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© 2003 David Koeller.  All rights reserved.

The Parthenon is Built

448-432 BC

Parthenon

The Parthenon is a temple that towers above the city of Athens, symbolizing the Athenians' wealth and power. The temple is dedicated to Athena Parthenos, a Greek goddess and the city-symbol of Athens. This temple served as a monument to Athena because they believed that she helped the Greeks conquer the Persian Empire in the Persian Wars.

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The building of the Parthenon began in the year 448 BC and was completed in 432 BC It was built as a part of the acropolis in Athens and it served two main purposes. First, the temple was built as a monument to Athena, and therefore a statue of Athena was built. Second, it was also a part of the state treasury. Tax money from the Delian League was used to pay for the building, and therefore a portion of the building was used for holding the tax money that the Delian League collected. The Parthenon was part of a much larger scheme in the acropolis of Athens which included Propylaea, Odeon (a covered concert hall), another hall for the Mysteries at Eleusis, and long walls between Athens and Piraeus.

The Parthenon was built by two main architects. The main designer was Iktinos, and the master builder was Callicrates. The Parthenon was built on an old temple which had been burned by the Persians. Half of the old temple remained, and the Greeks used some of these materials for the Parthenon. The temple was 90.88m X 69.51m, and although this is very large in size it is much smaller than temples in Asia Minor and Sicily. Although the Parthenon may have lacked size, compared to other temples, the Greeks made up for this in their majestic style and outstanding material. The material with which the Parthenon was built consisted of solid white Pentelic marble. Twenty-two thousand tons of this type of marble was used. When the Parthenon was completed it glistened white and gold. The Parthenon was divided into two chambers. The Eastern chamber was the larger of the two and it is referred to as the Hekatompedon. It housed the statue of Athena and contained two stories of Doric columns. The Western chamber was referred to as the Parthenon proper and had four Ionic columns. It housed the sacred funds and the state treasury. It was the first and most impressive of the new structures of that time.

The Parthenon had a style new to that era and it was impressive to the eye. The Greeks worked diligently to create the Parthenon in perfection. It was built in the masculine Doric style with some Ionic elements. The Doric style provided the perfect look, which demonstrated the Athenian desire to be perfect god-like beings. Using this style, the Parthenon hardly incorporated a single truly straight horizontal or vertical line. This bulging of the columns gave the building a more masculine look and it made the temple seem "perfect" to the naked eye. This perfection was important at the time because the Greeks saw themselves as rising to the level of the gods and nearing perfection. The Greeks had just defeated the Persians, and they were feeling very confident. They built the Parthenon to show their dominance and strength. As mentioned earlier, a key purpose of the Parthenon was to show their gratitude to Athena for helping them conquer the Persians. The statue of the god Athena that was built was 26 ft. wide and 13 ft. deep. It was made of wood, which supported ivory pieces on the top of the statue.

The Parthenon was burned and suffered severe fire damage at a certain date that cannot be determined. In 1687 the Parthenon was blown up during a Venetian siege of the acropolis. Restoration work began in the early 20th century. Today the Parthenon remains as a symbol of the once great Greek culture, and the importance of the city of Athens.


Notes:

Parthenon Image courtesy of the Hellenic Society Prometheus Homepage <http://www.itgonline.com/Prometheas/>. Used by permission.


Edited by: Hannah B Anderson
Researched by: Shannon M Hampton
Written by: Kylene B Mitts
February 2, 1998

Text copyright 1996-1999 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.

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