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The Parthenon

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Athens, Greece.

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The supreme expression of ancient Greek architectural genius, the Parthenon has enchanted painters and poets for two thousand years. Neolithic remains indicate a continuous sacred use of the hill from at least 2800 BC. Built upon the foundations of an earlier Mycenean temple, the first known Hellenistic structures, dating from the 6th century BC, were temples dedicated to the goddess Athena. In 480 BC Persians destroyed these temples and in 447 BC the Athenian leader Pericles erected the presently standing temple of Athena. Made of white marble, the temple had 46 columns, was roofed with tiles, and enshrined a 40 foot tall golden statue of Athena. The Parthenon has suffered considerable damage over the centuries. In 296 BC the gold from the statue was removed; in the 5th century AD the temple was converted into a Christian church; in 1460 it housed a Turkish mosque; in 1687 gun-powder stored by the Turks inside the temple exploded and destroyed the central area; and in 1803 much of the remaining sculpture was sold by the Turks, who controlled Greece at the time, to the Englishman Lord Elgin, who then removed the sculptures and sold them to the British Museum.

The name Parthenon refers to Athena Parthenos, the daughter of Zeus. Patroness of Athens, she represents spiritual development, intellect and understanding, and is the symbol of the human aspiration for wisdom. The character of Athena represented these qualities yet it was the sacred geographical location, the astronomical orientation and the sacred geometry of the temple which actually generated the qualities for which Athena was known. In the Greek religious tradition particular geographical locations were known to have and express specific energetic characteristics. Therefore, while Greek sacred architecture praises the qualities of certain deities, it was understood that the deities themselves were metaphors for unique natural powers which already existed before the temples were constructed. Certain holy places around Greece, being expressive of specific powers, were also understood to be in spatial relationship with one another, as shown by the study of sacred geography. The temples developed at these sites incorporated sophisticated mathematical and astronomical knowledge which further enhanced the powers inherent at these places.

More on the Pathenon from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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Generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order.

The Parthenon is a temple in the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its construction began in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC, although decorations of the Parthenon continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art.

The Parthenon

Growing up in Athens I have visited the Acropolis plenty of times, yet every time I stand in front of the Parthenon I can't stop being amazed. In school you are told how beautiful it is despite the various disasters that have hit it, like earthquakes, bombings, Lord Elgin etc. but it is not until you go up there when you can realise how majestic it looks. As you walk around you will read about all the innovations that building had, like the draining system on the roof that made the rain go down the sides instead of inside. Or the fact that the entire structure does not have a single straight line and that the reason why it is built slightly tilted is because that is the only way you could see two sides at the same time. Why did they want you to see at least two sides? Well because of the amazing images that were depicted around it, you can now see them either in the Acropolis Museum- just a few meters away, or in the British Museum.

The Parthenon

The most famous ruin of ancient Greece, the Parthenon was constructed between 447BC and 432BC and was a Doric order temple built to replace two earlier temples to Athena also located on the site. The Parthenon housed the statue of Athena Parthenos, sculpted by Pheidias and the temple's exterior was decorated with carved marble panels, metopes, columns and friezes.

It remained relatively intact and was used as a Christian church then a mosque until 1687 when troops from the Ottoman Empire used it as a munitions store and it was hit by fire from a Venetian attack, collapsing the roof and much of its southern side.

In 1806AD Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and Ambassador to Greece removed some of the surviving sculptures and brought them back to England where they remain, controversially, on display at the British Museum. Restoration and reconstruction work is now being undertaken on the ruins by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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