The Parthenon Temple

The Parthenon Temple

The Parthenon is the universal symbol of the ancient Greek civilization and is internationally recognized as the epitome of its glory. By the decision of Pericles, who was in charge of the whole project, the sculptor Phidias and the architects Iktinos and Kallikratis, the temple was built during 447 – 438 B.C., and was decorated between 438 and 432 B.C..

It was dedicated to the Virgin (Parthena) Athena. It was erected first, before all the other new buildings that were scheduled to be built on the Acropolis, since it was meant to be the most magnificent of all.

The temple, built almost entirely with marble (from Mount Pentelic) on the grounds of four previous temples, is of Doric order, a pavilion with 8 pillars on its narrow sides and 17 on the longer ones. In order to eliminate unwanted results and achieve visual perfection, the architects utilized various techniques and optical illusions. All of the architectonic plans based their proportions on the mathematic pattern y=2x+1, with y being the biggest and x the smallest dimension. The columns are slightly bulged in the center to give the impression of being straight and their upward extensions are intersecting. Also, the stairs had a slight arch in the center to appear flat from a distance and the base was taller in the middle than in the edges.

The Parthenon had a double role, to house in its interior – in the east part of the nave – the 12 meter high golden ivory statue of Athena (work of Phidias), and to serve – in the west part of the nave - as treasure house of the taxes of Dilos. The sculptured decoration combines excellently the 92 Doric metopes and the triglyphs of the 159,5 meters lonian frieze. The west metope depicts the Athenians to be led by Theseus to the battle with the Amazons. The southern depicts the battle of the Kentavros and the northern scenes from the Trojan war, while the metopes of the east side portray the battle of the Giants.


The frieze portrays the biggest religious feast of the ancient Athenians, the Panathenian procession. The frieze surrounded the temple and depicted forms of gods, animals and about 360 human forms. The two pediments of the temple portray scenes from mythology: above the main entrance of the temple, eastwards, the birth of Athena and westwards the clash between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of Attica land.

The Parthenon followed the overall course of Acropolis through the centuries and was used as a Byzantine, Latin and Muslim church, to be significantly damaged in 1867 by an explosion of the stored gunpowder after bombardment. The destruction was completed during 1801-1803 when the British ambassador in Constantinople, Elgin, removed from the monument the largest part of the sculptures decorated (friezes, pediments), transported them to England and in 1816 sold them for 35,000 pounds to the British Museum, constituting one of the most important collections of the museum.