The dazzling result of the collaboration of the most important architects of the Golden Age of the Athenian hegemony. Iktinos, Kallikratis and Pheidias, who also had the responsibility for the sculptural decoration, worked together.
A monument of world cultural heritage, the Parthenon has prevailed as the symbol of classical antiquity.
Built in the middle of the 5th century BC, it is one of the few temples in Greece that were made exclusively of marble and it is the only one built according to the Doric type with all its metopes carved in bas-relief. It was also painted in gold, red and blue.
A SYMBOL OF EXCELLENCE
The Parthenon presents perfect harmonic proportions to its finest detail. Although this temple was larger than the other Doric temples of its time, its proportions were so harmonious that they gave it an astounding form of homogeneity, monumental grandeur and unparalleled grace compared to its heavier Doric predecessors.
The inconceivable details of the construction also contributed to the reputation of the temple. The pillar was slightly tympanic, the radial columns deviated from the vertical towards the centre of the temple, and the overall design was pyramidal. In this way, an inward and upward movement was created that transformed the Parthenon into a vibrant organic ensemble. The intensity of the columns (a subtle "bloat" in their middle section) visually attributed to the fact that the columns were lifting heavy weight. These innumerable fine details were designed in a genius way and executed with mathematical precision.
The Parthenon frieze (the square areas around the temple bearing figures carved in bas relief) depicts the procession of the Panathenaic, the greatest religious feast of Athens. It was 160 meters long and nearly one meter wide.
The theme of the frieze is pioneering, because it does not depict a mythological but a real fact. It is the moment of the procession when the people of Athens deliver the veil to the protector goddess Athena. On the west side of the frieze the preparation of Kerameikos is shown. On the eastern side, where the entrance of the temple was designed, Athena, Zeus, Hera and other gods who came to take part in the procession are portrayed and among them a child who delivers the veil to the priest is also shown.
In total, it depicts 400 forms of people and gods and 200 animal figures, such as sheep, oxen and horses. The great diversity of the human figures presented, the alluring modesty of the virgins, the free and effortless poise of the talking men, the liveliness of the horses, the power of the bad tempered oxen and, finally, the grace of all forms and movements make the frieze not only an authentic depiction of the Panathenaic religious procession but also a permanent monument of the glory of Athens, as well as a masterpiece of the great Parthenonian artist.
During the expedition of Frangis Morosini against Athens in 1687, the Parthenon suffered the greatest blow on the evening of September 26th, when a cannon ball blew the ammunition dump that Ali Aga, the commander of the fortress, had installed in the temple.
Most of the eastern side on the temple collapsed. Since then, until the monument was handed over to the archeology department and the new Greek state in the 1830s, it was systematically denuded by Thomas Brues in the early 19th century, who cut off a large number of sculptures and marbles by sawing and detaching. It is remarkable the fact that the sculptures would have been lost forever if the ship that transported them to England hadn’t sank in the open sea close to Kythera. Later on, the boxes were retrieved with the help of divers from Kalymnos. Returning to England, Bruce sold most of the marbles that he had in his possession to the British Museum where they are still today. Others ended up in the Louvre in Paris, as well as in Copenhagen and elsewhere.
The British Museum, even today, is stubbornly refusing to return the marbles to their homeland while in the Acropolis museum the empty places are waiting to accommodate them.