Parthenon

The Parthenon is one of the central buildings of the ancient Athenian acropolis. Its construction was started in 447 BC and completed in 438 BC. The architects were Iktinos and Kallikrates; the sculptural decoration was overseen by Phidias. The building housed a giant gold and ivory statue of Athena also created by Phidias, and the treasury of the Delian League.

Some of the financial accounts for the Parthenon survive, which make it clear that the largest single expense was transporting the stone from Mt. Pentelicus, about 16 kilometers from Athens, to the Acropolis.

The Parthenon holds a canonical position as the ideal Greek temple for many people; however, the original building was unusual in several attributes. Iktinos and Kallikrates built the Parthenon entirely with marble, while more usual temples had terra cotta roof tiles, often supported with wooden truss work. The Parthenon is also not an example of a purely Doric order building. The wall that separates the interior and exterior space carries an Ionic type frieze carved by Phidias and the West interior room of the temple supports its ceiling with four Ionic columns.

Later history

Over the years the Parthenon was converted first into a Christian church and then into an Islamic mosque.

In the 17th century A.D. the Turks used it to house ammunition, and most of the structure was destroyed when it was hit by a Venetian cannonball. The remains are a popular tourist attraction. The friezes that had decorated the outside are now in the British Museum, which calls them the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador, Lord Elgin, who purchased them from the Ottoman government and brought them to London in 1799. The Greek government has asked for their return, thus far unsuccessfully. Scholarship and appreciation of the Frieze is currently impaired as part is in Athens and part in London. Further details, together with an analysis of the meaning of the Frieze are at http://www.mistral.co.uk/hammerwood/elgin.htm

Note. Not to be confused with Pantheon.




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