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Parthenon frieze (Athens, Greece, 440s BC)

Parthenon frieze (Athens, Greece, 440s BC): What is a frieze?

Definition of a frieze

A frieze (pronounced FREEZE) is a long narrow band of sculpture that runs along the architrave of a Greek temple or another building.

What’s an architrave?
Parts of a temple
Greek architecture
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One of the most famous frizes is the one on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

The Parthenon frieze
More about the Parthenon

Roman temple friezes

In this photograph of a Roman temple, you can see that the frieze runs around the temple on top of the column capitals and below the pediment.

Maison Carrée in Nimes (16 BC)

Maison Carrée in Nimes (16 BC)

Triglyphs, metopes, and friezes

Usually Greek and Roman temples had either a frieze or alternating triglyphs and metopes in this location, but occasionally (as in the Parthenon) a temple might have both a frieze and triglyphs and metopes, to be extra fancy.

What are triglyphs and metopes?

Friezes on Indian temples

Temples in other parts of the world might also have friezes. In India, for example, architects used them on the Konarak Sun Temple (1200s AD). These friezes aren’t necessarily above the columns, but may be in different places on the temple.

Greek temples
Indian temples
Greek sculpture

Bibliography and further reading about friezes in art history:

Ancient Greek Art, by Susie Hodge (1998)- Easy reading.

Ancient Greece
Ancient West Asia