How The Construction of Parthenon Started and Why It is The Athenian's Pride

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Words: 1071 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1071|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

The Parthenon, constructed in 447 and 438 BCE, is one of the most famous monuments of ancient Greek civilization. It shows the greatest works of Greek architecture, history, and ancient Greek religious beliefs. Although now it lay mostly in ruins, it stands towering above Athens, continuing its legacy as one of the greatest examples of the country’s power and wealth.

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Work began on the Parthenon in 447 BC, built on the Acropolis, to replace a temple that was destroyed by the Greek’s rivals the Persians in 480 BC. The building of the Parthenon cost Greece 469 silver talents, and the work began under the order of Pericles who wanted to show the wealth and exuberance of the Athenian power to rivaling nations. The name “Parthenon” derived from a cult statue titled “Athena Parthenos” that was to be housed in the east room of the building. The Parthenon, built with ivory and gold, was sculpted by the renowned sculptor of that time; Phidias. Following the reason behind most of the buildings constructed on the Acropolis, the Parthenon is dedicated to the goddess Athena.

To truly make the Parthenon an outstanding architectural monument, many people were involved in the construction of the building including Pericles, Phidias, Kalamis, Ictinus, and Calibrates. As stated earlier, Pericles was the leading statesman of the time. Phidias and Kalamis were both in charge of the design of the sculptures and decorations. Ictinus and Calibrates were the chief architects for the whole project. Most of the funds that were used to build the Parthenon went towards transporting the materials needed, such as the stone from Mount Pantelakos, which was 16 kilometers from Athens to the Acropolis.

The architecture holds many resemblances to Doric design with many iconic architectural features. The architects, Ictinus and Calibrates, used ingenious visual effects in their models of the Parthenon making the building more symmetrical looking then it is. It was so popular that it was used in later century architecture, in particular through the Roman era. The Parthenon held many different architectural elements such as the colonnade of fluted, baseless columns with square capital stands on a base that supports the roof, consisting of bands of stone. The colonnade also contains eight columns on both the east and west sides of the building and 17 on the north and south sides. All these columns were made to enclose a rectangular chamber called the cella. Behind the Cella, was another small room, that wasn't connected to the cella but individually placed on the west side. It also consists of a frieze (an artistic mosaic) of vertically grooved blocks and plain blocks to help relieve the decoration on the wall. The only light that entered the Parthenon was from the east doorway, except for some that sneaked in through the marble tiles in the roof and ceiling.

As one can see, the Parthenon is a prime example of an extraordinary number of architectural refinements, which combined give a look of plastic, sculptural appearance to the building. The sculpture decorations on and inside the Parthenon gave the building a sweeter look from its large and overpowering exterior. Many different images were portrayed on the building such as a battle between gods and giants; and on the south side of the Parthenon, Greeks, and centaurs; on the west, more Greeks and Amazons were portrayed. Unfortunately, all the decorations on the north side lay in ruins. The decorations continue in a frieze around the top of the cella wall, representing the annual Panathenaic procession of citizens honoring the goddess Athena. On the east end with a priest and priestess of Athena flanked by two groups of gods seated before them. The pediment groups, carved in the round, shown on the east end, the birth of Athena. On the west end, her contest with the god of the sea Poseidon for dominion of the region around Athens is portrayed. The entire work is a fantastic composition; that later was enhanced with bronze accessories.

The Parthenon remained intact until about the 5th century CE; this was when Phidias’s colossal statues were removed, and the temple was turned into a Christian church. By the 7th century, the interior of the Parthenon was changed as well. In 1456 the Turks seized the Acropolis and took the Parthenon for themselves, transforming it into a mosque, without having to change too many of the architectural elements that made it so great other than and except for raising the minaret at the southwest corner. It wasn’t long after that the center of the building was blown up and destroyed in 1687 by Venetians fighting the Turks. In 1801 to 1803 a large part of the sculpture that was left after the battle was removed by a British nobleman named Thomas Bruce and was sold in 1816 to the British Museum located in London where it remains today. Other pieces and ruins are on display in the Louvre museum in Paris and Copenhagen and many other famous museums throughout the world, but the Parthenon still stands in Athens today on display for tourists to adventure and explore.

Now that we know the history and architectural elements that went into making this marveled temple referred to as the Parthenon, I want to discuss some other fun facts about this historic monument. Though many consider the Parthenon to be a temple to the Goddess Athena, the Greeks made it be a treasury for all of Athens wealth. Because it was seen as a bank for the Greeks, this is the reason they placed one of the greatest pieces of art they had, the gigantic sculpture of Athena dressed in chryselephantine (elephant ivory) and gold, one of the most priceless artifacts of that time. For the Parthenon to fit such an array of treasures, it measured at 111 feet by 228 feet or also known as 30.9 meters by 69.5 meters.

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The Parthenon survived many battles, though damaged it remains one of the proudest most exquisite pieces of architecture in Athens. Today tourists journey far and wide to walk up the steps of the Parthenon and see all of its beauty for details. Though it lay in ruins, it still towers over Athens reminding everyone of the great power and wealth that once was the great city.

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How The Construction Of Parthenon Started And Why It Is The Athenian’s Pride. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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