The Parthenon is a magnificent marble temple constructed between 447 and 432 BC. during the golden age of the Greek Empire The Parthenon, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, stands high atop the Acropolis of Athens, a complex of temples. But did you know that the ruins were not naturally caused?
For over 2000 years, the Parthenon in Athens remained largely intact. The heavily damaged ruins we see today resulted from a massive explosion in 1687, not natural forces or the passage of time.
The Center of a Powerful State
The Parthenon was the center of religious life in Athens, the powerful Greek city-state that ruled the Delian League. The Delian League was a cooperative alliance of Greek city-states founded in 478 BC. to thwart the possibility of an attack by the Persian Empire or other foes. During the Persian Wars’ invasions
The celebrated Greek statesman Pericles designed and built the Parthenon as a temple for Athena, the goddess of wisdom, arts, literature, and war. Still, it may not have been the first attempt to house the deity.
On the site of the current Parthenon, an earlier structure known as the Older Parthenon or Pre-Parthenon once stood. Many historians believe the Older Parthenon was built around 480 BC. Although some experts dispute this theory when the Persian Empire attacked Athens and destroyed the Acropolis. (Source: History)
The Amazing Parthenon Sculptures
The structure was adorned with marble sculptures depicting scenes from Athenian cult and mythology. The architectural sculpture is classified into three types. Inside the colonnades, the frieze, carved in low relief, ran high up around all four sides of the building. The metopes, high relief carvings were placed at the same level as the frieze above the architrave surmounting the columns on the temple’s exterior. The triangular gables at each end were filled with pediment sculptures carved in the round.
Despite several changes, the structure remained largely intact until the seventeenth century. The early Christians converted the temple into a church and added an apse at the east end. The sculptures depicting Athena’s birth were most likely removed from the east pediment at this time, and many of the metopes were defaced.
The Parthenon served as a church until the Ottoman Turks conquered Athens in the fifteenth century when it was converted into a mosque. During the Venetian siege of the Acropolis in 1687, the defending Turks used the Parthenon as a storage facility for gunpowder ignited by the Venetian bombardment. The explosion blew out the building’s heart, destroying the roof, parts of the walls, and the colonnade.
The Venetians successfully captured the Acropolis, but only for a year. When the lifting tackle broke while attempting to remove sculptures from the west pediment, the sculptures fell and were smashed. Many of the sculptures destroyed in 1687 are now known only from drawings made in 1674 by an artist most likely identified as Jacques Carrey. (Source: History)
Image from Britannica