This frieze is divided, part in the British Museum, part in the Acropolis museum. The scenes begin at the northwest corner of the opisthonaos as a continuation of the procession which has already started on the west side. The action develops gradually and from quiet preparation accelerates to a gallop. Even though they may have taken place at a another time or place, these scenes represent activities that were part of the festival of the Panathenaia.
The entire block is lost, but the scene is known from Carrey’s drawing. On the left a marshal in 3/4 view, clad in himation, receives the procession of the north frieze. The driver of the first animal arriving at the finish turns his head back, evidently to see the position of the rest of the procession. Two fragments of this block have been identified: one preserves the hoof of a bull, the other is from the lower left part of the second figure.
Three more cattle-herdsmen walk beside the remaining bulls. They have short curly hair and wear himatia. The two figures at either end are depicted behind the second and third bulls, the latter bolting and being restrained with a rope (no doubt added in paint) by the herdsman who is shown on block ΙΙΙ.
On block IV three small youths wearing himatia are leading four rams, three of which are clearly visible. Drapery folds of the lower part of the himation of the first figure remain in the left corner of the block. A second youth, his stance 3/4 toward the viewer, turns his head around toward the third youth. Each rests a hand on the animal he drives, which E. Simon believes are designated for Pandrosos.
Three youths, dressed as are the hydriaphoroi of block n VI, carry trays (skaphe) balanced on their left shoulder and supported by their left hand, excepting the figure on the left who uses both hands. These are of silver or bronze and hold the popana and other things for the bloodless sacrifice. The skaphephoroi are referred to as sons of metoikoi. Thus on blocks V & VI it may be that we have a procession of metoikoi. Just before the division of the join between the two blocks stands a marshal, clad in himation, who turns around to view the procession behind him.
Here is shown the file of four hydriaphoroi. They are young men with short curly hair, and with their himatia wrapped around them. The three first bear their water jars on their left shoulders. The weight is so great that the fourth had rested his jar for a moment on the ground and now prepares to lift it up again. According to the literary sources, hydriaphoroi were usually the daughters of metoikoi and they bore their vessels on their heads. Perhaps shown here is an earlier phase of the procession and they carry the vessels on their shoulders rather than on their heads so that the figures coincide with the height determined for the frieze. E. Simon has given yet another interpretation of the male hydria bearers. She believes they may be victors of the lampadedromia (torch-race) that took place the evening before the procession and that the hydria was the victor’s prize. Be that as it may, it is generally believed that the water in the vessels was destined for sprinkling on the altar and for watering the animals.
The procession of cithara-players continues. Fragments preserving heads show that these are young men with curly hair held with a hair-band. They wear long chitons with sleeves and himatia. All are facing in the direction of the procession (to the left) except for the musician in the middle who stands frontally and plays his cithara, thus breaking the monotony of the onward course.
Bearded elders, clad in himatia, their stances varied, move or stand, frontal or in profile, conversing or simply turning to look back. The elders, as a rule sixteen in number, are identified as the thallophoroi, who took part in the procession carrying olive branches. E. Simon believes them to be most likely officers of the city (prytaneis, athlothetai, or ieropoioi). L. Beschi believes that since the number 16 is simply a multiplication of the number 4, it could well be connected with the pre-Kleisthenes division of the citizens.
More bearded elders are pictured on this block. Some have short straight hair, others wear a hair-band, as does the second figure who is tying it around his head. The fifth figure has an orderly hair arrangement with two braids crossed over and secured at the nape of the neck. In his right hand he evidently held a branch, once rendered in paint just as some bearded elders of the previous block.
A marshal, whose himation falls free off his shoulders in the vigorous action and exposes his well built torso, braces his legs apart in an effort to stop the course of the horses lest they overrun the group of elders who march ahead eastward with measured step, to the left. The anatomical modelling of the figure of the marshal shows similarities with the male torsos in the pediments.
An apobates, with his panoply of cuirass, helmet and shield, has leapt from the chariot and stands with his foot firmly on a rock. It is evident that he has finished the course; indeed the charioteer is straining to rein in the horses. He wears a long chiton with overfold and crossed bands. Between him and the horses stands a marshal wearing himation and sandals. He has turned back (right) and with raised right hand he gives the signal that the race is finished.
At the left side of this block, following Carrey’s drawing, there must have been part of the shield and left hand of the apobates of previous block XII, the horses belonging to a chariot that was evidently depicted on block XIV rear, and an himation-clad marshal raising his right hand in some sort of signal. Despite the fragmentary state of the block, Carrey’s drawing shows that the chariots are near the finish.
Behind the chariot team of horses is a marshal in frontal stance, clad in himation with right shoulder bare. He looks back, to the right. Preserved on the chariot is the lower part of the charioteer, with right arm outstretched to hold the reins, and the left leg of the apobates who is ready to leap to the ground.
Despite the poor condition of the block, the chariot horses are evident and from the drawing it appears that the charioteer is urging them on.
Close to the charioteer, the fragment preserves the apobates, who wears a chiton belted at the middle and whose shield is suspended on a strap at his back. He grasps the hand-rail of the mounting board and prepares to leap from the chariot. Carrey’s drawing shows that he faces the viewer and that his left foot is almost on the ground.
The block has disappeared, having been removed in mediaeval times in order to provide space for one of the windows of the Christian church.
Carrey drew only half of this block and with this the drawing of the north frieze comes to an end. In the middle of the block, where the upper part of the stone is missing, a marshal stands behind a team of chariot horses. He is turned toward the right and his left hand is raised to lift one end of his himation which has slipped from his shoulders. The other end is wrapped around his right forearm. To the right is preserved a small part of the chariot with the charioteer’s right forearm and hand.
Dinsmoor considers this to be a missing block. Even so, a number of fragments have been identified as belonging to it.
Preserved from this block in fragmentary condition are the charioteer standing on the chariot board and the apobates, who is shown holding his shield, but unlike the other apobates, wearing an ankle-length chiton with crossing thongs around chest and back. The appearance of this figure with priestly garb has suggested that he might be Erechtheus, the mythical founder of the apobatic contest.
According to Dinsmoor, on this block were depicted a team of chariot horses.
On this and the next block are two chariots each with apobates, charioteer and two marshalls. A marshal is frontal to the viewer, striding to the left while turning back to give a signal of some sort with his raised right hand. With his left hand he holds up his richly folded himation which has just slipped from his right shoulder leaving his body virtually nude. To the left, almost touching the marshal, is the apobates. He wears a helmet and exomis, his shield hangs by a strap over his back and he has just leapt onto the chariot, which is driven by a very small charioteer.
On this block is another chariot with apobates, charioteer and a marshall. Preserved are the left hand of the apobates, grasping the chariot he has just mounted, and the lower part of the body and the forearm of the charioteer holding the reins. Behind the horses stands a marshal, head missing, turning in opposite direction to the course of the chariots.
The empty space between blocks XXIV & XXVI is the most problematical of the north frieze and it has given rise to a number of different theories. According to W.B. Dinsmoor’s reconstruction of the blocks of the north frieze, which is the most generally accepted, there is not enough room in this empty space for a chariot, since it is evident from the other blocks that each chariot occupies about one block and a half. For this reason some scholars (M. Gisler-Huwiler and A. H. Smith) place a marshal here.
A moving chariot is depicted on this block.
An apobates is shown at the left leaping onto the moving chariot shown in previous block XΧVI. He wears a helmet, cuirass over a short chiton, which forms a low overfold, and he carries his shield in his left hand. Preserved in fragments on a lower plane is the chariot-board and the body of the charioteer. The groom stands at the head of the chariot team, clad in short sleeveless chiton, chlamys and boots. He has turned to the right and holds one of the horses of the team by its bridle.
The first apobates chariot is depicted on two blocks. It is in readiness, not yet moving. The charioteer has turned his head to look out frontally toward the viewer. He wears the characteristic ankle-length (poderes) sleeveless chiton favoured by charioteer belted at the waist. Preserved fragmentarily is the helmetted head of the apobates and his right hand grasping the chariot rail. His left arm and shield are preserved in part, as noted, on block XXIX. By the device of turning the apobates’ heads to look back at the riders, the sculptor has united, in conceptual artistic fashion, two groups in episodes that are unrelated in time.
The depiction of four horsemen on this block is known to us from the drawing by J. Stuart. Preserved is a very small piece of the chiton of the first rider near the join at the left. The second rider turns back toward the middle rider who wears chiton, chlamys and boots. He is followed by another horseman who has left a little space between his horse and those following on block XXXI.
This is a scene of indescribable beauty. Between two horsemen, a marshal facing right gives a signal of some sort with his upraised right hand. The left-hand rider turns his muscular body and face, now broken, to a 3/4 view in order to look back. He wears a chlamys which falls behind his horse, leaving the tip wrapped around his right arm, with which he is reining in his horse. His left arm hangs free against his horse’s haunch.
Depicted here are four horsemen. Predominating is the third rider who is is fully shown on his galloping steed. He wears a sleeveless chiton, belted at the waist, and he turns his head (most of which has broken off) outward toward the viewer. On the left part of the block two more horsemen, the first partly hiding the second, ride their horses abreast at a gallop. At the right side of the block is the last of the four horsemen, wearing a sleeved chiton and arranging his hear-band with his right hand.
Three horsemen form another group. They hold the reins of their galloping horses tightly in both hands. The first wears a short chiton, chlamys and sandals, the second a double-belted sleeved chiton and sandals, whereas the body of the third at the join of the two blocks is badly damaged. Preserved is the wind-blown tip of the rider’s chlamys above the rear of his horse on the adjoining block XXXVIII.
Here too is a group of three riders. The first wears a chiton, double-belted and with short sleeves, and felt boots. The second is hidden by the horse of the third rider, who turns his body so as to look back, in a pose repeated frequently at intervals in the procession. He wears sandals and a chlamys with ends wrapped over his forearms, leaving his torso exposed.
Of the triad of horsemen depicted here, the first to the left wears chiton, chlamys, and fox-skin cap, the other two wear chlamides and turn to look back. The head of the last figure appears behind the mane of the horse of the rider on block XLII. The body of the figure in the middle of the group is shown nude as his chlamys falls behind his shoulders, with the tip around his right forearm. The upper part of his body is shown in 3/4 view and his head, broken off, is turned to look at the leader of the group on block XLIII.
The main figures on this block are the two riders in the centre, mounted on horses that are galloping side by side. The third rider, with his galloping horse, is represented at the left side of the group of horsemen as their leader and in this position he is visible to all. His muscular back is turned to a 3/4 view, as he raises his right arm to give a signal. From the quick movement, his short chiton has slipped down over his left forearm. Beside him, the middle rider in chiton, chlamys, fox-skin cap on his head and boots, looks ahead at the rider in front who coincides with the join between this block and the next. He wears a short chiton, anatomical cuirass, helmet and boots.
Four riders hold each the reins of their horses in both hands. The heads of the two middle figures are preserved, whereas those of the figures at the right and left ends of the block are missing since they coincided with the joins. The second figure has a fox-skin cap on his head, wears a double-belted short chiton and boots, whereas the third figure is clad in a sleeved chiton and felt boots and he has a hair-band. The last rider coincides exactly with the join between blocks.
Despite the poor preservation of this block, three horsemen wearing short chitons and chlamides can be detected. The second of these wears a double-belted chiton and boots. Since he is turned with torso virtually frontal, he hides most of his companion. The last one, whose horse is fully shown, wears chiton, chlamys and boots. He raises his right hand to his head evidently to adjust his hair-band. At the edge of the block can be seen the forequarters and head of a horse and the left leg of its rider, who is depicted on the adjoining block XLVI to the right.
Shown here are four riders whose steeds are galloping close together, each one overlapping the next. The first two horsemen wear a short chiton, chlamys and boots and their positions are alike. The last figure is clad in short chiton, chlamys and with petasos hanging behind, turns to look back. He grasps the reins firmly with his left hand and with his right he strokes his horse’s mane, behind which can just be seen the head and shoulder of the previous horseman.
In a sense the scene is a continuation of the preparation for the procession seen on the west end, starting with block w I. The horsemen have yet to mount. To the right is a little servant-boy who brings his master’s himation over his shoulder while he fastens the last horseman’s belt. The horseman, facing left, with his left hand at his side and head bent, tries with both hands to adjust his garment. Beside him his proud horse hides the middle horseman in the background of the block and walks toward the left. Then comes another youth, shown frontally with legs slightly apart. He grasps the bridle of his horse with his right hand and with his left he adjusts the band around his head.