90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Secrets Of The Parthenon Present A Gripping ‘Enigma’

We go back to the future with a new look at the Parthenon of Ancient Greece, Athens, and the foundations of democracy.

A tourist walks in front of the ancient Parthenon temple at the Acropolis hill Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP)

A tourist walks in front of the ancient Parthenon temple at the Acropolis hill Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP)

Picture the Parthenon – on the Acropolis, rising stunningly in white marble above Athens in Greece – and for centuries now people have seen the open, august architecture of democracy.  The clean columns and potent symmetry of reason and an ideal of Western civilization.  We’ve copied it all over in pillared post offices and public buildings, suggesting an ancient root and endorsement of American democracy.  A deep, new reading of the splendor of the Parthenon says we may not fully understand what we’re embracing.  This hour On Point:  the full meaning of a powerful icon – the Parthenon.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Joan Breton Connelly, professor of classics and art history at New York University. Author of “The Parthenon Enigma: A New Understanding of the World’s Most Iconic Buildling And The People Who Made It.” Also author of “Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece.”

William St. Clair, senior research fellow at the Institute of English Studies at the School of Advanced Study, the University of London. Author of “Lord Elgin and the Marbles: The Controversial History of the Parthenon Sculptures.”

From Tom’s Reading List

American Journal of Archeology: The Parthenon Frieze – “The traditional interpretation, identifying the frieze as the Panathenaic procession, goes back to the eighteenth century travelers Stuart & Revett. It has two main points of vulnerability. First, some items are missing which would be expected: e.g. kanephoroi (women carrying reed baskets), allies shown as tribute bearers, hoplites, the sacred trireme. Second, the violation of convention (having a contemporary scene where there should be a mythological one) would be severe and anomalous. Some scholars have met these objections by supposing that we have an “original” Panathenaia retrojected into mythic time.”

Metropolis Magazine: The Top Architecture and Design Books of 2013 — “The Greek temple has held architects in thrall for centuries, and each generation, from Andrea Palladio to Le Corbusier, seems to find new reasons to deem it one of the best structures ever built by a highly rational civilization. Not so much, the historian Joan Breton Connelly says. Uncovering legends of serpent kings and rituals of child sacrifice, this gripping book offers a new understanding of the Parthenon and the Greeks who built it.”

New York Times: New Analysis of the Parthenon’s Frieze Finds It Depicts a Horrifying Legend — “Now the discovery of fragments of a lost play by Euripides, found on papyrus in the wrapping of an Egyptian mummy, and the diligent research of an American archeologist have produced a much different explanation. The scenes of the frieze do not depict a fifth-century procession, according to the new thesis, but instead evoke the Athenian founding myth of a king’s precious sacrifice to save his city from defeat.”

Read An Excerpt of “The Parthenon Enigma” By Joan Breton Connelly

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Nov 21, 2014
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.  (AP)

The president throws down the gauntlet on immigration. Bloodshed and new tensions in Israel. Keystone fails. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Nov 21, 2014
Laura Ingalls Wilder, an American  writer and novelist, at age 27. Her "Little House" series is a beloved semi-autobiographical take on her childhood in the Western American plains. (South Dakota State Historical Society )

A big new look at the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the woman behind the Little House.

RECENT
SHOWS
Nov 20, 2014
A shot from the AMC reality series, "Freakshow." (Jessica Brooks / AMC)

From TV to Broadway, circus sideshows — freak shows — are having a big cultural moment. What’s the history behind the comeback?

 
Nov 20, 2014
In this file photo, Hillsborough Sheriff deputy patrols outside the gate of JP Morgan Chase annual stockholders meeting held Tuesday, May 15, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. JP Morgan is one of several large financial institutions currently under investigation for alleged violation of Federal bankruptcy laws. (AP)

You’re supposed to have a clean slate after bankruptcy. But that’s not always true. We’ll ask what’s going on.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: November 21, 2014
Friday, Nov 21, 2014

We offer a panel of hand-drawn digital sheep, and wonder how to best lead the rest of you to programs that matter.

More »
Comment
 
The Explicast, Episode Five: What Is Net Neutrality?
Friday, Nov 14, 2014

The Explicast dives into tech policy territory with a quick look at the real meaning of a complicated bit of tech policy known as ‘Net Neutrality.’

More »
2 Comments
 
Our Week In The Web: November 14, 2014
Friday, Nov 14, 2014

On why we tweet, what we like and a Miley Cyrus and “Serial” theme song mashup you never knew you needed.

More »
Comment