Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Liakos, Dimitri

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Sculpture; Greek--History; Pediments


The purpose of this thesis was to trace the evolution of Greek, pedimental sculpture. The study was aimed primarily at three distinct stages in the evolution, specifically the Transitional Period, the Early or Severe Classical, and the High Classical. To illustrate these three phases, temples were chosen which most clearly demonstrated the developments of each successive period. The temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina was selected for the Transitional period, the temple of Zeus at Olympia for the Early or Severe Classical, and the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens for the High Classical. As a part of the evolution of pedimental sculpture three specific areas were considered crucial. The first area was the improvement by Greek artists of their ability to depict human anatomy and expression. The second was the sculptors' skillfulness in successfully relating the composition and the sloping triangular frame of the pediment. The third was the mythology and symbolism visualized by the figures in the pedimental composition. In order to provide a framework, an evolution of the Doric order was traced, as this thesis confined itself to Doric architecture. In addition, a brief evolution of pedimental sculpture, up to the Transitional phase, was included. Within the span of seventy-eight years, between the construction of the temple of Aphaia and the Parthenon, Greek artists achieved amazing advancements thanks to their improved acute observation of the human body and its complexities that led them to a more satisfactory and more accurate depiction of human anatomy and expression. Beginning with Archaic, rigid frontality, the artists progressed first to a relaxing of the rigidity and then to an attempt that succeeded in displaying the human body in an admirable variety of poses, both at rest and in action. The Archaic smile eventually disappeared and genuine emotion began to enter the picture. The temple of Aphaia carried pediments which revealed these decisive improvements, unquestionably of cardinal significance for the study of the evolution of Greek pedimental sculpture. From that point the artists progressed rapidly to a freer rendering of flesh and musculature. In addition, definite advances can be seen in the handling of the body: clothed or unclothed; in action or at rest, young, middle-aged or old; gentle, soft, feminine or sinewy, tough, animalistic. Figures began to assume the positions voluntarily and accurately. The temple of Zeus at Olympia displayed pediments endowed with all these advancements. Eventually, the artists totally mastered the human body and soon they were able to depict it in any pose, dressed in any manner they chose. Furthermore, they were now capable of doing so with absolute certainty, self-confidence and ability. The pediments of the Parthenon embodied the pinnacle of artistic achievement which was reached in the Periclean Age. Along with the development of the artists' ability in the correct rendering of human form evolved a more proficient and competent handling of the narrow spaces of the pediments and the compositional difficulties presented by that sloping triangular area. No longer were the artists forced to drastically reduce the size of the figures to make them fit into the corners of the pediment, nor were they forced to depict the corner figures unconvincingly, in unnatural poses. The artists were capable of planning and executing sculptural programs in which the figures were accommodated naturally and comfortably in the triangular space. Finally, it was seen that the myths portrayed in the pediments were not merely anecdotal, they were much more. They embodied the beliefs which were at the very core of Greek existence and religion. Ancient Greek tenets, the "truths" about their gods and heroes and their concern with destiny were revealed through the myths. Yet, nowhere else were the myths as eloquently and vividly depicted as in pedimental sculpture.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vii, 227 pages




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