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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

The third Athena was called Promachos

There is scarcely a more desolate spot in the world than is the Ephesus of to-day. No remaining ruins are so preserved as to afford the visitor any satisfaction. The marbles and stone have been used to build other towns, which in their turn have been destroyed. The inhabitants are a handful of poor Greek peasants; wolves and jackals from the neighboring mountains roam about; and though an abundance of myrtle and some lovely groves relieve the gloominess of the scene, it is impossible when there to re-create in imagination the splendid Ephesian city, with its wharves and docks, its temples, theatres, and palaces, which were so famous as to cause it to be spoken of with wonder throughout the ancient world.

We often hear of the glory of the Periclean age at Athens, and it is true that under the leadership of Pericles Athens reached its greatest prosperity. This picture shows the Acropolis as it appeared at that time (Fig. 51).

[Illustration: FIG. 51.--THE ACROPOLIS. _Athens._ (RESTORED.)]

In these best days of Athens the whole Acropolis was consecrated to religious worship and ceremonials, and its entire extent was occupied by temples and statues of the gods. The fact that I have before mentioned, that the religion of a country moulds its art, is especially true of the art of Greece; figures of the gods and bas-reliefs of the ceremonies of the Grecian worship form a large and most important part of the work of the Greek artists, and the splendid temples were raised to be the sacred homes of the statues of the great gods, to which the people could come with offerings and prayers.

The Acropolis was also a sort of fortress, because it was an eminence, and its sides of craggy rock allowed of but one ascent; thus it could be easily defended. Then, when all the wonders and riches of art had been collected there, the pure white marble, the sculpture and painting, and the ornaments of shining metals which glistened in the sun, while brilliant colors added their rich effect, it might be called a gorgeous museum, such as has never since been equalled in the history of the world.

It is important to know that the Athenians worshipped three different goddesses, all called by the one name of Athene or Athena. The most ancient and most sacred of these was Athena Polias, whose statue, made of olive-wood, was believed to have fallen from heaven. The Erechtheium was dedicated to this goddess, and there this holy, heaven-sent figure was kept, with other sacred objects of which I shall speak in their place.

The Athena next in importance was the goddess of the Parthenon, or the "House of the Virgin," as the word signifies, for this Athena Parthenos is the same as the goddess Minerva, who is said never to have married or known the sentiment of love; she was the goddess of war, prudence, and wisdom. The third Athena was called Promachos, which means the champion. Phidias made of her one of his splendid statues, standing erect, with helmet, spear, and shield.

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