Athena Parthenos, the Maiden Goddess

Athena Parthenos

The icon of Classical Athens was Athena Parthenos, the cult statue that once stood within the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Designed by master sculptor Phidias, the statue was immediately recognized as a masterpiece when it was unveiled in 438 BC. It stood nearly forty feet tall and was made of gold and ivory over a wooden armature. It was a major attraction for visitors to Athens in ancient times, but it was destroyed long ago.

Replica at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Athena the Virgin

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This is one of the best examples of a group of Roman period replicas that were smaller than the colossal original. It’s located in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It captures many of the details of the original as described by early travelers-the figure of Victory in her right hand, the shield steadied in her left. A spear leaned against her left shoulder, while snakes circled her waist and emerged from her aegis with Medusa at the center. Her helmet had griffins on the cheek pieces and a pair of winged horses (pegasoi) flanking a sphinx at the top.