THATKid Tuesday: Percy Jackson at the British Museum

The Percy Jackson series tells the stories of the half-mortal / half-god children (called demigods) of the ancient Greek Mythology. The story follows Percy, son of Poseidon, and his friends at Camp Half Blood, which is the only place where young heroes are really safe from the monsters that constantly hunt them.

Camp Half Blood Logo (from Percy Jackson) – photo via Google Images

As important as Camp Half Blood is, the Parthenon (the 5th Century temple in Athens), is at least ten times more important. The Parthenon is easily the single most important building to the Western Cannon of architecture. It was built as an offering to the goddess Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and mother to Annabeth Chase of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. On our Fun & Games treasure hunt, we ask you to count how many Chariots are on the Parthenon’s frieze, which runs the length of the British Museum’s most famous treasure. These treasured stones, which the English call the Elgin Marbles’, were stolen from Greece by Lord Elgin in 1805-1807. Elgin’s day job was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (Constantinople, the capital, is the old name for Istanbul), but he was really interested in archaeology.

True to his role as an Imperialist Ambassador, Elgin was also a stone robber; so when he stopped off in Athens he stole the freestanding statues of the Pediment (showing the Gods and Goddesses), the reliefs of the Frieze (mere mortals or humans in a procession giving donation to Athena) and the square reliefs of the Metopes (telling the story of Centaurs fighting Lapiths – more on those Centaurs, half man, half horse, in a moment!).

whats what on the parthenon
Architecture of the Parthenon – Photo via Google Images

Can you think of a building in your home town that is loosely based on the Parthenon, with pediment, frieze and a forest of columns (known as a portico, it protects visitors from the rain)? When you visit the British Museum, whose façade is a copy, you’ll see this.

In the books by Riordan, Annabeth spends a lot of time mastering both flying chariots and chariot races. Much like the charioteers depicted racing in the Olympic games on this ancient temple to Athena, trying to establish athletic superiority and gain honors, Annabeth and her fellow campers raced to determine honors as well. The campers of Camp Half Blood however, compete for positions far much more coveted than Gold, Silver and Bronze, they compete for the best chore slots in the camp.

Parthenon Chariot Races
Chariot on the Parthenon Frieze – Photo via Google Images

In The Sea of Monsters, Percy and Annabeth compete together against the other cabins, alternating between who was the driver and who fended off the magical attacks of the other campers as they raced. Chiron, the camp leader (and a centaur) had previously banned chariot races because they were so dangerous, but with his absence in this book, they were re-instated. They might not have had magic in the chariot races in Ancient Greece, but chariots were decked out with all sorts of weapons used to secure victory. Look closely and you might even find some!

centaur battle
Parthenon Metope of a Lapith killing a Centaur – Photo Credit Daisy de Plume

When you look at the metopes you’ll notice that they tell the story of some rowdy centaurs (most likely the Party Ponies) crashing a Lapith wedding. The Centaurs planned on stealing Lapith wives (they failed, the Lapiths won!).

If you’ve read Percy Jackson you’ll know that Chiron doesn’t act like a Party Pony any more, but back in his youth he certainly did. Who knows, Chiron could very well be one of the centaurs (half man, half horse) that are forever immortalized on the Parthenon!

Any comments, or queries about the Elgin Marbles? Just post below!

As for reading this blog post, you’ll be well rewarded with having learned the answers to some potential bonus questions – such as how many chariots are on the frieze (we count 8), what parts of architecture the Pediment, Frieze and Metope are as well as thinking about just HOW you can get your team to pose as one of the fighting centaur and lapiths… not so hard if you’re willing to sell your price, except your THATMuse challenge is to do so without heads, true to these Parthenon metopes!

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