Often considered one of the most important symbols of the Ancient Greek world and the democracy of Athens, the Parthenon has dominated the Athenian skyline for more than 2000 years. Originally serving as a temple to a prominent Greek goddess, the building took around a decade to construct, beginning in 447 B.C.
The Ancient Athenians viewed the Parthenon as a symbolization of their victory over the invading Persians. Today, it continues to wow visitors from all over the world, even though it’s a shell of what it once was. Keep reading to find out 10 fascinating facts about the Parthenon.
The Parthenon is a symbol of Ancient Greece, originally created to be a temple to the pagan goddess Athena. Yet, throughout history, it has actually served a role in various other religions, including Christianity and Islam.
The temple was transformed into a Christian church when Athens fell under Byzantine rule. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Then, in the 15th century, when the Ottoman Turks took control of Greece, the church was converted into a mosque and had its own minaret. According to The Vintage News, the Ottomans turned it into a mosque to punish the Athenians.
Dating back to 432 B.C., the Parthenon is one of the finest examples of preserved ancient architecture. Few people realize that before the Parthenon we know was erected, there was a Pre-Parthenon, sometimes called an Older Parthenon, standing in its place. The current temple replaced an older temple of Athena.
List 25 points out that archeologists have discovered remains on the Acropolis dating back to 2800 B.C. The people who settled on the Athenian hill originally belonged to a Neolithic society that existed long before the Minoans and Mycenaeans.
According to Primary Facts, the exact location of the Parthenon was carefully plotted to align with the beliefs of Greek mythology. The temple actually aligns with a cluster of stars known as the Hyades, which were well-known in the ancient belief system.
The Hyades of Greek legend were the five daughters of a Titan named Atlas. Zeus punished Atlas by forcing him to hold up the weight of the heavens on his shoulders for the rest of eternity because Atlas led the Titans into battle against the gods of Olympus.
When it comes to ancient buildings, we tend to imagine them built using lavish materials like marble. While the columns, pediments, and entablature of the Parthenon were created using expensive solid marble, the original roof of the building is thought to have been made of wood.
Hexapolis explains that it is likely the only way that the construction would have worked. If the roof had been made of marble, there would have been too much pressure on the columns. It is likely that the building would have collapsed if this were the case.
Those who have visited the Parthenon in Athens would know that there are carvings still visible on the ruins. Like many things in the ancient world, the Parthenon was designed to tell a story. Nuventure Travels reveals that each side of the Parthenon contains hand-carved statues depicting scenes that were familiar in Ancient Greek culture.
The carvings tell the story of the battle between the gods of Olympus and the giants. They also show depictions of people with mythological creatures called centaurs, as well as the birth of Athena.
Athena is the main star of the Parthenon because the temple was originally dedicated to her, as was the Older Parthenon that stood before the current one. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and played a major role in Homer’s Odyssey as a helper to the protagonist Odysseus. During the Trojan War, Athena supported the cause of the Greeks over the Trojans.
The name Parthenon comes from the name Athena Parthenos, which translates to Athena the Virgin. Athena was said to be the favorite daughter of Zeus and never married.
The Parthenon is commonly referred to as a temple, but it originally had many more purposes than that. According to Greeking.me, the Parthenon was also an art gallery and a treasury, owing to the fact that it housed an enormous statue of Athena that was crafted using melted gold. Citizens would often come to admire the statue, a replica of which exists today.
The statue was considered a backup plan in case of an emergency until the tyrannical leader Lachares took the gold from the statue to fund his expensive army.
When imagining the ancient world, we mostly picture buildings to have been white or grey because this is the color of ancient ruins that have disintegrated over time. But, like many other buildings from the ancient world, the Parthenon was probably colorful in its heyday.
Historians believe that the colors have worn away over time, and the pollution in Athens today is causing the ruins to wither away at an even greater rate. Another building that some historians believe was once colorful, at least on the inside, is the Colosseum in Rome.
The Parthenon has been able to withstand many things throughout the 2,000+ years that it has been standing. It was majorly damaged in 1687 when the Venetians fired on the structure with gunpowder. A large portion of the building was destroyed in the battle, which left the Parthenon burning.
This attack destroyed the roof as well as several columns and many of the sculptures attached to the panels. It was around this time that the Ottomans captured the city and constructed a smaller mosque inside the original Parthenon.
The Greeks may not have constructed the Parthenon to withstand gunpowder, but they did build it to be resistant to earthquakes. List 25 explains that the Parthenon has “a very fine parabolic upward curvature that allows the monument to decisively shed rainwater while also reinforcing it against earthquakes.”
Greece is often rattled by earthquakes and small tremors, some of which have been documented throughout history. One of the most famous occurred in 1999 in Athens. It was definitely necessary to keep this in mind when designing the Parthenon!