Hunt on for missing statues of Parthenon

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are to start searching for the remains of three giant statues which they believe once adorned the top of the Parthenon in Athens.

The search of museums in Greece and elsewhere in Europe follows the discovery by a leading Greek architectural historian that three magnificent statues of Victory appear to have dominated the roof of the Parthenon for the first 600 to 900 years of its history.

A survey by Dr Manolis Korres of the 2,440 years old Temple of Athene suggests that at three of the building's corners, the ancient architects placed 8ft statues of Winged Victory.

Careful examination of the roof showed that slabs of masonry each weighing four tons had been placed at the corners as counterweights to prevent the statues falling over. Three of the slabs also appear to have once had iron "anchors" embedded in them to keep the statues stable.

The lost Parthenon statues would have been the same size, period and style as the Olympia Winged Victory (in Olympia Museum) - the most precious classical statue of Victory in the world. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, in the Louvre, is 250 years later and more sophisticated.

The victories would have leant forward, with one foot on the roof, the other in mid-air. Each is thought to have weighed about a ton, making them some of the largest Parthenon sculptures. Similar winged victories have been found among the ruins of a temple on the island of Delos, built by one of the architects who designed the Parthenon.

The statues were probably stolen by Roman antique dealers or destroyed by anti-pagan Christians between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD. Fragments of the broken sculptures may have lain around the Parthenon for centuries.

The first systematic removal of sculptural fragments took place in the 17th century, when German, Hungarian, Austrian and Swedish mercenaries fighting for the Venetians carted off large quantities of broken sculpture lying on the ground.

Then, in the late 18th century, a French antiquarian carried out rudimentary excavations and removed further sculptures. In the early 19th century, a senior British diplomat, Lord Elgin, removed vast amounts of other material, including the fragments of the Parthenon frieze now in the British Museum, known as the Elgin Marbles.

Only three corners of the Parthenon appear to have been graced with a winged victory. The southwest corner does not seem to have had one. There is a counter-balancing stone slab, but there is no sign of there ever having been any metal pegs.

Dr. Korres believes that a war between Athens and Sparta which broke out in 431 BC prevented the installation of the fourth statue.

Dr Korres, who has just written a book on the construction of the Parthenon, has also discovered structural evidence which shows that the "Elgin Marbles" frieze was never envisaged by the temple's original designers. The 360- figure frieze seems to have been added as an afterthought. Parts of the Parthenon's walls and some of the inner columns had to be dismantled and redesigned to adjust to the new plan.

He believes that the decision by the Athenian authorities to change their plans reflects a shift in the balance of political power in the city.The frieze is thought to represent the political and cultural practices and aspirations of the people of 5th-century BC Athens - and was at the time a controversial and revolutionary concept, artistically and politically.

Dr Korres has also found new evidence showing how the Parthenon was constructed. He has, for instance, found six tiny 4-6 mm diameter metal rollers in hollows high up in the structure. They were used to roll carved masonry elements into position on top of columns.

He has also discovered how the column drums were made to fit together. He found fragments of "leveling" plates. Each 6 cm thick plate would have been covered with red paint and laid on top of column drum surfaces. Those higher areas which picked up the paint were then earmarked for further grinding.

Dr. Korres' book, From Pentelicon To The Parthenon, is published by Melissa at £25. An exhibition based on the book is at The Foundation for Hellenic Culture, 60 Brook Street, W1, until 31 March.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot