The Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC by the Athenian Acropolis. It is a temple to the Greek goddess Athena. The Parthenon is currently undergoing a restoration and reconstruction process. Today the Parthenon is recognized as one of the worlds most treasured cultural monuments.
1. Symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy
The Parthenon remains an important piece of history today because it stands as a symbol of both ancient Greece and of the age of Athenian democracy. Although some consider there to be both an old and a new Parthenon the history of the Parthenon is part of its appeal.
2. High point of Greek art
The many decorative sculptures that adorn the Parthenon are considered to be the highest forms of Greek art. The master artists of the time were commissioned to sculpt and paint the Parthenon art that can still be enjoyed today.
3. The Parthenon replaced an older temple of Athena
There is a first Parthenon that is called the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon. This Parthenon was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. What could be saved from the old Parthenon was then used in the re-building of the Parthenon that we see today (with the exceptions of the portions of the Parthenon that have been restored or repaired).
4. An ancient treasury
Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon was originally used as a treasury. The Parthenon originally served as the treasury of the Delian League. The Delian League would later became the Athenian Empire.
5. A place of religion
The Parthenon has housed several different religions. In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church. In the early 1460s, it was converted into a mosque.
6. The Venetian bombardment
On the 26th of September in 1687 an Ottoman ammunition dump that was being housed inside the Parthenon, was ignited by Venetian bombardiers. Naturally, the resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures.
The metopes on the Parthenon are sculptures that are very detailed in their representation of human anatomy. Extreme detail in the sculpting of the heads and even the veins in the muscles of the figures make these sculptures unique. While many of the metopes on the North side of the Parthenon were damaged or destroyed, some still remain either on the edifice or in a number of different museums including the Louvre.
The Parthenon is decorated with a Frieze that runs around the exterior walls of the building. The frieze was carved in situ and can be dated back to 442 BC-438 BC. The Frieze depicts an interpretation of the procession from the Dipylon Gate in the Kerameikos to the Acropolis. The procession occurred every year and was meant to honor the goddess Athena.
The Pediments of the Parthenon are sculptures that are found on the East and West gable ends. The Pediments are meant to reflect the birth of Athena and the contest between Athena and Poseidon that took place as they were fighting for the honor of becoming the patron of the city. Some of these pediments were destroyed prior to 1674 when drawings could be made of them and today the pediments no longer exist.
10. Reconstruction of the Parthenon
The restoration of the Parthenon began in 1975 when the Greek government began to make a concerted effort to restore their Acropolis structures. A committee was assigned the task of restoration in 1983. Funding and technical assistance was requested, careful records were kept, computer models were used, and many other techniques were employed in order to maintain as much of the historical integrity of the building as possible.