After the Delphic Oracle pronounced that it should be the domain of the gods only, its function became strictly religious.
And so, during the years of 5th century BC, a wealthy and powerful Athens built the temples that are visible today as part of a public works program instigated by Pericles, the Athenian military and political leader.
A MONUMENTAL SITE
Entry to the Acropolis is through the Propylaea, a monumental gateway of the Doric order begun in the year 437 BC but never completed. On a nearby spur is the delightful small Ionic temple of Athene Nike.
Beyond this, close to the Parthenon, is the Erechtheion, also Ionic and innovative in terms of design and architecture and is famous for its elegant Porch of the Caryatids. (A caryatid is a column in the form of a young woman)
Supreme, however, is the Parthenon, the temple built in the years 447-431 BC and dedicated to the city’s guardian goddess, Athene.
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This building replaced an earlier one that burned to the ground when the Persians looted Athens in 480 BC. The new Parthenon was designed by Ictinus (one of the finest architects of his time) and Callicrates, and overseen by the sculptor Pheidias.
Superbly constructed in Pentellic marble and granite using the Doric order (the most austere and disciplined of the classical orders), it achieves that quintessentially classical Greek sense of harmony—the effect could well have been quite different when painted in its original gold, red, and blue.
The temple also has sonic wonderful refinements developed to correct various optical distortions that might otherwise have marred this perfection. straight columns look concave, so the columns of the Parthenon gently bulge outward in order to appear straight; as well, the outer column lean inward by 2 1/3 inches(6cm) to counteract the illusion of falling outward.
The Parthenon was lavishly decorated with beautiful naturalistic friezes and sculptures, worked in marble by the sculptor Pheidias. The Panathenaic procession on the frieze depicted the four-yearly religious procession of the time.
People would enter the city walls, cross the Agora below the Acropolis, and climb slowly until they reached the Parthenon’s east front.
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There, sacrifices were offered in the open: worshipers were not permitted to enter the temple or the walled area where Pheidia’s huge cult statue of Athene Parthenos stood, covered in ivory and gold plate and decked out in bracelets, rings, and necklaces.
The Parthenon remained virtually unaltered for more than 2,000 years, despite being converted into a church and, during the Turkish occupation, a mosque. The Erechtheion -was used as a harem.
But in 1687, a shell from Venetian forces besieging the city hit a Turkish powder magazine stored inside. The explosion tore the Parthenon apart and destroyed much of the frieze. Despite reconstruction efforts, the damage is still evident.
In 1799-1802 the British Lord Elgin removed a great many of the remaining marble carvings and statues, Which were thought to be in danger of further destruction. He sold them to the British Museum, where they remain on display today.