On the Parthenon (2)

Acropolis_5 It is due to the fact that the Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena that it has sometimes been referred to as the Temple of Minerva, i.e. the Roman counterpart for Athena, particularly during the Romanticism.

The real use of the Parthenon was not that of a temple proper but of a treasury, in which the riches, offerings and gold of the Delian League were stored (even Thucydides reported Pericles’ words talking about the statue as a gold reserve that was easily removable) The Parthenon never hosted the cult of Athena Polias, yet the colossal statute of the goddess, which was bathed in the sea and to which was presented the peplos, was an olivewood xoanon, located at an older altar on the northern side of the Acropolis. After all it was normal to use the ancient Greek temples as store houses to keep treasures got in war against hostile peoples.

As been previously mentioned, in mid-5th century BC, when the Acropolis became the seat of the Delian League and Athens was the true representative of what democracy and politics of its time were, Pericles was the mastermind behind a far-reaching building project that would last the entire second half of the century. The most important buildings visible on the Acropolis today — the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike— were erected during this period.

Being the architects Ictinos and Callicrates the engineering heads in the construction of the Parthenon, the general supervision work was put in Phidias’ hands, a famous, talented, and skilled sculptor who took the responsibility to create the greatest sculptures that were to awe the whole world. Though works began in 447 BC, and the building was substantially completed by 432, but work on the decorations continued until at least 431.  A great amount of the budget would be dedicated to pay for the costs of purchasing and moving the pentelic marble from its original site at Mt Pentelicus, 16 km from Athens, to the building site in the Acropolis.

The Parthenon survived as a temple dedicated to Athena for nearly one thousand years until Theodosius II decreed in 435 AD that all pagan temples in the Byzantine Empire be closed.

On the rest of the history of the Parthenon, we will be looking at it through different aspects and posts.


Author: Jesús L. Vieites

Welcome to my blog! If you are viewing this is because, perhaps, you share the same interest in this issue as I do. Though trained as a teacher (I taught both English and Spanish in the UK) my main concern nowadays is to find any suitable job (either in Spain or abroad) Private classes alone will not suffice and I’ve got to make ends meet. I promise to keep writing in this blog regularly, time and circumstances permitting! Jesús L. Vieites

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