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How the Ancient Greeks Designed the Parthenon to Impress—And Last

July 16, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

This icon of classical architecture perched atop the Acropolis has dominated the Athens skyline for 2,500 years—thanks to advanced engineering.

Few monuments in the world are more recognizable than the in Athens showcases some of the finest examples of Greek architecture.

View the 11 images of this gallery on the original article

An Interrupted Construction

The Acropolis was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age, when the Mycenaeans built a large walled compound there to house one of their leaders. In 490 B.C., the Athenians began building a large temple to Athena on the site, but they were still working on it when Persian forces sacked Athens a decade later, destroying the temple-in-progress along with nearly every other structure in the Acropolis

In 447 B.C., after Athens led a coalition of Greek city-states to victory over the Persians, the great Athenian general and statesman Pericles ordered new construction at the citadel to begin.

“Athens under Pericles wanted to promote itself as the greatest of Greek cities,” says Jeffrey Hurwit, a professor emeritus of art history and classics at the University of Oregon and author of The Athenian Acropolis. Over some 50 years, the Periclean building program produced not only the large temple to Athena Parthenos (“Athena the Virgin,” in Greek), but the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis, as well as two smaller temples, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.

“There were several different Athenas who were worshipped on the Acropolis,” Hurwit explains. “The Erechtheion is really the last temple to Athena Polyas, or Athena the guardian of the city. The Temple of Athena Nike is devoted to Athena in her role as a warrior goddess who defended Athens. It’s still the same goddess, but she was worshipped in different ways and in different guises.”

The Gloriously Deviant Parthenon

Construction of the Parthenon began in 447 B.C. Its design is credited to two architects, Ictinus and Callicrates, as well as the sculptor Phidias. Ancient and modern observers alike have marveled at the sophisticated techniques used to construct the temple, which mixed the Doric and Ionic styles of classical Greek architecture to stunning effect.

View and plan of the Parthenon.

Though the Parthenon looks perfectly straight and symmetrical, in fact it is subtly curved, beginning at the foundation and running up through the steps, colonnade and even the roof. Rather than a settling of the blocks …read more

Source: HISTORY

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