--the Sacred Rock at the heart of the city-state--from its prehistoric origins to its Periklean glory days as a constellation of temples among which the Parthenon stood supreme. In particular, she probes the Parthenon's legendary frieze: the 525-foot-long relief sculpture that originally encircled the upper reaches before it was partially destroyed by Venetian cannon fire (in the seventeenth century) and most of what remained was shipped off to Britain (in the nineteenth century) among the Elgin marbles. The frieze's vast enigmatic procession--a dazzling pageant of cavalrymen and elders, musicians and maidens--has for more than two hundred years been thought to represent a scene of annual civic celebration in the birthplace of democracy. But thanks to a once-lost play by Euripides (the discovery of which, in the wrappings of a Hellenistic Egyptian mummy, is only one of this book's intriguing adventures), Connelly has uncovered a long-buried meaning, a story of human sacrifice set during the city's mythic founding. In a society startlingly preoccupied with cult ritual, this story was at the core of what it meant to be Athenian. Connelly reveals a world that beggars our popular notions of Athens as a city of staid philosophers, rationalists, and rhetoricians, a world in which our modern secular conception of democracy would have been simply incomprehensible.

The Parthenon's full significance has been obscured until now owing in no small part, Connelly argues, to the frieze's dismemberment. And so her investigation concludes with a call to reunite the pieces, in order that what is perhaps the greatest single work of art surviving from antiquity may be viewed more nearly as its makers intended. Marshalling a breathtaking range of textual and visual evidence, full of fresh insights woven into a thrilling narrative that brings the distant past to life, The Parthenon Enigma is sure to become a landmark in our understanding of the civilization from which we claim cultural descent.

From the Hardcover edition.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: A. E. Stallings, The Weekly Standard
      • content: "A highly detailed, often technical history . . . these pages spring to life with Breton Connelly's excitement . . . The sources are treated with considerable even-handedness, with the result that the interpretation is quite compelling . . . [The frieze's] procession is not political, or even contemporaneous with Pericles's Athens, she suggests, but religious and mythological."--Daisy Dunn, Literary Review (UK) "A valuable argument about the purpose of the temple as a visual memento of the invisible past . . . Connelly's theory is attractive and plausible, and is backed by a considerable breadth and depth of scholarship -- archaeological, visual, and textual."
      • premium: False
      • source: William St. Clair, Times Literary Supplement
      • content: "Learned, ambitious, generously illustrated and pugnacious . . . up to date with the excellent theoretical work of recent decades . . . [Connelly] aims to address both specialist and general audiences simultaneously . . . The stakes are therefore higher than in most disagreements in classical archaeology . . . What we know of the operation of the institutions of the democracy . . . works strongly in favour of Connelly's argument . . . Even those who have doubts must surely now recognize that Joan Breton Connelly's ideas deserve to be taken into the mainstream . . . Personally I am convinced that, in her main claim, Connelly is right. She has not solved the "enigma" but dissolved it . . . It is time to change the textbooks and the museum labels."
      • premium: False
      • source: Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics and History, Yale University, and author of The Peloponnesian War
      • content: "Joan Connelly's learned and elegant study makes a powerful case for a new understanding of the Parthenon, its original meaning as a religious object and for the fullest possible restoration of its many parts still scattered far and wide."
      • premium: False
      • source: George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga
      • content: "We are a species of storytellers whose tales have shaped our reality since ancient times. Joan Connelly's brilliant study of the Parthenon shows how a myth can reveal as many secrets as a rock or a ruin, and how rethinking what we know about antiquity can help us better understand ourselves today."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        December 9, 2013
        Alternately a cathedral, a mosque, and an archaeological ruin, the Parthenon atop Athens’s Acropolis was constructed nearly 2,500 years ago (447–432 B.C.E.), on the site of an earlier temple, as a huge, “lavishly decorated” temple of Athena. Here, in contrast to tendencies to project upon it our modern “standards of what it means to be civilized,” archaeologist and NYU classics professor Connelly (Portrait of a Priestess) urges readers “to see the Parthenon and the people who made it as they were.” Using surviving snippets from a long-lost Euripides play, she argues that the Parthenon frieze isn’t a snapshot of contemporary fifth-century B.C.E. Athenians “marching in their annual Panathenaic procession,” but a mythological scene glorifying human sacrifice before a battle between followers of rivals Athena and Poseidon. Within the Parthenon sits a tomb shrine to those sacrificed heroines, whose associated cult was incorporated into the worship of Athena. Connelly’s persuasive reinterpretation of the frieze will spark controversy among academics, as will her advocacy of the return to Greece of the British Museum’s Elgin Marbles. But this detailed, smart, and tantalizing study offers much to savor while immersing readers in a “spirit-saturated, anxious world” at the mercy of mercurial gods. Illus.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 15, 2013
        Get out the dictionary and brush up on your Greek. Classical archaeologist Connelly's (Classics/New York Univ.; Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece, 2007, etc.) history and analysis of every square inch of the Parthenon requires close attention. "Never before in human history has there been a structure that is at once so visible to the world, so celebrated, so examined, so invested with authority, and yet, at the same time, so strangely impenetrable at its core," writes the author, who devotes the first third of the book to a deeply detailed history of the gods and myths of the Acropolis. The Parthenon is a portrait of the Athenians, their identity and perception of belonging. Greece had no sacred text and no culture media, but they stressed the importance of myth, landscape and memory. Myth and history were one and the same. When Connelly gets to the story of the founding family of Athens--Erechtheus, his wife, Praxithea, and their three daughters--the book picks up considerable speed. Much more than a sacred space, the Parthenon is the symbol of Athens' democracy, and the East Frieze explains the meaning of that democracy, the language of images paralleling the language of text. It shows how Erechtheus and Praxithea were prepared, even willing, to sacrifice their youngest daughter to avert an impending siege. Unknown to them, their daughters had pledged that if one died, so would they all; thus, the two remaining sisters threw themselves off the Acropolis. When Erechtheus was swallowed by the Earth, Athena instructed Praxithea to build the two temples we now see. It is not their sacrifice that illustrates democracy but the fact that no life is above another or the common good. The carvings of the Parthenon, the greatest masterpiece of Greek art, teach us the meaning of democracy. A book for all who seek direction and are capable of seeing the bigger picture--erudite if esoteric, edifying if somewhat exhausting.

        COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from December 1, 2013

        In this masterly volume, Connelly (classics, New York Univ., Portrait of a Priestess) delves into the significance of this Athenian wonder and presents a different interpretation of the frieze that encircles it. For centuries, scholars have interpreted the frieze as being of a Panathenaic procession seeking to honor Athena--the city's most important deity. Connelly's exhaustive inquiry into the intricate nature of the artwork, through a deep understanding of fifth-century Hellenic myth, history, and religion leads her to believe that the frieze seeks to tell the tale of King Erechtheus's three maiden daughters who willingly sacrificed themselves--as decreed by an oracle--to save the city-state of Athens from the approaching Eleusinian army. Connelly expertly re-creates the world engendered by the efforts of the great statesman Perikles, one in which the city-state was worthy of any sacrifice. The author suggests that the misreading of this "mirror in marble" has obscured the didactic message the edifice was intended to imbue in Athenians. VERDICT Connelly's depth of knowledge and scholastic effort shine through brilliantly. Her thorough research presents a convincing argument for newly comprehending the Parthenon's frieze and potentially reevaluating long accepted research on the subject. Enthusiastically recommended for all readers interested in ancient Greece.--Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM

        Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from December 1, 2013
        Universally recognized as a symbol of Western democracy, the Parthenon emerges in Connelly's bold new analysis as a shrine memorializing myths radically alien to modern politics. Newly recovered classical literary texts and surprising archaeological finds compel readers to acknowledge the implausibility of the usual interpretation of the Parthenon's frieze sculptures as a depiction of fifth-century Athenians celebrating their Panathenaic Festival. To buttress a quite different interpretation, Connelly cites lines from a long-lost Euripides play, so investing the Parthenon statues with mythicalnot historicalsignificance, enshrining the legendary King Erechtheus and Queen Praxithea and the three daughters they heroically sacrifice to save their threatened city. The discovery that Athenians believed their political order originated with virgin sacrifice may shock readers, despite the ubiquity of human sacrifice in the world's prehistory and the centrality of blood sacrifice in Christianity. Yet in Athens' violent founding myth, Connelly sees a reminder of how completely Athenians put community welfare above self-interest. Newly aware of the potent message embedded in the Parthenon frieze as a whole, many readers will endorse Connelly's concluding appeal to British authorities, asking them to return to Greece the priceless pieces of the frieze that have long been held in London. An explosive reinterpretation of a classical icon.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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