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Parthenon

The Parthenon is a mid-5th century temple built to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos ("Athena the Virgin"). It stands on the hill of the Acropolis at Athens. The white marble temple is rectangular in shape with a colonnade of fluted, baseless columns with square capitals. It was originally decorated with white marble sculptures that have been removed over the centuries. From the top step of the three-step base the building measures about 30 meters (101 feet) by 70 meters (228 feet).

Work on the Parthenon began in 447 BC under the direction of Athenian statesman Pericles. Architects Ictinus and Callicrates supervised sculptor Phidias. The building and the colossal gold and ivory sculpture of Athena made by Phidias were both completed and dedicated in 438 BC. The architecture is an excellent example of the Doric order, the simplest of the three Greek architectural styles. The columns (8 on the east and west and 17 on the north and south) surround the cella (inner chamber) and support the roof structure called the entablature. The entablature consists of a plain architrave (band of stone), a frieze and a low triangular pediment. One of the Parthenon’s number of architectural refinements is the thickening of the four corner columns that counteract the effect of them being viewed against the sky.

Some of the decorative sculpture on the temple remains. The carvings represent Greeks and centaurs, Greeks and Amazons, citizens honoring Athena, priests and priestesses of Athena, and Athena’s birth and contest with the sea-god Poseidon. In its time the temple was decorated with color and bronze accessories.

Over the centuries the Parthenon has seen some structural changes and been used for various purposes. During the 5th century AD, Phidias’ statue of Athena was removed for the temple’s use as a christian church. After the Turks seized the Acropolis in 1458, it was used as a mosque. Architectural changes include alterations to the inner portion and the raising of a minaret at the southwest corner. During the battle between the Venetians and the Turks, the center of the building was destroyed. The sculpture, in large part, was removed from 1801-1803, under Turkish permission, and sold in 1816, to the British Museum in London. Additional Parthenon sculptures can be found in the Louvre Museum in Paris, in Copenhagen, in Athens and other museums.



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