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The Parthenon Frieze and the Apadana Reliefs at Persepolis: Reassessing a Programmatic Relationship

Margaret Cool Root
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 89, No. 1, Centennial Issue (Jan., 1985), pp. 103-120
DOI: 10.2307/504773
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/504773
Page Count: 25
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Abstract

The Parthenon frieze and the Apadana reliefs at Persepolis are frequently invoked as symbols of the polarity between Greek democracy and Persian despotism, the one depicting the citizenry of Athens freely convening to celebrate the Great Panathenaia, the other depicting representatives of the subject nations forced to offer their wealth to the Great King on New Year's Day. In this article, however, the possibility of a programmatic relationship between these two important monuments is reassessed in light of recent scholarship which demonstrates the metaphorical nature of the Apadana reliefs as a vision of idealized social order. Significant similarities in narrative structure and thematic content emerge from this analysis. When the Parthenon is understood in the context of the imperial mood of the mid-fifth century, these similarities imply Athenian awareness and indeed emulation of the Persian imperial program. The Parthenon frieze emerges as a monument rich in the multiple connotations of a votive relief in a world where the cult of Athena had become intimately bound up in the service of empire. It is seen as a statement of the idealized imperial aspirations of Athens couched in a metaphor of imminent procession borrowed from the Persians and recast in an eminently Athenian mode.

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