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The Parthenon Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Information about The Parthenon Acropolis, Athens, GreeceThe Parthenon (Ancient Greek: Παρθενών) is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. It was built in the 5th century BC on the Athenian Acropolis. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered one of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of restoration and reconstruction.
The Parthenon replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon, that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon was used as a treasury, and for a time served as the treasury of the Delian League, which later became the Athenian Empire. In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Ottoman Turk conquest, it was converted into a mosque in the early 1460s, and it had a minaret built in it. On 26 sep. 1687 (330 years ago) an Ottoman Turk ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. In 1806 (211 years ago), Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures, with Ottoman Turk permission. These sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles, were sold in 1816 (201 years ago) to the British Museum in London, where they are now displayed. The Greek government is committed to the return of the sculptures to Greece, so far with no success.
NameThe origin of the Parthenon's name is unclear. According to Jeffrey M. Hurwit, the term "Parthenon" means "the virgin's place", and seems to have originally referred only to a particular room of the Parthenon; it is debated which room this is, and how the room acquired its name. One theory holds that the "parthenon" was the room in which the peplos presented to Athena at the Panathenaic Festival was woven by the arrephoroi, a group of four young girls chosen to serve Athena each year. Christopher Pelling asserts that Athena Parthenos may have constituted a discrete cult of Athena, intimately connected with, but not identical to, that of Athena Polias. According to this theory, the name of Parthenon means the "temple of the virgin goddess", and refers to the cult of Athena Parthenos that was associated with the temple. The epithet parthénos (Greek: παρθένος), whose origin is also unclear, meant "virgin, unmarried woman", and was especially used for Artemis, the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation, and for Athena, the goddess of war, handicraft, and practical reason. It has also been suggested that the name of the temple alludes to the virgins (parthenoi), whose supreme sacrifice guaranteed the safety of the city.
The first instance in which Parthenon definitely refers to the entire building is in the 4th-century BC orator Demosthenes. In the 5th-century building accounts, the structure is simply called ho naos ("the temple"). The architects Mnesikles and Kallikrates are said to have called the building Hekatompedos ("the hundred footer") in their lost treatise on Athenian architecture, and in the 4th century and later the building was referred to as the Hekatompedos or the Hekatompedon as well as the Parthenon; the 1st-century AD writer Plutarch referred to the building as the Hekatompedon Parthenon.
Design and constructionThe first endeavor to build a sanctuary for Athena Parthenos on the site of the present Parthenon was begun shortly after the Battle of Marathon (c. 490-488 BC) upon a muscular limestone foundation that extended and leveled the southern part of the Acropolis summit. This building replaced a hekatompedon (meaning "hundred-footer") and would have stood beside the archaic temple dedicated to the Athena Polias. The Older or Pre-Parthenon, as it is frequently referred to, was still under construction when the Persians sacked the city in 480 BC and razed the Acropolis.
In the mid-5th century BC, when the Athenian Acropolis became the seat of the Delian League and Athens was the greatest cultural centre of its time, Pericles initiated an ambitious building project which lasted the entire second half of the century. The most important buildings visible on the Acropolis today – the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike – were erected during this period. The Parthenon was built under the general supervision of the sculptor Phidias, who also had charge of the sculptural decoration. The architects, Iktinos and Kallikrates, began in 447 BC, and the building was substantially completed by 432, but work on the decorations continued until at least 431. Some of the financial accounts for the Parthenon survive and show that the largest single expense was transporting the stone from Mount Pentelicus, about 16 kilometres from Athens, to the Acropolis. The funds were partly drawn from the treasury of the Delian League, which was moved from the Panhellenic sanctuary at Delos to the Acropolis in 454 BC.
Although the nearby Temple of Hephaestus is the most complete surviving example of a Doric order temple, the Parthenon, in its day, was regarded as the finest. The temple, wrote John Julius Cooper, "Enjoys the reputation of being the most perfect Doric temple ever built. Even in antiquity, its architectural refinements were legendary, especially the subtle correspondence between the curvature of the stylobate, the taper of the naos walls and the entasis of the columns." Entasis refers to the slight bulge of the columns as they rise, though the observable effect on the Parthenon is considerably more subtle than on earlier temples with their noticeably cigar-shaped columns. The stylobate is the platform on which the columns stand. As in many other classical Greek temples, it has a slight parabolic upward curvature intended primarily to shed rainwater. The columns might therefore be supposed to lean outwards, but they actually lean slightly inwards; and since they are all the same height, the curvature of the outer stylobate edge is transmitted to the architrave and roof above: "all follow the rule of being built to delicate curves" Gorham Stevens observed when pointing out that in addition, the west front was built at a slightly higher level than that of the east front. It is not universally agreed what the intended effect of these 'optical refinements' was; it is often suggested that it was to enliven what might have appeared an inert mass in the case of a building without curves, but the comparison ought to be with the Parthenon's more obviously curved predecessors than with a notional rectilinear temple.
Some studies of the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, conclude that many of its proportions approximate the golden ratio. The Parthenon's facade as well as elements of its facade and elsewhere can be circumscribed by golden rectangles. This view that the golden ratio was employed in the design has been disputed in more recent studies.
Measured at the top step, the dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 69.5 metres by 30.9 metres (228.0 x 101.4 ft). The cella was 29.8 metres long by 19.2 metres wide (97.8 x 63.0 ft), with internal colonnades in two tiers, structurally necessary to support the roof. On the exterior, the Doric columns measure 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in diameter and are 10.4 metres (34.1 ft) high. The corner columns are slightly larger in diameter. The Parthenon had 46 outer pillars and 19 inner pillars in total. The stylobate has an upward curvature towards its centre of 60 millimetres (2.36 in) on the east and west ends, and of 110 millimetres (4.33 in) on the sides. The roof was covered with large overlapping marble tiles known as imbrices and tegulae.
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