While everyone knows the Parthenon and the Acropolis, there are interesting facts about this ancient temple that might surprise you! Have a look at these amazing Facts About Parthenon below!
The great Pericles, a 5th-century BC Pericles, directs the construction of a new Parthenon temple. Fine white marble from Penteli is being excavated and transported to the Acropolis at the top, more than 10km away.
It is impossible to summarize why the Parthenon continues to captivate us today. It is a symbol of the ideals of ancient Greeks, and it’s worth visiting. Let’s discover some interesting and surprising facts about it.
A short history of the Parthenon
First, let’s look at some historical facts about the Parthenon before getting to the amazing facts. Its architectural design features many unique and original elements. Kallikrates and Iktinos, two ancient Greek architects, designed the temple. Pheidias, a famous sculptor, was responsible for the entire temple’s construction, including the sculptural decoration, the ivory Athena statue, and the entire construction schedule.
In 1896-1900, the first attempts to preserve and restore the Parthenon was made. The second restoration was completed in 1922-1933. You won’t be disappointed if you see some of the temples’ brilliant marbles hidden behind scaffolds when you visit the Acropolis hill. Maintenance and restoration work on the monument is almost always ongoing.
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Facts About Parthenon
Fact #1: Before this temple, there was another Parthenon
Built on top of the former Athena temple, the Parthenon was constructed. A new temple was constructed in the 6th century BC. It is decorated with sculptures, which are displayed at the Acropolis Museum. A marbled temple was built around the existing one after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
However, it was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. This is the location where we see the Parthenon today. Constructions began in 447 BC. They were completed in nine years, a record time for this period. The decoration work began in 438 BC and was completed in 432 BC.
Fact #2: The Parthenon was used as a temple by various religions
Parthenon has dedicated to Goddess Athena and got its name from one of her many qualities: being a Virgen Goddess, in Greek “Parthenos”; thus Parthenon! It was built to serve her and the ancient religion, the Greek Pantheon. The Olympian Gods worshiped the Virgin Athena until the 5th century AD. The temple was converted into a Cristian temple dedicated to Hagia Sophia and then to the Virgin Mary.
This was when Christianity was growing, and the new religion sought to conquer the old gods. The new religion was built symbolically on the ruins of the ancient temples. Even though the fate of this temple was uncertain, it did not lose its religious status. It was converted to a mosque during Ottoman rule. It is now an open museum that welcomes everyone, regardless of religion or country.
Fact #3: The Parthenon used to be quite colorful
All data available to historians and archaeologists show that the Parthenon didn’t have the white color that we see today. It was instead painted with bright colors. The systematic excavation of ancient Greek sites brought to light a multitude of sculptures. Some of them had visible traces or colorful surfaces. At the time, Johann Joachim Winckelmann and other leading art historians rejected the theory of colorful Greek sculpture.
They considered them eccentric and unorthodox. Vinzenz Brinkmann, a German archaeologist, proved that colorful Greek sculptures could be created using scientific methods. Brinkmann proved that all the Parthenon sculptures could be painted using ultraviolet light, high-intensity light bulbs, and specially designed cameras. This is amazing!
Tip: Now, you can tour Acropolis and view it interactively using 3D reconstructions and virtual reality.
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Fact #4: A large part of the Parthenon was destroyed
One interesting fact about Parthenon is its vulnerability to attack multiple times over its long existence. Some of these attacks were extremely destructive and caused today’s extensive damage. In 267 AD, the Parthenon was destroyed by the Heruli (a group possibly of Scandinavian descent), who invaded Athens and set it ablaze.
The original roof and the entire interior colonnade were destroyed. The powder storage room Ali Aga had built on the site was shot at and destroyed most of the temple’s east side in 1687 AD. The Acropolis was liberated during the Greek Revolution of 1821. However, it would be under siege by the army led by Kioutachis Pasha. Further damage to the temple would follow. Despite its loss of some of its original finesse, the Parthenon still stands majestically and evocative.
Fact #5: The Parthenon can withstand earthquakes
It may not be easy to believe that this magnificent temple built on very seismogenic terrain can last for more than two millennia. It has been revealed that the secret to keeping the Parthenon standing tall, despite all the earthquakes over the years, is the secret of the Parthenon’s strength. The structure is unsupported, but it has three levels of anti-seismic protection. This is contrary to modern civil engineering theories.
It doesn’t even need a foundation, and it is still triple seismically insulated. The triple insulation can be found in several parts of the building. The Parthenon steps are located on layers of extremely smooth, horizontally arranged marbles. The second can be seen in the elastic metal joints connecting the plates of each layer. In the middle of these iron, piles are small iron piles that have been poured with lead. Lead has the property to protect the iron from rust, weaken with its elasticity, absorb any wave, and have a portion of its kinetic energy converted into heat. The third is found in the columns of this building.
They were not placed in one piece because the ancient Greeks knew that they had been placed in pieces of marble to withstand vibrations from the earth. As Mrs. Timotheou pointed out, this triple-insulating formula resulted in one layer of marble slabs being moved on top of another by surface seismic waves. The joints also released the kinetic energy created by the eclipse. Finally, the columns were placed to allow the entire building to oscillate without collapsing.
Fact #6: Where did the name Parthenon come from?
In ancient Greek, the word “Parthenos,” which means “virgin,” meant “Parthenos.” Two goddesses were named “Virgin” in the Greek Pantheon with the epithet. They were Artemis, the goddess who hunted and wild nature, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare strategy. It is possible to assume that the Parthenon’s name came from the Virgin Goddess epithet since the temple was dedicated to Athena’s goddess.
However, it has been suggested that the temple’s name may be derived from the sacrifices of the virgins who provided security for the city. In their lost treatise about Athenian architecture, Kallikratis and Iktinos called the building “Hekatompedos.” The building was also referred to in the 4th Century as “Hekatompedos” and “Hekatompedon,” along with “Parthenon.”
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Fact #7: Through its marbles, the Parthenon tells stories about Athenian life
The Parthenon’s sculptural decoration is a masterpiece in the history and art of world art. It is divided into three sections: the metopes are rectangular slabs with relief scenes at the exterior of the arcade; the frieze is located at the top of the walls of the nave from the entablatures in the inner columns, and the pediments were decorated with all-sculpted sculptures.
Fact #8: A huge statue of Athena was kept on the Parthenon
Parthenon, named after Athena, the patroness and protector of the city, was constructed to accommodate her enormous ivory statue. The statue of Athena was placed on a pedestal within the temple’s nave. The core of the statue was also made from wood. Pheidias used ivory to cover the naked body parts and gold for the garments and hair, weighing 1,140 kilograms. Goddess Athena was dressed in full armor and looked to the east, holding the goddess of victory Nike in her right hand and her shield and spear in her left. It was 13 meters tall and equal in height to Pericles’ Athens.
Like most Pheidias’ masterpieces, Athena Parthenos was a masterpiece. She wore an Attic helmet with mythical animals and a Doric veil. Inside her shield was her sacred serpent. As in the temple at the Parthenon, representations of the gigantomachy and centauromachy were found throughout the creation. It was only possible to see by the Athenians during festivities. A fire likely destroyed it in the temple in the 3rd Century AD.
Fact #9: Unique architecture at the temple
Another interesting aspect of the Parthenon’s architecture is also related. It is believed that the temple’s exterior dimensions are a perfect rectangle of golden color. This mathematical analogy, known as the sacred geometry’, suggests that it was constructed with great precision. The temple’s strongest feature is its optical illusions. Its columns are concealed inwardly sealed to provide a better view from a lower point of view.
However, this temple can effectively eliminate rainwater and has the necessary seismic reinforcement due to its thin production curve. Another innovation is also part of this architectural wonder. The Doric temples featured six columns on the narrow sides and 14 on the long. This was as it was usual. The Parthenon has eight columns for the narrow sides and 17 for the long. If the normal diameter and distance between columns were kept constant, the larger number of columns could create an aesthetic problem. This is why the columns became thinner and denser. Each column is 10.43m high and has an average diameter of 1.91m.
It consists of 11 vertical parts. To avoid problems caused by the dense columns and the epistle at the narrow ends, we found the following solution: The distance between the first and second column ends is smaller than the distance between the second end of each column. Although the column is thinner towards its top, this thinning occurs differently. A bulge known as tension is visible at about 1/3 of the column’s height. It gives the impression that the body is a living organism that “suffers” due to the weight it lifts.
Fact #10: Parthenon marbles were taken
The history of the Parthenon, and other monuments to Greece, was markedly darker at the beginning of the 19th Century. Greece was then under Ottoman control. Thomas Bruce, also known by Lord Elgin as the British ambassador to Athens, immediately focused his attention on the Acropolis. At that time, it wasn’t easy to reach the Parthenon and Acropolis, so it took six months for Elgin’s team’s permission to enter.
However, the group put up the scaffolding. Rumors say that the Turkish governor lifted the entry permit shortly after and ordered them to descend from Acropolis. Elgin used his influence on the Sultan to lift the ban and allow entry once again. On July 6, 1801, Elgin returned to Athens with the friendly, informal letter, the so-called ‘Firman at Kaimmecam Pasha,’ a Turkish official replacing the Grand Vizier of Constantinople.