The Parthenon is one of the world’s most recognizable and most copied buildings. It was built in nine years, beginning in 447 BCE, and was an awesome and tangible representation of Athenian imperial power.
Pericles proposed rebuilding the Acropolis, which had been destroyed in the Greco-Persian wars in 480 BCE. It was put to a vote, and the Athenian Assembly decided to take on this costly project. Their treasury was full of taxes paid by the other city-states of the Delian League, and this seemed like a fitting way to glorify the goddess Athena, the polis and its achievements.
The doric temple of Athena Parthenos is the centrepeice of the new Acropolis. It replaces two older temples to Athena. The friezes along the entablature show the triumph of reason vs. passion, embodied by a human defeating a centaur. On the pediment, statues show Athena being born from Zeus’ forehead, as well as the contest between Athena and Poseidon.
The gold and ivory statue of Athena stood nearly 40 feet tall and was placed next to a reflecting pool.
The Parthenon was converted to a Christian church around 600 CE and later became an Ottoman Mosque in 1480 CE. In 1687, Venetian forces attacked the Ottomans and their ammunition store in the Parthenon, resulting in around 300 casualties and a massive explosion.
In 1806, Thohmas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, removed some of the surviving Parthenon sculptures and relief panels, and they were sold to the British Museum. The Greek government has been trying to get the Elgin Marbles back since 1983.
Here is the PBS video, “Secrets of the Parthenon,” that we started watching in class today. We were somewhere around 42 minutes in. Please finish it at home, along with the viewing guide questions.
Don’t forget we’re meeting at the ROM tomorrow – please come a bit before 10:00