The Parthenon

parthenon tourThe Largest and most important building of the Acropolis and the supreme achievement of the ancient Greek architecture. So much has been written about the Parthenon from travelers, poets, writers and Greek loving visitors. The Parthenon was built between 447 And 438 BC by the architects Iktinos and Kallicrates. The sculpture Phidias, Pericles' personal friend, had the general supervision of the project. The Parthenon was constructed with marble from mountain Penteli.

The white marbles that we see today in the Acropolis were not white during antiquity. Monuments and statues were colored, but unfortunately the evidence that survived through the centuries is not enough for us to reconstruct the Acropolis in colour with precision!

Parthenon is a Doric temple, with a lot of Ionic elements, having 8 columns on the eastern side and as many on the western side one and as many on the western one and 17 columns on its long sides. The roof was made of wood. We can easily discern the two pediments, which were decorated with scenes from the birth of Athena (Eastern) and the quarrel between Athena and Poseidon (Western). The Best - preserved pieces from the pediments are today at the British Museum. The metopes were 92 and something unheard of in Greek temple, they were all decorated with bas-relief representations as follows:

• The Gigantomachy on the eastern side
• The Fall of Troy on the northern
• The Amazonomachy on the western
• The Centauromachy on the southern

With the term "Parthenon marbles" we mean the sculpted decoration of the temple, the work of Phidias from the period 447-432 BC. It consists of three categories of sculptures: The metopes the frieze and the pediments. Today, of the 115 plaques of the frieze only 94 are preserved, 36 of which are in Athens, 56 at the British Museum and one at the Louvre Museum. From the 92 metopes, there have been identified 57 and fragments of the rest. 40 are in Athens and 15 in London. In addition, there are 17 statues from the pediments and one Caryatid at the British Museum. The Parthenon marbles have been, as a result, divided between Athens and London. With the term "Elgin marbles" we mean the marbles that are today at the British Museum. Their name comes from Lord Elgin, or to be more precise Thomas Bruce, seventh count of Elgin, who removed the marbles from the temple destroying the monument in the process. The count was the ambassador of Great Britain in Constantinople in 1799. Influenced by the admiration for Greek antiquities prevalent in Europe during that period, Elgin wanted to bring his compatriots into contact with the Parthenon marbles. In the beginning he asked permission from the Turkish authorities to make a drawing of the marbles and and in 1801 permission to remove some of them. The Turkish authorities granted him permission and Elgin had brutally removed the marbles by 1812. According to testimonies by contemporaries, the destruction brought about to the monument by Elgin despaired a Turkish official who happened to be there. Elgin's machinery broke and shattered many antiquities in order to facilitate their transportation. The marbles were transferred to England by a warship, where they remained for two years in boxes, damaged by moisture, while Elgin sought out a buyer. Finally in 1816 the marbles were bought by the British Museum, which created a special hall to exhibit them. Many British people have stated, already since 1940, that the marbles should return to Greece.

The Greek government has asked for the return of the Parthenon marbles so that they will become part of a unified exhibit hosted at the new Acropolis Museum. Perhaps there would be no better epilogue than the words of Philip Sassoon, member of the parliament and Elgin's compatriot, who wrote in 1928 that "The magnificent ruins of the Parthenon and the bright atmosphere of Athens form a better site for the most harmonious sculptures of the world than the British Museum".

 

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