The Parthenon – Maxima inspiration
It is regarded as the finest example of Greek architecture and enjoys the reputation of being the most perfect temple ever built. Every single piece of this temple is indeed unique and perfect in a specific position, for this reason the restoration works are endless (a careful process of restoration has been carried out for 30 years and it will last for another 30 years) making it clear how difficult it is to assemble, dismantle and reassemble this building.
Why the Parthenon was built? The main goal was to celebrate the glory and predominance of Athens all over the world. The temple was on the Athenian Acropolis and it was Pericles initiated this ambitious building project that generated such a daring building. Many artists took part to the construction, that was dedicated to the goddess Athena.
The Parthenon was built under the general supervision of the architect, Ictinos, the engineer Callicrates and the artist Phidias, who also had charge of the sculptural decoration. The final result is an amazing perspective: the Parthenon is regarded as the finest example of Greek architecture and enjoys the reputation of being the most perfect Doric temple ever built.
Its construction began in 447 b.C. and thousands of tons of marbles have been used. The dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 69.54 metres by 30.87 metres. There are eight columns at either end (“octostyle”) and seventeen on the sides. On the exterior, the Doric columns measure 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in diameter and are 10.4 metres (34.1 ft) high. The corner columns are slightly larger in diameter. The three steps of the base consisted of two steps of Poros limestone, the same as the foundations, and a top step of Karrha limestone that was covered by the lowest step of the Periclean Parthenon. This platform was smaller and slightly to the north of the final Parthenon, indicating that it was built for a wholly different building, now wholly covered over.
A huge masterpiece and even now almost inexplicable, was the transport of stones from Mount Pentelicus, about 16 kilometers from Athens, to the Acropolis. How could it be possible? Not considering the expenses, the Athenians were skilled in the use of the simple machines required to move massive amounts of marble: pulleys, levers, and inclined planes. Quarrymen and stonemasons used iron and wooden tools to hammer and wedge out blocks of marble. Each piece was cut according to the architect’s specifications. The heavy marble blocks were carefully brought down from the mountain quarries on sleds, using roads that can still be seen today. Blocks were then transported to Athens in ox-drawn carts. Larger pieces were carried on carts with wheels as large 4 meters in diameter and pulled by as many as 30 teams of oxen. The trip to the Acropolis could take up to two days. The marble was then carried up the slopes of the Acropolis on wagons pulled by mules. It has a slight parabolic upward curvature intended to shed rainwater and reinforce the building against earthquakes.
In 1687, the Parthenon was extensively damaged in the greatest catastrophe of its long history. The Venetians sent an expedition to attack Athens and capture the Acropolis. The internal structures were demolished, whatever was left of the roof collapsed, and some of the pillars, particularly on the southern side, were decapitated. The sculptures suffered heavily. Many fell to the ground and their pieces were later made souvenirs for Europeans. In 1801, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, the Earl of Elgin, obtained a questionable edict from the Sultan, which existence or legitimacy has not been proved until today, to make casts and drawings of the antiquities on the Acropolis, to demolish recent buildings if this was necessary to view the antiquities, and to remove sculptures from them. 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. The Greek government has been committed to the return of the sculptures to Greece.
But the most important thing is that after 2,500 years of war, pollution, erratic conservation, pillage and vandalism the Parthenon is still there, dominating the landscape and admired all over the world.