The History of the Parthenon

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One of the most famous works of ancient Greece is the Parthenon located in Athens. Prepare for your visit to Athens by exploring the mythology and methods behind the Parthenon history. For women inspiring to become greater individuals, the Parthenon is a perfect place to tour. The temple is built in honor of one of the strongest female representatives in history, which only adds to the glory of this magnificent structure. Find out the facts about the Parthenon and why you should add this to your travel itinerary.

Worthy of a Greek Goddess

Not only is the Parthenon worthy of a goddess, the Parthenon was actually constructed for one, the Greek goddess of craft, wisdom and war, Athena. Considered to be the wisest and most courageous of the Olympian gods, the city of Athens chose to honor Athena in more than name alone. After all, Athena is closely connected to the city of Athens. After Athena gifted the city of Attica with the olive tree, a universal symbol of plenty and peace, the people of the city chose Athena as its patron.

To recognize her honor the Parthenon was built from 447 to 432 BCE during what we now call the Age of Pericles. It was during this same time frame that culture, democracy, art and education blossomed in Athens. The Age of Pericles comes from the famous orator, general and prominent statesman Pericles, whose name literally means surrounded by glory. Under the leadership of Pericles, the time is best known as the Golden Age of Athens. Along with the Parthenon, other glorious wonders hailing from that period include the Acropolis, the Olympia statue of Zeus and the marble masterpiece Discus Thrower. It is also the age of Socrates, Hippocrates, Protagoras, Aristophanes and other great philosophical minds.

Sculpting the Masterpiece

Parthenon History - Greece
The sculpture behind the Parthenon is Phidias, who was also a painter and architect. He is the mastermind behind the Zeus statue, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. To best represent the goddess of Athena Phidias built the temple of Parthenon on the Athens Acropolis. The word acropolis means a complex atop a high hill and is translated directly as City in the Air. The most famous acropolis in history is the Acropolis in Athens where the Parthenon stands. Other acropolises around the world include the Castle Rock of Scotland and Kolona in the Island of Aegina.

Phidias along with distinguished architects Iktinos, Mnesikles and Callicrates spent two years planning and contracting the labor for the work. On July 28, 447 BCE, fittingly during the Panathenaic festival, the first stone was set. Under the direction and financing of Pericles, the work was overseen by Phidias. He also sculpted a gold and ivory statue of the goddess of Athena that would stand in the Parthenon. This statue was both protected and revered in the Parthenon, which was known at the time as the Temple of Athena Parthenos meaning Athena the Virgin in Greek.

The Finished Parthenon

After the Parthenon was completed it measured a height of 45 feet and covered a space of 98 by 63 feet. Today we only see a part of this magnificent building due to being partially destroyed in 1687 after it was hit by a Venetian shell. The Parthenon with its iconic Doric columns cost 469 silver talents paid for by the Athenian treasury. There is no way to determine the equivalency for silver talents, but we can compare other billed expenses at the time. For reference, during the Peloponnesian War one silver talent would cover the cost of a trireme, which was the most advanced warship of that time, as well as the cost of paying a crew for the warship for a month.
Additionally, the annual gross income for the entire city of Athens during the Age of Pericles was 1,000 talents. That truly puts into context the extravagant purse given to Phidias to complete the awe-inspiring Parthenon. Considering how he was deemed the best sculpture of the time, after his extraordinary success with creating the statue of Zeus at Olympia, it is little doubt why he was chosen for this mammoth feat.

Parthenon History - Aerial View
The materials used to construct the Parthenon include a foundation of limestone, as well as columns honed from Pentelic marble. It was the first time that this type of marble, which is mined in Greek and famous for its white hue, was used to construct columns. While this was a risky move for Phidias it proved triumphant and we see the resulting Doric columns still standing today.
The design of the temple was so that visitors would not enter the temple. Instead, they would look at the interior when the doorway was cleared. Along the walls of the interior of the Parthenon, there was a frieze, which is a sculpture also constructed from Pentelic marble. A frieze is a blend between a sculpture and painting so that it resembles a three-dimensional painting. For the Parthenon frieze, the scene is hotly debated on what exactly it means. Some scholars believe it is a mythical scene in line with the goddess Athena, while others the scene depicts Athenians who dare add their image to a temple of the gods.

In addition to the frieze are metopes, which are marble panels carved with decoration. There are 92 metopes throughout the temple, each containing a scene from the stories of the Greek gods and goddesses. As well as housing the statue of Athena, the Parthenon also stored Athena’s treasure. This includes sculptures of the goddess along with Poseidon, Zeus and possibly Dionysus, each telling a story of the Greek mythology. To finish off the magic of the temple, there is a shallow water pool floor that is beneath the statue of Athena, serving to reflect the goddess’s great presence to all who peak inside the Parthenon history.

As you prepare for your next adventure to Greece, consider the possibilities of adding the Parthenon to your must-see list. Inspire your passions for history and art, as you experience the wonders of this world first-hand.

Ready to visit this historic landmark? Book your vacation online with go-today or talk to one of our travel experts to start planning your Greek Island getaway.

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