GREECE - A Hystorical Country



Parthenon is a monument that was built in Greece. It is located in Acropolis of Athena, Athens. Parthenon is a religious building that was built when the prohibition's act was annulled by Pericles in 449 B.C (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.159). The material that was used to build Parthenon is Pentelic marble (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.171). It was officially the temple of Athena Polias, but was distinguished from the other temple of this cult by the name Hecatompedon (Hundred-Foot Temple) inherited from its predecessors, the name Parthenon being extended a century later from the west room to the whole. Ictinus and Callicrates were the architectures who create this beautiful building from 447 to 438 B.C (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.159). The sculptors were continued to be built until the eve of Peloponnesian War in 432 B.C (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.160).

The site was the lofty platform already prepared on the south side of Acropolis of the Older Parthenon, a site which not only made it the principal crowning feature of the Acropolis as seen from south and west, but on the Acropolis itself rendered it the most imposing structure there so that it was worthy of the various subtleties both in line and in proportion that it was to receive at the hands of Ictinus and Callicrates, and of enrichment by Phidias with the most beautiful sculpture that the world has seen (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.160). The Parthenon remained almost intact for more than 2100 years, apart from the loss of its original roof, the alteration of the interior colonnades, the construction of an apse in the pronaos and the piercing of three doorways in the middle of the cross-wall, during its transformation into a Byzantine church (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.160). Between 1208 and 1458, it served as the cathedral church of the Frankish dukes, and a marble campanile was built in the opisthodomus beside the west entrance. (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.160) After 1458 it became a Turkish mosque, the campanile being continued upward as a minaret (Dinsmoor, 1950, p.160).

Important Structures

The column construction is one of the most important features of the Parthenon. The column drums as delivered from the quarry to the temple site were in the form of roughly dressed disks, coarsely worked with the point and mallet, not only on the cylindrical exterior but also on the top and bottom beds. From four points on the circumference protruded large bosses, as much as 8 to 10 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches in projection, suggesting that they were hewn out of the corners of the square block within which the circular drum was inscribed.
Transportation from the Pentelic quarries must have been effected by wheeled carts, drawn by thirty or forty yoke of oxen, mentioned in the Heusinian inscriptions and responsible for the ruts still remaining in the quarries end of the roads. Only exceptionally huge drums, such as those of Selinus, were transported by the remarkable method of rolling along the ground in the manner described by Vitruvius.
The drums were prepared on the ground by dressing the lower bed within the an exact circle about one and a half inches outside the proposed final diameter, this circle being marked at the bottom of the face by a drafted margin about one and a half inches high; the rest of the circumference of the drum was then dressed back to the surface indicated by the drafted margin, at first by cutting vertical channels midway between the bosses, then by supplementary channels entergraming the bosses, and finally by dressing off the twelve intervening areas with a fine stippled surface from which only the four bosses protruded. On the lowest drum of a Doric column the flutes were finished for 2 or 3 inches to height, the rest being left in its rough cylindrical mantle. Then, with the addition of the special lower bed dressing described below, the drum was ready for hoisting and placing; the corresponding upper bed dressing was not executed until the next drum was ready to be set. Where the stylobate received the lowest drum of the column the surface was sunk to its proper depth (Fig. 1), and on this were traced the diameters marking the axis of the column and in many cases also a circle forming its circumference; the area within the latter was worked lightly over to give some hold to the lower surface of the drum.

Figure 1 shows Construction of Columns, showing centering pin

The bottom surface of the lowest drum of a marble Doric column of the Periclean age was not fastened to the stylobate, but at the upper joints the arrangement was different. There is a square sinking was made in the center of the upper and lower surface of each drum (Fig. 1), about 4 to 6 inches square and 3 to 4 inches deep, in which plugs (empolia) of cypress wood were fixed; at the exact center of the drum a round hole about 2 inches in diameter was made in each plug, so that a circular wooden pin, inserted in the hole in the plug at the top of a drum, would fit the corresponding hole at the bottom of the drum above, forming a simple method of centering the drums accurately one upon another. Between the center and the circumference, several concentric circles appear on the bed of the drum, the outermost ring being smoothly polished to form a joint that was practically invisible (Dinsmoor, 1950, p. 172).
The next zone was slightly roughened in order to give the drums better hold upon each other; a third zone was slightly depressed, with the object of reducing the amount of surface that was actually in contact (Dinsmoor, 1950, p. 172). Generally, there was an innermost zone, rising again to the level of the joint, immediately round the wooden plug mentioned above. There are from ten to twelve of these drums in each column of the Parthenon. None of the drum joints was truly horizontal, all being perpendicular to the inclined axis of the column (Fig. 2) (Dinsmoor, 1950, p. 172).

Figure 2 shows Inclination of Doric Columns, Exaggerated

But on the lowest drums, in consequence of the curve of the stylobate, the side toward the corner of the building had to be carried down a fraction lower than on the side toward the central axis of the building. Likewise, both account on the curvature and because of the inward inclination of the column axis, the outer face had to be carried down considerably lower than the back (toward the cella wall). Similar difficulties were experienced with the uppermost drums, because of the necessity of presenting for the bed of the capital a plane parallel to the soffit of the architrave. The necking of the capital was also fluted to correspond to the bottom of the shaft, and the echinus was perfectly finished; but on the abacus was sometimes left unworked corners to protect them. These processes, in which painstaking care bestowed upon the erection of the columns was complicated by the rising curves of the stylobate and entablature and by the inward inclinations of the column axes, all entailed a mathematical precision which is almost incredible.

There are many metopes and friezes that can be found on the Parthenon structure. The diversity of quality and style are most clearly seen in the metopes. However, most of the metopes have been destroyed; those that have survived are mainly from series depicting Lapiths and centaurs in battle (Biers, 1987, p. 226). Other groups included Greeks against Amazons, gods versus giants, and the sack of Troy. In the two metopes shown in Figure 3 and Figure 4, the differences in composition and style can be clearly seen. The inclusion of long bodied centaurs allowed the artist various imaginative possibilities in filling the available square space (Biers, 1987, p. 226). The linear treatment of the Lapith's chest muscles reminds one of the Severe style where it is generally held that the weaker metopes were the works of times.

Figure 3 and Figure 4 show Metope 31 (Lapith and Centaur) and Metope 27 (Lapith and Centaur)

The Parthenon's frieze (Fig. 5) is probably one of the most debated portions of the Parthenon's sculptural decoration. Beginning at the west end, a procession moves along both the north and south sides of the building to the east front, where a ritual appears to be taking place (Biers, 1987, p. 226). Most scholars agree that the procession on the frieze relates to the Panathenaic procession, the most important ceremony of Athens, in which a new peplos was solemnly carried up to the Acropolis in Periclean times to drape the old olive-wood statue of Athena in a building on the site later occupied by the Erechtheion (Biers, 1987, p. 226). Whether the procession that is shown in the Parthenon frieze represents a specific occasion or is intended to be a general, idealized representation of all such processions, the people taking part in it are unmistakably citizens of Athens. The representation of human activity, no matter how solemn and idealized, on a religious building instead of a mythological scene is unparalleled in Greek art up to this time, and must surely reflect the attitude of Pericles and his circle; no doubt it was seen as arrogance and sacrilege by many others.

The subject of west pediment is the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the land of Attica. The two gods are shown springing apart a moment after Athena has produced the miracle of her olive tree to win the contest (Fig. 6). The pediment space was filled in a relatively crowded and conventional way, with horses and crouching, sitting, and reclining spectators (Biers, 1987, p. 228).

Figure 6 shows West Pediment, with story of the contest between Athena and Poseidon

More of the east pediment is preserved, although the central figures disappeared long ago when the building was turned into a Christian church. The subject is the birth of Athena, but without the central sculpture, we cannot be certain how it was shown. Figure 7 represents a reconstruction of this pediment. Figure 8 shows the remaining figures that are left on the east pediment. All of these figures react variously. At the right, or north side of the pediment, three female figures are seated facing outward, the one closest to the center looking back, just hearing of the event (Biers, 1987, p. 229). To the left or south, a running figure communicates the news to a seated female figure, who raises her arms in excitement. Each end of the pediment is occupied by a reclining figure, back to the center, who has not yet heard news and is intent on watching the new day yawn, or precisely the departure of the chariot of the night at the north end and the arrival of the chariot sun of the south corner (Biers, 1987, p. 230). The chariot of the sun actually rises up out of the floor of the pediment. At the opposite corner the head of one of the horses of the moon goddess has been preserved, as has her torso, sinking through the floor (Biers, 1987, p. 231).. The sculptor has not only solved the pediment problem but gone beyond it to create the illusion of the rising sun and the setting moon, at the same time setting a framework around his dramatic composition (Biers, 1987, p. 232).

Figure 7 shows the Parthenon east pediment restored by E. Berger

Figure 8 shows the Parthenon east pediment restored by J. Six


ARTH 209 of SUNY Oneonto. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2008, from Parthenon - A Gallery of Images:

Biers, W. (1987). Archaelogy of Greece. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

Dinsmoor, W. (1950). The Architecture of Ancient Greece. London: Norton.