The Parthenon was built in 447 BC and was used as the Temple of Athena, the Greek goddess who was the protector of Athens. Work on the Parthenon continued until 431 BC. The Parthenon is considered to be the most important surviving building of Classical Greece. The sculptures are a high point in the Greek art. The Greek Ministry of Culture is working on selective restoration of the building to make sure it will not decay and erode any further. While we were there, the restoration work was very visible. Old, rusty steel clamps and dowels used to hold the marble blocks together (from the last restoration project) are being removed and replaced with titanium for a longer lasting solution. New, bright white marble is being cut to precise size and fitted carefully with the old pieces of the building. I took some pictures and video of the work going on. You can even see the stone being cut to fit one piece at a time. It’s amazing how much work it takes to reconstruct such a massive building. The finished project will be an amazing sight to see.
The Parthenon reportedly had a giant ivory and gold statue of Athena inside. It was a Christian church in the 6th century AD, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Later, the Ottoman Turks conquered Athens and the Parthenon was converted to a mosque in the 1460’s. At that time, there was a minaret built in it. In 1687, an ammunition dump inside the building was exploded by a Venetian bombardment. The explosion did severe damage to the Parthenon and to its sculptures.
In 1806, a man named Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures with the permission of the Ottoman Turks. These are the sculptures that are known today as the Elgin marbles (or the Parthenon marbles). They were sold to the British Museum in London in 1816, and are on display there now. The Greek government has been trying to get the Elgin marbles returned to Greece, but so far haven’t been able to arrange it.
We walked from our hotel in the Plaka district toward the Acropolis on a drizzly aftenoon in Athens. The streets were quiet and we followed the signs until an entrance gate came into view. At that point, the Acropolis was way above us and we wondered what kind of a climb to the top we were up against. It turned out that the hike to the top wasn’t too bad and before we knew it, we were at the Propylaia (the gate leading from the worldly side to the sacred precincts of the Acropolis).
Walking through the Propylaia, we got our first look at the Parthenon. It was huge and seemed much larger than I thought it would be. I was shaking with excitement as I got out my camera to take pictures. I was standing before one of the greatest buildings in the world! What an exciting moment to finally be there! We walked slowly around the building, snapping pictures of everything we could. There was a fence around the building, so it was not possible to go closer and look inside. There is a lot of construction going on and it would not be safe. The sound of workers sawing marble was persistent and bright white pieces of new marble were visible as was moved around the building. There were cranes in use and some scaffolding. Finally, there were workmen on top of the building setting new pieces of marble in place and also replacing repaired pieces of the building. I like the fact that they are doing this work and I hope to return someday when the restoration work is done.
There is so much to see and we look forward to being allowed to go inside the Parthenon some day. For now, the walk through the Propylaia will have to suffice.
What were the WOW moments you experienced?
The Parthenon is incredibly important to history and to be able walk around the building and take it all in was a great experience. We were awed by the Acropolis being lit up at night and we want to return to Athens in the future to visit the Parthenon again.
Greece, Athens, The Parthenon