The Parthenon - Acropolis, Greece
The Parthenon is a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western civilization, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.
The Parthenon itself replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon, that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. The temple is archaeoastronomically aligned to the Hyades. While a sacred building dedicated to the city's patron goddess, the Parthenon was actually used primarily as a treasury. For a time, it served as the treasury of the Delian League, which later became the Athenian Empire. In the final decade of the sixth century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. On 26 September 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. In 1806, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures with the alleged permission of the Ottoman Empire. These sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles, were sold in 1816 to the British Museum in London, where they are now displayed. Since 1983 (on the initiative of Culture Minister Melina Mercouri), the Greek government has been committed to the return of the sculptures to Greece.
The origin of the Parthenon's name is from the Greek word παρθενών (parthenon), which referred to the "unmarried women's apartments" in a house and in the Parthenon's case seems to have been used at first only for a particular room of the temple; it is debated which room this is and how the room acquired its name.
Although the Parthenon is architecturally a temple and is usually called so, it is not really one in the conventional sense of the word. A small shrine has been excavated within the building, on the site of an older sanctuary probably dedicated to Athena as a way to get closer to the goddess, but the Parthenon never hosted the cult of Athena Polias, patron of Athens: the cult image, which was bathed in the sea and to which was presented the peplos, was an olivewood xoanon, located at an older altar on the northern side of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon is a peripteral octastyle Doric temple with Ionic architectural features. It stands on a platform or stylobate of three steps. In common with other Greek temples, it is of post and lintel construction and is surrounded by columns ("peripteral") carrying an entablature. There are eight columns at either end ("octastyle") and seventeen on the sides. There is a double row of columns at either end. The colonnade surrounds an inner masonry structure, the cella, which is divided into two compartments. At either end of the building the gable is finished with a triangular pediment originally filled with sculpture. The columns are of the Doric order, with simple capitals, fluted shafts and no bases. Above the architrave of the entablature is a frieze of carved pictorial panels (metopes), separated by formal architectural triglyphs, typical of the Doric order. Around the cella and across the lintels of the inner columns runs a continuous sculptured frieze in low relief. This element of the architecture is Ionic in style rather than Doric.
Measured at the stylobate, the dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 69.5 by 30.9 metres (228 by 101 ft). The cella was 29.8 metres long by 19.2 metres wide (97.8 × 63.0 ft), with internal colonnades in two tiers, structurally necessary to support the roof. On the exterior, the Doric columns measure 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in diameter and are 10.4 metres (34 ft) high. The corner columns are slightly larger in diameter. The Parthenon had 46 outer columns and 23 inner columns in total, each column containing 20 flutes. (A flute is the concave shaft carved into the column form.) The stylobate has an upward curvature towards its centre of 60 millimetres (2.4 in) on the east and west ends, and of 110 millimetres (4.3 in) on the sides. The roof was covered with large overlapping marble tiles known as imbrices and tegulae.