Sunday, October 10, 2010

London - British Museum (Part 2)

My Matlab program is finally finished! Anyone familiar with defining global variables? I defined my variable as global in the subroutine and it seemed happy enough, but then it suddenly decided to quit being global unless I defined it as such in the main routine as well. <sigh> the last thing I need is schizophrenic variables... But in any case, it works - nobody touch it!! Oh, and I drank coffee in the computer room, in spite of the signs for no food or drink. I know,  I'm such a rebel... :P AND! I am extremely excited because I bought a set of miniature syrups from Costa Coffee so I can mix my own flavors into plain lattes. Yum. :)

Alright, the Parthenon exhibit. Embarrassingly, I did not initially realize what the Parthenon was. I had seen pictures of it before (in early homeschool years somewhere I'm sure), but at the time did not put it together with the name. Upon entering the room, my thought process went something like, "oooohhh right - this thing. Heh...shoulda known that...Right. Forward!" :P So, in case you don't know what it looks like either, there is a picture here.

Yeah, it's that thing.

So anyway, the temple honors Athena, the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. With all that on her plate, she must have also been the goddess of multi-tasking... The marble sculptures on display at the British Museum fall into three categories: pediments, metopes, and friezes. Pediments are in the triangular spaces on the east and west sides of the temple, metopes run along all four sides of the temple just below the pediments, and friezes run around all four sides of the temple just inside the outer columns. For a better picture of where the friezes would have been, see here (my descriptive skills are lacking at the moment).

East Pediment
Right half of the east pediment.

Left half of the east pediment.
The east pediment is the scene of Athena's birth, which is actually a pretty gruesome sight. Unfortunately, Zeus and Athena (the main characters in the story) are both missing. The cool part is that you can see the figures slope upward in height to fit the triangular section of the roof.

Back of one of the above sculptures. See the black horizontal brushstroke right below the rectangular depression? That was a painter testing his color.
West Pediment
So, the Parthenon exploded a while back due to a bunch of gunpowder stored in its basement.

Yup, that thare was a pretty big explosion, folks.

This is supposed to be an epic battle between Athena and Poseidon. Kinda hard to do much without a head or arms, but there's some serious pedestal-sitting going on.

The metopes originally depicted four different battles, one for each side of the building: Olympian gods vs. giants, centaurs vs. the Lapiths (humans), Amazons vs. Athenians, and the Trojan war.  Some think the metopes symbolize a snub towards the Persians, because the Athenians defeated invading Persians around 490 BC and began to build the Parthenon, then the Persians reciprocated and sacked the building before it was finished. Finally, the Athenians once again overthrew the Persians and managed to finish the building, complete with metopes showing civilized forces fighting barbarians. So, make of that what you will...Only a handful of the metopes remain today - mostly the centaurs vs. Lapiths. The story goes that the centaurs and Lapiths hated each other, but the Lapiths attempted reconciliation by inviting the centaurs to a wedding feast. However, the centaurs became incensed by the wine, lost their heads, and attempted to carry off the Lapith women. This did not go over so well with the Lapith men, so a fight ensued. It's not certain who won...


The friezes portray a long procession, beginning on the west side of the building, splitting equally down the north and south sides, and ending on the east side. Athena is the culminating figure, and the whole parade is a depiction of the Greater Panathenaic procession: an actual yearly event that celebrates Athena.

Ranks of horsemen.

Since the friezes had limited third dimension capabilities, the artists overlapped the horsemen in an attempt to create the illusion of a deeper third dimension. These computer recreations show what the artist was really trying to portray.

Cow for an offering. To break up the visual monotony of a flat side of a cow, artists put people in front of them.
Athena being handed the ceremonial robe (peplos). I would have thought she would be portrayed larger than she is here, but apparently the designers felt that a HUGE statue in the main part of the temple would be enough - not sure if that statue still exists or not.
 Alright, enough about the Parthenon. I had a little time left after I finished there, so I found one more thing that I wanted to share.

The above piece of stone is from a pillar erected around 240 BC by Emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the region of southeast Asia. When the rulers of middle eastern or Egyptian lands put up pillars, they always focused on their many achievements in battle and their high superiority over other nations. However, Emperor Ashoka's pillars have his personal philosophy system on how people should live their lives. His ideas were similar to the teachings of Buddhism, and the dharma concept was born out of his great remorse over a massacre he later created through conquest. In his eyes, the conquest to be won was over one's self, not over other people or lands. I found it interesting how this vast difference in perspective began so very long ago and is still visible today between Eastern and Western philosophies.

For dinner, I attempted to find a place with good risotto in my guidebook.

I walked down the appropriate street.

I hit the appropriate cross-street.

I looked to where the restaurant should be, and I saw a boarded-off construction zone. Hm.

I walked back to the previous corner.

I walked forward to the next corner.

I walked around the BLOCK.

Still nothing.

So I ended up in a mexican fast-food place similar to Qdoba's or Chipotle, and they just happened to be having 2-for-1 drink specials.

My pomegranate margaritas - very good. Nicole would have liked them too - I needed her to have my extra one.
 And this concludes my journey to London - I hope I have not bored you too terribly much. I will attempt to write about less academic things next time.


  1. In MATLAB, global variables have to be defined in the main routine always. Then it will go to all the subroutines. It will go down, but not up from subroutines to the main routine.

    As for the Lapith vs. Centaurs, I would think it was fairly clear that the Lapith won, since we don't see that many centaurs wondering around.

    And Nicole sure would have loved the pomegranate margarita.

  2. Super jealous about the pomegranate margaritas...