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Persian influence on Greece (4)

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The tholos on the Athenian agora. Photo Marco Prins.
The tholos of Athens
The ancient Persian and Greek cultures did not exist in isolation. There was cross-fertilization. The present article contains a description of Persia's influence on Greece.

This is the fourth part of the article; the first one can be found here.

Architecture: Prytaneum

The prytaneum at the Athenian market (agora) was the building where the prytaneis, the executive committee of the Athenian democracy, gathered. It was built in 465. The building has the form of a circle and is very simple, without much ado. The Athenians called this building simply the tholos ('round building') or skias ('parasol'). It is therefore probable that the building looked like a parasol and had a round, pointed roof.
Architecture: Odeon
Architecture: Prytaneum
Architecture: Parthenon frieze
Architecture: Erechtheum
Politics: Delian League
Politics: Episcopus
A satrap receiving a visitor. Relief from the Monument of the Nereids, British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
A satrap receiving a visitor. Monument of the Nereids, Xanthus (British Museum)

The Persian king and his satraps were often portrayed with a parasol. It has therefore been assumed that the Athenians used Persian left-behinds (e.g., a royal tent) and reconstructed it in a more durable material, retaining the original form. (The same happened when the Athenians built the Odeon of Pericles.) This assumption gains credit when we take into account that round buildings were extremely rare in the period before the Athenian prytaneum was built. There were, of course, round buildings, but they were always surrounded by stoas - something that is certainly not the case with the tholos.

Again, we may assume that the Athenians used the Persian spoils. And again, the influence of this model was not very great. Later prytanea were built differently.

Our next subject is completely different. The Parthenon frieze, just like the Pathenon itself and the Athenian owls, has become a symbol of the Greek world and its culture. They represent Athens at the top of its power and at its best. The fact that the way of representation may be un-Greek, makes the frieze no less important and certainly more important.
to part five
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