HELLAS:NET - The Acropolis of Athens
Often considered the greatest of the ancient Greek sculptors, Phidias was renowned for the
majesty of his figures. An Athenian sculptor, he worked primarily in bronze or in gold and ivory, creating
statues of divinities, heroes, and athletes for the major city-states and sanctuaries. His first known commission
was to execute for Athens a large bronze group of national heroes with the general
Miltiades as the central figure. The Athenian statesman Pericles, head of affairs
in the Athenian state, gave Phidias the commission for the statues, which were
to be erected to decorate Athens, and made him general superintendent of all
public works. Phidias directed the construction of the Propylaea, the monumental
entrance to the Acropolis, and the Parthenon. He executed the
statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom and protectress of Athens, which stood in
the Parthenon. His colossal statue of Zeus, father of the gods, at Olympia was
considered his masterpiece.
The events of Phidias's closing years are much disputed. He was accused by the enemies of Pericles of embezzling the gold appropriated for the statue of Athena and died in prison or, according to another account, was banished. Another version relates that he was aquitted of the charge of embezzlement but was condemned for impiety for introducing his portrait and that of Pericles on the shield of the goddess Athena.
Ancient and modern critics agree that the works of Phidias, along with the tragedies of the Greek dramatist Sophocles, were the most perfect expression of the spirit of the noblest period of Greek civilization, in which art forms were employed to reproduce the ideal beauty lying behind the realities of nature and to reveal the typical and permanent elements rather than the individual and transitory.
1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Copyright 1996 Grolier Interactive, Inc.
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