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Parthenon

Parthenon Temple
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<Location> Acropolis, Athens, Attica, Greece.

The temple dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena ("parthenos" means maiden). Originally it hosted the chryselephantine statue of Athena made by Pheidias and treasures, not to mention various work of art dedicated to the goddess.

It was Perikles who promoted the renovation of the Acropolis and the temple of Athens, devastated by the Persian sack of 480 BCE. The construction of the temple started in 447, and was dedicated in 438, although the work continued until 432. The architects were Iktinos and Kallikrates.

This is not the first temple of Athena in the Acropolis. Sometime between 1000 BC and 8th century BC, when Athens' rule was passing from the king to the aristocrats, a temple dedicated to Athena was built. It housed then wooden statue of the goddess believed to be fallen from the sky. This is the statue used for the procession of Panathenaic festival.
At the beginning of the sixth century, a bigger temple made of poros stone replaced the old temple. In the later half of the same century, under the rule of Peisistratids the temple was redecorated with marble. This temple was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC, and later reconstructed. When it suffered damage by fire in 406, the wooden cult statue of Athena was moved to the temple of Athena Polias constituting a part of the Erechtheion. We don't know what happened to the old temple later.
The direct predecessor to the Parthenon was the temple started after the victory of Marathon. Pentelikon marble was used as building material. The building, however, was destroyed by the Persians before the completion in 480 BCE. Many of the sculptures now housed in the Acropolis Museum were those buried under the soil after the Persian sack. According to a legend the reason why the Athenians did not rebuilt the temple right away was that at the battle of Plataia they vowed not to rebuild the temples destroyed by the Persians; the credibility is, however, uncertain.

The reconstruction of Parthenon by Pheidias was started in 447BC and it took about 15 years to complete. Pheidias was in charge of the general direction and sculptures, while the design was assigned to architects Iktinos and Kallikrates. It is Doric style temple, but has 17 columns at each side, instead of usual 13; the temple had to be long to be able to house two cellae. The both fronts have 8 columns. The hight of the columns outside is 10.43 metres, which correspond exactly to those of the Zeus's temple in Olympia. It cannot be coincidental. Inside the temple four Ionian columns are used.

In late antiquity, the chryselephantine statue of Athena and the statue of Athena Promachos, situated somewhere between the Propylaia and the Parthenon, both works of Pheidias, disappeared. It is said that both were transported to Constantinople, and later destroyed, the first was by fire, and the later by the Crusaders of 1204. Some say that the chryselephantine one was destroyed by the Heruli in 267.

In the fifth or sixth century the Parthenon was converted to Christian church being dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and during the Latin domination it was rededicated to Our Lady as Catholic church. During the Ottoman period it was used as a mosque, and a minaret was added.

In 1686, Venice, Rome, Austria and Poland declared war against the Ottoman Empire, and the next year the army led by Francesco Morosini attacked Athens. The Ottomans, sieged in the Acropolis, were using the Parthenon as ammunition storehouse. The temple was blown up by Morosini, and continued to burn for two days. It is considered to have given the worst damage to the Parthenon in the history.

Later the Ottomans reconstructed a mosque inside the Parthenon; the damage to the temple was such that it was not possible to use the building itself as mosque. This mosque was demolished after the independence of Greece.

See the other photos of the Parthenon.

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