It was 430 B.C., at night, upon the acropolis. Athena Parthenos, the virgin goddess, admired herself, her aspect carved in solid stone, smooth and fair. In the temple the braziers burned hot on the sacred pavement, a fat, fertile calf still bleeding on her altar. The blood soaked into the pungent ferns strewn about, the seeds, the grain.

She swept her skirts about her, to face Pericles. He, though fair of face and thick of form, softened in her presence. If he was a king of men he was as the paling calf before her adamantine statue, mortal still. “I am well pleased,” she said. “Surely Athens’ parthenon will endure. And you, Pericles, will be remembered in the stars for your piety.”

“My piety is merely gratitude for your probity,” Pericles replied. He bowed low. “I am glad that the offering pleases you.”

“You have me exact,” she said, indicating the sculpted swell of her bosom.

“Yes, that was Phidias’ work,” said Pericles. “He said that you came to him in a dream, bidding him render you so.”

“It was a true dream,” she said. “I stood in the moonlight to his awe, and let him gaze.”

“An honor,” said Pericles.

“An honor not lightly given,” said Athena, “but well earned.”

“Yes,” said Pericles. He coughed politely.

Athena narrowed her violet eyes. “What?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Phidias is quite the craftsman.”

“What’s funny?”

“Nothing,” repeated Pericles.

“Pericles…” Athena started. And behind her voice far off thunder rolled over once placid meadows. She grew in aspect, her eyes alight.

“No, no-” Pericles said. He waved his arms before him. “No, I meant nothing. Phidias is a wonder – an honored wonder.”

Athena plucked Pericles from the pavement and held him aloft in a grip of steadfast iron. The king winced. “Pericles…” she said, her voice like tolling bells.

“I- Well- Er- It’s just, ah. Mm.”

“You’re stuttering, Pericles.”

“I had never heard of Phidias the sculptor, and his dream of the parthenos sounded like a lot of nonsense. So the sculptor spent a few months in Athens without work…had to earn his bread…and…he’s quite a draftsman, too.”

The goddess’ fingers squeezed his bones together. The king squeaked, “Very good likeness-” but his breath was running out. “Head to toe, lovely…” he gasped. He stammered, burping more blandishments, until his eyes bugged out of his skull: “Dirty pictures…”

Athena’s alabaster cheeks went bright as sunset. She dropped Pericles to the floor, where he broke his hip and foot.

“I promised him immortality in his art!” she shrieked.

“My oversight,” said Pericles in his broken pile. “Everyone has copies of those drawings by now. Myself excepted of course. I’m…pious…” His breath wandered dazedly inside his chest before exiting his mouth. “Are you mad?”

Athena exploded into a rouge tornado, picked up Pericles and flung him far from the Parthenon. He sailed over Athens, over the sea, over the morrow and the sun, until he landed, at last, in the sky.

The fate of Phidias has not been told to mortal men.

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