Parthenon

Parthenon is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena, considered by the ancient Athenians to be the patron of Athens. Construction of the temple it self took place in 447-438 BC, while decorating the temple continued until 432 BC.

ParthenonParthenon is considered the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, and its sculptures are hailed as a high point of Greek art. Parthenon is often used as a symbol for both Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western European civilization, and it has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

History

Shortly after the Battle of Marathon (which took place in the year 490 BC), a sanctuary for the goddess Athena was built upon a limestone foundation at the site of the present Parthenon. The limestone foundation extended and leveled the southern part of the Acropolis summit.

Later, this early sanctuary was replaced by a hekatompedon (meaning “hundred-footer”). This building project was still going on when Athens was sacked by the Persians in 480 BC. As a part of the sacking, the Persians demolished the project.

During the mid 5th century BC, the Athenian Acropolis became the seat of the Delian League and Pericles initiated an ambitious building project that was to last for the entire second haft of the century. Pericles was a statesman and general of Athens during between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. The Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike were all constructed on the Acropolis during this period.

The construction of the Parthenon was supervised by the sculpture Phidias, aided by two architects named Iktinos and Kallikrates. According to financial accounts that have managed to survive into our days, the most expensive part of the building project was to transport stones the from Mount Pentelicus to Acropolis. Mount Pentelicus is located roughly 16 kilometers from Athens.

In the 5th century AD, Parthenon became a Christian church and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary instead of the Virgin Athena ( Parthenos means virgin in Greek). After Greek was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, the temple became a mosque in the early 1460s and a minaret was built on Accropolis. In 1687, the Ottoman Turks used the temple to store ammunition while being under attack from the Venetians, and when Venetian bombardment ignited the ammunition the temple and its sculptures suffered great damages.

Architecture

The dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 69.5 meters by 30.9 meters. The stylobate, i.e. the platform on which the column stands, has a slight parabolic upward curvature that makes rainwater run away and also makes the building more likely to survive earthquakes. In the ancient days, Parthenon had 46 outer pillars and 23 inner pillars. The roof was covered in large overlapping marble tiles. The cella was 29.8 meters by 19.2 meters and featured internal colonnades in two tiers to support the roof. The Doric columns of the exterior are 10.4 meters high and have a diameter of 1.9 meters, except for the corner columns which have a somewhat larger diameter.

Many of the proportions of Parthenon approximate the so called golden ratio. Both the facade itself and elements of the facade can be circumscribed by golden rectangles. The idea that the golden ratio was used by the architects has however been disputed by recent studies.