Parthenon – Iconic Temple on the Acropolis
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The Parthenon looms over the city of Athens as a constant reminder of its ancient past. Each year, tourists from all over the world flock to Athens to glimpse this ancient temple. It was built in honor of the goddess Athena, after whom the city was named. After winning a competition against Poseidon by giving the people the olive tree, she became the city’s patron.
The Athena Parthenos
The Parthenon was named after the Athena Parthenos, a famous sculpture of the goddess created by Phidias, an ancient sculptor with considerable skill. Parthenos means “virgin” in Ancient Greek. The sculpture itself is one of the most iconic representations of the goddess and was often replicated. The tetradrachm, a coin that was in use around 126 BC, featured a likeness of Athena that was modeled after the Parthenos. Aside from honoring Athena, the temple also housed this sculpture.
The Parthenon that is standing today isn’t the original. Historians call the first one the Older Parthenon or the Pre-Parthenon, which was destroyed in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian War when the Persians touched Athenian soil in an effort to destroy precious artifacts. There is, however, some controversy as to whether or not this was the “first” Parthenon, or if there were others before it.
Constructing the Parthenon
Little is known as to why over thirty years passed before the Athenians rebuilt the Parthenon. Construction for the one that is standing today began around 447 BC and was completed around 438 BC. For many, it serves as a shining example of Ancient Greek architecture at its finest because it approximates the “golden ratio”, a principal that has fascinated mathematicians, architects, and artists since ancient times.
While Christianity was gaining momentum in Greece, ancient sites like the Parthenon were reinvented. The Parthenon actually became a sanctified Orthodox Christian Church sometime in the 6th Century AD. It was also renamed as the Church of the Parthenos Maria (Virgin Mary) or the Church of the Mother of God. Because it became a Christian church, the existing artifacts from the ancient religion were either reinvented into Christian symbols or destroyed. Because of its prominence, this church became a popular destination for pilgrims.
The Ottoman Turks occupied Greece for over four hundred years. When they did, important Greek cultural symbols were repurposed to accommodate the Ottoman culture. During this time period, Christians were unable to worship in public and had to keep their religion a secret. It was also during this time that the Parthenon became a mosque.
As you can see, the Parthenon has endured much over the centuries. In a way, it’s amazing that it’s still standing. It seems that whenever someone occupies Greece or the culture changes, the Parthenon is affected. For example, the Nazis used it for munitions storage during World War II. Today, the Parthenon is one of Athens’ most recognizable features. It also represents how much Greece has withstood. Like the Parthenon, the Greek people will stand tall, no matter what happens.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston