Camille Paglia on the Caryatids

The concluding bit of an item in Slate:

[…] In his famous manifesto on architecture, the Roman writer Vitruvius propagated an error about the Acropolis caryatids: they depict, he claimed, the humiliated and enslaved matrons of Caryae, punished by fellow Greeks because of its treacherous defection to the Persians. But it is unlikely that the Athenians would have devoted such a monumental and sensitively placed statement to that remote event.

Furthermore, the entire power of the caryatids comes from our sense that the women’s subordination is not imposed but freely chosen. Spaced at a generous distance, they seem like confidently complete individuals who belong to a dedicated cohort. They are a sisterhood with one thing weighing on their minds — service to the gods. The air around them is transparent yet highly charged with religious feeling.

By one of those optical illusions for which the architects of the restored Acropolis were renowned, the two central statues (their knees in mirror-image reversal) seem to carry the brunt of the roof. Its rectangular corners fall over the weight- bearing but recessive legs of their outlying sisters. Hence the roof seems to float, as if the women were supporting it by thought alone. Their dignity shows how the Greeks honored their gods — not through genuflection or self-abuse but through assertions of human value and pride.

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