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The Parthenon

The Parthenon is 69.5-metre-long and 30.88-metre-wide temple and one of the most extraordinary temples of antiquity. It is a Doric temple with Ionic elements.

  1. Modern and Contemporary era (1821 - )

    1833 It becomes a symbol of the new Greek kingdom.

    1896 The first restoration by archaeologist Balanos begins.

    1923 The second restoration by archaeologist Balanos begins.

  2. Ottoman era (1453- 1821)

    1460 The Parthenon is converted into a mosque with a minaret.

    1687 It was used by the Turks as to store ammunition and was bombarded by the Venetians during the siege of the Acropolis. A few years later, the Ottomans built a small mosque without a minaret.

    1801 Lord Elgin obtained permission from the Sultan to design the monument and remove only fragments that had fallen on the ground. Elgin, however, forcibly removed both a huge part of the temple sculptures and a caryatid from the Erechtheion, and transported them to England.

  3. Byzantine era (331 AC- 1453)

    In the 4th century AD, the Parthenon was repaired and later converted into a Christian church. This conversion brought irreparable damage to the temple.

    1205 During the Rule of the Venetians, the Parthenon was converted to a Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

  4. Roman era (30 BC- 330 AC)

    267 A.D. It was repaired after serious damage caused by the Heruli.

  5. Hellenistic era (322- 31 BC)

  6. Classical era (478-323 BC)

    447 ΒC Beginning of construction.

    438 BC Completion.

    432 BC The sculptural decoration of Pheidias was completed through the efforts of about 90 workers.

  7. Archaic era (800-479 BC)

    Pre-Parthenon’s construction begins after 490 BC. This older temple will be burned in 480 BC by the Persians before its completion.

  8. Geometric era (-1100- 800 BC)

  9. Prehistory (-1100 BC)

What I can see

This 69.5-metre-long and 30.88-metre-wide temple is one of the most extraordinary temples of antiquity. It is a Doric temple with Ionic elements and consists of 13,400 parts made from Pentelic marble. Its two main features are: 1) its evmetria: the length-to-width “golden” 9:4 ratio. The diameter of the columns, the intervals between them and the height of the temple without the pediments were designed according to this “golden ratio”; 2) its refinements: all horizontal and vertical surfaces of the temple have curves. The shelf and stylobate (the platform on top of which the columns stand – see photo) are more elevated in the centre of each side than on the edges, thus giving  vitality and harmony to the entire monument. The columns become thinner as they rise and lean inwards. The same applies to the walls of the nave. Just as a hand-drawn straight line is more “alive” than a ruler-drawn line, so it is that these refinements inject the building with life, by creating interplay between light and shadow. The 92 metopes of the Parthenon depict the battles against the Centaurs, the Giants, the Amazons, as well as the Fall of Troy, all of which were model battles to the Athenians. The frieze, with a total length of 160 metres, depicts the Great Panathinea Procession, which took place every four years in honour of the goddess Athena. This is the first time humans were depicted on a religious building. Thus, man is depicted as an equal to the gods, “challenging” their power, a typical characteristic of the “audacity” of democracy and Classical Greece. The pediments consisted of 50 statues depicting the birth of Athena (eastern pediment) and her battle with Poseidon (western pediment). Finally, the columns are made with individual blocks, which fit together perfectly, creating continuity between the column joints. This unbroken continuity of the joints (“harmos” in Greek) has given birth to the word “harmony”.

What I can't see

The temple is based on the foundations of a pre-Parthenon, an older temple destroyed by the Persians before its completion. It was built during the period of economic and cultural prosperity in the city with funding from the Lavrio mines and with loans from the Athenian League. Its architects were Iktinos and Callikrates; Pheidias was responsible for the sculptural elements of the building and the coordination of the entire project. Inside the temple stood the gold and ivory statue of the Virgin Goddess Athena (Athena Parthenos, hence the name Parthenon). An independent area with four columns, to the east of the temple, without an altar is believed to have served as a treasury. The exterior of the Parthenon was not the exposed golden-white marble we see today. On the contrary, the upper part was painted with various colours. Many of the Parthenon’s sculptures are currently exhibited in the New Acropolis Museum, while others are at the Louvre and the majority in the British Museum, the ones forcibly removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. The two main objectives of the restoration works that are currently in progress were to address the gradual oxidation of the iron armor of the previous restoration and to replace it with a titanium armor; and to record, to make three-dimensional scans and then properly replace the approximately 17,000 structural elements and fragments of the temple. Since the first years of independence and the transfer of the capital to Athens, there have been many different expert views concerning the manner and goals of the restoration. All opinions, however, have always had the promotion, respect, and protection of the most important Greek monument as a common vision. Nowadays, the internationally agreed restoration practice is based on the principle of reversibility, that is, whatever is implemented should not cause permanent damage or distortion. The Parthenon has become the architectural “multiplication table” of architects. Its constructional perfection encompasses not only its form, but also its excellent adaptation to the laws of optics and its synthetic perfection.


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Last visit 7/8/2013

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