The austere robustness of the early creators was succeeded by the gentle ripeness of the age of the Parthenon. Figures now expressed, through their beauty, the spirituality and range of the Classical miracle. All the Classical world's wisdom and deeply anthropocentric attitude is summed up in the tender idealization of these works, destined to influence the whole course of Western art.

As well as his Parthenon sculptures, Phidias produced other important works that decisively influenced sculptors of his own and later times. They included the gold-and-ivory cult statues of Zeus at Olympia and Athena Parthenos on the Acropolis. The second of these was 11.5 metres high from base to summit, and used more than one tonne of beaten gold. After it had been placed in its cella (in 438 B.C.), a large shallow water-basin was cut in the floor in front of it: the moisture was essential to keep the wooden core in good condition, while the statue would have cast an impressive reflection on the pool's surface. At the base of the statue was a decorative representation of the myth of Pandora. A fight with Centaurs was portrayed on the periphery of Athena's sandals, and on her shield there were (inside) a battle against Giants and (outside) a battle against Amazons. There was a tradition that - scandalously for those times - two of the figures in Phidias' version of the battle against the Amazons were portraits of Pericles and of Phidias himself. Athena held a Victory in her right hand, which rested on a small column. Her helmet had three crests supported by a sphinx and two winged horses.

The type of this statue is known from Roman copies. Other works by Phidias were: the colossal bronze of Athena Promachus on the Acropolis, said to have been visible from Sunium; an acrolith statue of Athena Areia, commissioned by the Plataeans; a votive bronze of Athena commissioned by the Athenian colonists on Lemnos; and a Wounded Amazon. Some scholars also credit Phidias with the two Riace Warriors, connecting them with the group dedicated at Delphi by the people of Argos. Another view is that these statues were due to a similar group in the Agora at Argos and should be attributed to Alcamenes and Ageladas.

The most important sculptor of the time, other than Phidias, was Polyclitus from Argos. Polyclitus, too, produced statues in gold-and-ivory - one example being the statue of the god Hera for her temple at Argos. But his most significant contribution to art was his close study of the proportions and symmetries of the human body. This was summed up in his Canon, a written text which together with his sculptures was to be a decisive influence in the centuries following. Since Polyclitus embodied his theoretical observations in his sculpture The Doryphorus, the sculpture itself was often known as "the Canon". Another very popular work of Polyclitus, known only through copies, was the 'Diadumenos'.

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