The Parthenon »
The Acropolis hill, so
called the "Sacred Rock" of Athens, is the most important site of the city.
During Perikles' Golden Age, ancient Greek civilization was represented in an
ideal way on the hill and some of the architectural masterpieces of the period
were erected on its ground.
It is the most important and characteristic monument of the
ancient Greek civilization and still remains its international symbol. It was
dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens. It was built
between 447 and 438 B.C. and its sculptural decoration was completed in 432 B.C.
The construction of the monument was initiated by Perikles, the supervisor of
the whole work was Pheidias, the famous Athenian sculptor, while Iktinos and
Kallikrates were the architects of the building. The temple is built in the
Doric order and almost exclusively of Pentelic marble. It is peripteral, with
eight columns on each of the narrow sides and seventeen columns on each of the
long ones. The central part of the temple, called the cella, sheltered the
famous chryselephantine cult statue of Athena, made by Pheidias.
The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon is a unique combination of the Doric
metopes and triglyphs on the entablature, and the Ionic frieze on the walls of
the cella. The metopes depict the Gigantomachy on the east side, the
Amazonomachy on the west, the Centauromachy on the south, and scenes from the
Trojan War on the north.
The relief frieze depicts the Procession of the Panathenaea, the most formal
religious festival of ancient Athens. The scene runs along all the four sides of
the building and includes the figures of gods, beasts and of some 360 humans.
The two pediments of the temple are decorated with mythological scenes: the
east, above the building's main entrance, shows the birth of Athena, and the
west, the fight between Athena and Poseidon for the name of the city of Athens.
The Parthenon retained its religious character in the following centuries and
was converted into a Byzantine church, a Latin church and a Muslim mosque.
The Turks used the Parthenon as a powder magazine when the Venetians, under
Admiral Morosini, sieged the Acropolis in 1687. One of the Venetian bombs fell
on the Parthenon and caused a tremendous explosion that destroyed a great part
of the monument which had been preserved in a good condition until then.
The disaster was completed in the beginning of the 19th century, when the
British ambassador in Constantinople, Lord Elgin, stole the greatest part of the
sculptural decoration of the monument (frieze, metopes, pediments), transferred
them to England and sold them to the British Museum, where they are still
exhibited, being one of the most significant collections of the museum.
The three top photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.