Above: A view of a corner of the Parthenon. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Clark van der Beken. License: Unsplash license.
Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
Parthenon | topography of Athens | Erechtheum | Olympieum | Propylaea | Callicrates | Ictinus | Pericles | Phidias | Athena | Poseidon | Panathenaea | architectural orders | marble | quarries | Pentelicon | Amazons | Centaurs | Giants | nationalism
"Wry and imaginative, this gem of a book deconstructs the most famous building in Western history." –Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic. "In her brief but compendious volume [Beard] says that the more we find out about this mysterious structure, the less we know. Her book is especially valuable because it is up to date on the restoration the Parthenon has been undergoing since 1986." –Gary Wills, New York Review of Books. At once an entrancing cultural history and a congenial guide for tourists, armchair travelers, and amateur archaeologists alike, this book conducts readers through the storied past and towering presence of the most famous building in the world. In the revised version of her classic study, Mary Beard now includes the story of the long-awaited new museum opened in 2009 to display the sculptures from the building that still remain in Greece, as well as the controversies that have surrounded it, and asks whether it makes a difference to the "Elgin Marble debate."
In this revolutionary book, Connelly challenges our most basic assumptions about the Parthenon and the ancient Athenians. Beginning with the natural environment and its rich mythic associations, she re-creates the development of the Acropolis—the Sacred Rock at the heart of the city-state—from its prehistoric origins to its Periklean glory days as a constellation of temples among which the Parthenon stood supreme. In particular, she probes the Parthenon’s legendary frieze: the 525-foot-long relief sculpture that originally encircled the upper reaches before it was partially destroyed by Venetian cannon fire (in the seventeenth century) and most of what remained was shipped off to Britain (in the nineteenth century) among the Elgin marbles. The frieze’s vast enigmatic procession—a dazzling pageant of cavalrymen and elders, musicians and maidens—has for more than two hundred years been thought to represent a scene of annual civic celebration in the birthplace of democracy. But thanks to a once-lost play by Euripides, Connelly has uncovered a long-buried meaning, a story of human sacrifice set during the city’s mythic founding. In a society startlingly preoccupied with cult ritual, this story was at the core of what it meant to be Athenian. Connelly reveals a world that beggars our popular notions of Athens as a city of staid philosophers, rationalists, and rhetoricians, a world in which our modern secular conception of democracy would have been simply incomprehensible. The Parthenon’s full significance has been obscured until now owing in no small part, Connelly argues, to the frieze’s dismemberment. And so her investigation concludes with a call to reunite the pieces, in order that what is perhaps the greatest single work of art surviving from antiquity may be viewed more nearly as its makers intended.
The name of Pheidias and the renown of his sculptural masterpieces have resonated through the centuries. Pheidias’s works were endlessly copied by the Romans and his name was used to denote excellence well beyond Antiquity. His statue of Zeus at Olympia was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the Athena Parthenos has linked his name forever with the Parthenon and its sculptures. And yet there is no firm proof that any surviving original is by his hand. What can we know about Pheidias and his work? This book attempts to answer this question by presenting both the archaeological and the written evidence for the output of this remarkable artist. It assembles and assesses all the available material in order to provide insights into Pheidias’s contribution to the development of Greek sculpture. Full and illustrated discussions of the works associated with Pheidias are accompanied by catalogues of each statue type discussed. In addition, the relevant ancient sources are quoted, translated and commented upon.
The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion
The Parthenon and the Erechtheion, two of the best-known monuments of ancient Athens, were once filled with countless priceless treasures, from furniture and musical instruments to jewelry of gold, silver, and bronze. This unique volume presents for the first time the only evidence we have for this massive collection of ancient objets d'art--the annually inscribed inventories by Athenian officials. The author provides the first ever translations of these inscriptions, and comes to some important and exciting conclusions about the life and religion of ancient Athens.
A view of one corner of the Parthenon. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Vasilios Muselimis. License: Unsplash license.
The Parthenon Marbles (formerly known as the Elgin Marbles), designed and executed by Pheidias to adorn the Parthenon, are perhaps the greatest of all classical sculptures. In 1801, Lord Elgin, then ambassador to the Turkish government, had chunks of the frieze sawn off and shipped to England, where they were subsequently seized by Parliament and sold to the British Museum to help pay off his debts. This scandal, exacerbated by the inept handling of the sculptures by their self-appointed guardians, remains unresolved to this day. In his fierce, eloquent account of a shameful piece of British imperial history, Christopher Hitchens makes the moral, artistic, legal and political case for re-unifying the Parthenon frieze in Athens. The opening of the New Acropolis Museum emphatically trumps the British Museum’s long-standing (if always questionable) objection that there is nowhere in Athens to house the Parthenon Marbles. With contributions by Nadine Gordimer and Professor Charalambos Bouras, The Parthenon Marbles will surely end all arguments about where these great treasures belong, and help bring a two-centuries-old disgrace to a just conclusion.
Byzantine Athens was not a city without a history, as is commonly believed, but an important center about which much can now be said. Providing a wealth of new evidence, Professor Kaldellis argues that the Parthenon became a major site of Christian pilgrimage after its conversion into a church. Paradoxically, it was more important as a church than it had been as a temple: the Byzantine period was its true age of glory. He examines the idiosyncratic fusion of pagan and Christian culture that took place in Athens, where an attempt was made to replicate the classical past in Christian terms, affecting rhetoric, monuments, and miracles. He also re-evaluates the reception of ancient ruins in Byzantine Greece and presents for the first time a form of pilgrimage that was directed not toward icons, Holy Lands, or holy men but toward a monument embodying a permanent cultural tension and religious dialectic.
This volume offers an overview of the Parthenon from antiquity to the modern era. Recent discoveries, such as the marble sculpture fragments found during the current restoration work on the Acropolis, or a vase excavated in Northern Greece whose decoration echoes a lost pedimental composition, have forced scholars to reconsider many aspects of one of the most important monuments of classical antiquity. Bringing together essays on various aspects of this world-renowned temple, this book examines the dramatic setting of the temple and its impact on modern architects such as Le Corbusier; new reconstructions and interpretations of Pheidias’ vast sculptural program; in-depth analysis of architectural refinements; the techniques employed in making the colossal gold-and-ivory cult statue; and a consideration of the Christian and Muslim phases of the Parthenon’s history. Collectively, they enhance our understanding of one of the icons of Western art.
Aerial view of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Miltiades Fragkidis. License: Unsplash license.
The Pediments of the Parthenon
An introduction and interim report on the statues of the pediments of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, carved in the 5th century B.C. Describes and illustrates the individual statues in each pediment, incorporating technical, stylistic, and iconographic remarks. Reviews the discussions of the problems by archaeologists since about 1953, and presents new proposals by Palagia (classical archaeology, U. of Athens) for restorations. Includes many original photographs and drawings. The first English-language treatment of the subject, and the first in any language since 1963.
The Real Life of the Parthenon
Ownership battles over the marbles removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin have been rumbling into invective, pleading, and counterclaims for two centuries. The emotional temperature around them is high, and steering across the vast past to safe anchor in a brilliant heritage is tricky. The stories around antiquities become distorted by the pull of ownership, and it is these stories that urge Patricia Vigderman into her own exploration of their inspiring legacy in this compelling extended essay. Vigderman’s own journey began at the Parthenon, but curiosity edged her further onto the sea between antiquity and the present. She set out to seek the broken temples and amphorae, the mysterious smiles of archaic sculpture, and the finely hammered gold of a funeral wreath among the jumbled streets of modern Athens, the fertile fields of Sicily, the mozzarella buffalo of Paestum. Guided along the way toward the enduring landscapes and fractured history by archeologists, classicists, historians, and artists—and by the desire they inspire—she was caught by ongoing, contemporary local life among the ruins. Gathering present meaning and resonance for the once and future remains of vanished glory, this book illuminates an important but shadowy element of our common cultural life: the living dynamic between loss and delight.