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Parthenon is a one of the many Greek temples located in the Athenian Acropolis in Greece. The temple was built in honour of a Greek goddess called Athena whom the Greeks believed to be their protector. Parthenon was a construction project of the Athenian ‘prime minister’ or otherwise ‘president’ after the old Parthenon temple was destroyed in the marathon invasion by the Persians. Perikles’ commitment in rebuilding the temple was demonstrated in summoning for a conference to deliberate among other things the renovation of the temples ruined during the Persian invasion. Despite the conference not taking place, Perikles continued with his plans to build Parthenon. However, Perikles died before he accomplished his dream of building the temple. Despite Perikles death his dream lived on as the construction of the temple was commenced in 447 BC and completed in 438 BC (Jenkins 40). The decoration of the temple however continued until 432 BC. The building of the Parthenon was under the general oversight of the sculptor Pheidias who was also in charge of the sculptural decorations. Iktinos and Kallikrates were the architects of the Parthenon (Murray 99).
Parthenon can be said to be the “most celebrated” among the ancient Greek temples (Neils 67). The sculptures decorating the temple are believed to be some of the high peaks of the Greek art. The temple also stands as the “symbol of ancient Greece” as well as of Athenian democracy. Parthenon just like most of the Greek temples was used as a treasury of the “Delian league” (Jenkins 75). The Parthenon was later changed to a Christian church in the 5th century and dedicated to Virgin Mary. It was later turned to a mosque in the early 1460s after the Ottoman Turk conquest. The glorious temple of Parthenon was later ruined on the 26th of September 1687 when “Ottoman Turk ammunition dump” in the temple was inflamed by Venetian bombardment (Hurwit 295).
Parthenon was built of marble and was decorated with more sculptures than any other temple in the history of Greece. According to Neil, Parthenon incorporated three characteristic styles namely Doric, Ionic and Corithian (Neils 67). The architectural refinements of the Parthenon were unique. The elusive symmetry between the curvature of the platform on which the column stood, the wick of the cella walls and the little burge of the pillars as they rise historically known as entasis looked fantastic. Like many Greek classical temples, the Parthenon has a little parabolic upwardly curvature intended to drain rain water. The perpendicular elements were also somewhat sloped normally inwards or towards the building (Neils 103 & 104). Amazingly, financial accounts were engraved at the stele set up on the Akropolis. These financial accounts helped to determine the time when the building was constructed. The cult statue of Athena Parthenos was sculptured from gold- ivory by Pheidias and was dedicated to the Parthenon in a panatheneaic festival in the year 438/7 B.C.
The ninety-two metopes on the Parthenon were carved in high- relief (Neils 160). Metopes were only carved on constructions that functioned as treasuries. The metopes on the east side of the Parthenon above the main entrance described the mythic fight between the Olympian gods and the giants. The westerly side metopes on the other hand showed mythological fight of the Athenians against the Amazons. The conflict of Lapiths assisted by the Theseus against Centaurs is signified in the southerly side metopes ().
The ionic frieze was situated high on the cella walls within the peristyle (Neil, 199). The freize showed an idealized description of the panathenaic march from the Dipylon Gate in the Kerameikos to the Acropolis. The march was usually held annually with a special march taking place during the fourth year. Athenians as well as the foreigners took part in the procession in honor of the goddess Athena and sacrifices and a gift of Peplos, a dress that was specially made by chose Athenian girls called ergastines were offered to the goddess.
The east pediments tell of the birth of Athena from her father’s head. The Greek mythology describes the delivery of Athena. Her father Zeus had an awful headache and asked Hephaestus, the god of the fire and the forge, to assist him. Zeus asked Hephaestus to strike his head with his forging hammer and on so doing, his head split and out came Athena
The Parthenon is the symbolic representation of Greek history and culture. The construction of the Parthenon tells a lot about the Greek culture. The pediments portrayed the myths linked to the Greek culture .The east pediments described the instants around the birth of Athena from her father’s head, show that Greeks were polytheists.. The Athenians closely associated the birth of the Athena to democracy due to strange way in which their government came into being. Civic life of the Athenians is clearly demonstrated by god-like human beings and human-like gods on the frieze (Jenkins, 14). The carving skills of the Greek are evident in the carvings in and outside the temple. They were made by a great sculptor Pheidias who is also famous for making the gold and ivory statue of Zeus for the temple at Olympic regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is known that the first sculptor to start a journey to carve the human form with total realness was a Greek in 600 B.C. Parthenon is also a great symbol of Athenian theatre. There three eminent shapers of the Athenian dramatic art and that of the whole world. Euripides, Sophokles, and Aischylos produced a lasting culture of theatre and literature.
The Parthenon stands out as the most brilliant monument for the ancient world. In addition, it is a symbol of the Greek culture. The mythical and historical circumstances that surrounded its construction have attracted many researchers around the world. The survival of Parthenon is truly mysterious. It braved vandalism, fire, earthquake, quarrying for building materials (Jenkins, 14) in the ancient Greek. Parthenon is still being studied despite its dating many years ago. More discoveries are being made especially from the missing sculptures. The Parthenon sculptures are well known in the world as they show the magnificent work of art from classical Greece. They are also accredited for influencing western civilization in the aspects of theatre, medicine, democracy, philosophy, and history (Jenkins, iv). This is what attracted me to choose this historic monument.
Relevance of Parthenon to the society
There are numerous tourist attractions in Europe and especially I Greece. . Among all tourist attractions, Parthenon has booked a special place in the area of tourism. The 2500 years old ruin has attracted tourists of high profile like Bill Clinton. The glorious temple was built under the supervision of a Greek sculptor, Pheidias and was later dedicated to Athena Parthenos whom the Greeks believed to be their protector. The architecture of the Parthenon that comprises of beautiful marble and numerous columns, as well as the Athena Parthenos gold-ivory statue are the most famous aspects.
The Parthenon was one of Perikles, a renowned ruler of ancient Athens, building programs. The democratic skills manifested in Perikles laid a solid foundation for democracy in Europe. Democratic skills of Perikles were demonstrated throughout is life as the ‘president’ of ancient Greek as he was able to use his democratic skills to persuade the Athenians that his policies were at the best of their interest. For example, after the Persian invasion that left the older Parthenon demolished, Perikles welcomed the rest of the Greek for a conference to deliberate among other things the rebuilding of the Parthenon. Notable also was the success of Perikles to make peace with Persians in 449/8 B.C. Therefore Parthenon can be regarded as an icon of Athenian democracy that spread to other parts of Europe.
In summary, Parthenon remains the symbol of Greek culture to date. The magnificent architecture, and sculptures especially the gold-ivory Athena Parthenos made by a renowned Greek sculptor, Pheidias, completes the elegant temple. Its history has attracted several researches in different fields such as democracy, medicine, archeology, history, and theatre. The democratic skills demonstrated by Perikles formed a solid base for democracy in Greece and Europe as a whole. A trip to Greece is never complete without visiting Parthenon. It is surely a great experience reading about the Parthenon
Beard, Mary. The Parthenon. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.
Jenkins, Ian. The Parthenon Sculptures. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
Jenkins, Ian. Greek Architecture and Its Sculpture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Murray, Alexander S. A History of Greek Sculpture. Kila MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Neils, Jenifer. The Parthenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Hurwit, Jeffrey. The Athenian Acropolis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
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