Petit Futé's opinion on PARTHENON
The present Parthenon is located on the site of an older temple, called the "Old Parthenon", built in 490 BC and destroyed by the Persians in 480-479 BC. It was only under Pericles, in 447 BC, that work for the construction of a new temple dedicated to the goddess was undertaken. Completed in 432 BC, the work was supervised by one of the greatest Greek sculptors of all time: Phidias, Pericles' friend. The temple is in Doric style with some ionic elements. It is made of pentelic marble and consists of a secos (dwelling place of God) and a western room. The temple has 8 columns on the facade and 17 columns on the long sides. The secos is 30 m long, but its originality comes from the fact that it is incredibly wide for the time.
Worship was generally performed in the open air. The reason for this exceptional size comes from the fact that the secos was to house a colossal gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena, the work of the sculptor Phidias. At the foot of the statue was a basin that provided the humidity necessary for the proper conservation of ivory. Still inside the temple, another room separated from the secos by a transverse wall and decorated with four ionic columns; it served as a treasure room.
The Parthenon has some architectural originalities used by the builders to give it the grandiose aspect it has today. The horizontal surfaces of the temple are not flat but convex, the columns are thinner upwards and the corner columns have a slightly larger diameter than the others. All this to correct the natural deformations of the human eye and thus give the building all its majesty!
The outer Doric frieze had no less than 92 metopes, all carved. In the east was represented a gigantomachy, i. e. a battle between the gods of Olympus and the giants. In the west, there was an amazonomy, i. e. a battle between the Greeks and the Amazons. In the south were depicted fights against centaurs and in the north scenes of the Trojan War. Some metopes are still in place, others are on display at the Louvre, the British Museum or the Acropolis Museum.
The Parthenon was also decorated with two pediments (east and west) which represented, on the west, the dispute between Poseidon and Athena for possession of Attica and, on the east, the birth of Athena. But the most famous carved piece of the Parthenon is certainly its inner frieze, the work of Phidias. Over a length of 160 m, it represented the most famous religious event in Greece at that time: the Great Panathenes. These celebrations, which lasted a week, included musical and athletic competitions, their high point being of course the great procession that followed the Sacred Way from the Ceramics to the great wooden statue of Athena Polias of the Erechtheion in order to give her a new péplos (tunic). The presentation of the peplos was followed by the sacrifice of about a hundred animals and a feast in which all citizens took part. The frieze of Phidias represents 360 characters and a crowd of animals all heading east where the ceremony took place.
With the exception of a few plaques, most of the frieze is scattered between the British Museum, the Louvre and the Acropolis Museum.
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