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The Parthenon

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 10 (2478 words)
Categories: Ancient Greece,History,Period
Downloads: 1
Views: 150

Introduction

            According to this worldview, moral living requires that we reproduce the order given in the world and learn in live by it. The Greek Parthenon is a symbol of the classicist worldview[1]. It represents a world standing in well-balanced proportions. The Greek goddess Athena became the Roman goddess Minerva. Worship continued at the Parthenon in the historical times[2]. The study involves the discussion about the Greek Parthenon in regards to the historical perspective, artist involved, its significance to Greek civilization, architecture, astronomical orientations, and the reason for building.

Discussion

Brief History

            The Greeks used three orders of architecture in their temple building:

Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These orders are used to this day and are eastly recognized in the modem world, where they appear on the facades of buildings to suggest power and status, both private and public. They are most easily recognized in their elevations wherein it is the columns’ capitals that provide the most obvious index of difference.

Corinthian made its debut in the PeIoponnese at the temples of Apollo at Bassae and of Athena at Tegea, for example[3]. Its spread was hesitant, but its popularity increased during the Hellenistic period until, for Roman builders and patrons, it became the order of choice[4].

The architects of the were lktinos and Kallikrates, and the temple, for all its architectural refinements and sculptural decoration, as built prickly between 447 and 432 BC[5]. In fact, construction was faster than even that suggests, since the building and the great statue of Athena Parthenos was dedicated in 438. All that remained was for the pedimental figures to be carved and hoisted into place. The planning of the building was driven by concern for proportion[6]. The preoccupation with the achievement of the most harmonious proportions had governed Greek temple building from its earliest years[7].

Architecture, Astrology and Significance

            Greek architecture also shows knowledge of the theories of proportion so significant in architectural design. The Parthenon at Athens, usually considered the most perfect of Greek temples, is planned with its two interior spaces each of the Golden 1:1, 618 ratio[8]. Its front elevation fits into a rectangle of the same golden proportion, while the column spacing makes it possible to discover a series of connected harmonious relationships. The Parthenon also displays many of the more subtle departures from strict regularly refinements[9], that are characteristic of the most successful Greek temples[10].

In addition, the horizontal lines of the stylobate base platforms are found to be bent upward in a slight curvature, columns lean slightly inward, and the lines of the entablature are curved[11]. Athenian architects were well aware that from a distance the eye would perceive perfectly straight columns as thin in the middle and appearing to fall outward, and a perfectly horizontal foundation would appear to droop toward the center[12]. Consequently they took pains to create optical illusions by subtle swelling (entasis) of the midportion of the columns, by tilting the columns toward the interior lest they seem to be falling outward, and by curving the middle of the floor and steps upward as though a wind were blowing under a rug[13].

            Little damage was done over the centuries by seismic activity, military operations or weather. However, a fire in the second century is destroyed or damaged much of the interior, including the interior colonnade, the ceiling and the cult statue. The temple was restored, with a new statue modeled on the original, m 165—160 BC, probably by King Antiochus of Syria, in whose eyes the Parthenon was evidently a monument of more than local significance[14].

            Some time in the fifth century AD, probably in the reign of Theodosius II (408—450), the Parthenon was closed by order of the government in Constantinople, Produs, the head of the Academy and one of the last great Neo-Platonist philosophers, lamented that he could no longer enter the temple to pray[15]. Shortly afterwards it was converted, like many other pagan temples, into a Christian church, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom[16]. This involved considerable adaptation. An apse was built in the east end, incorporating two of the prostyle columns and blocking the entrance to the celia[17]. The building could now be entered only through the opisthodomos, which served as the narthex or porch of the church.

Three doorways were cut through the wall between the opisthodomos and the celia. In this way, the orientation of the building was reversed to accord with Christian usage. The floor was raised at the east end to form a chancel, upon which was set an altar surmounted by a bakiachino supported by four porphyry columns[18]. Round the inside of the apse ran a semicircular synthronon or raised bench for the clergy, with a marble throne for the bishop in the middle (perhaps that now in the storeroom of the Acropolis Museum)[19]. Whether there ever was a women’s gallery is uncertain[20]. There are faint traces of painting on parts of the walls.

However, virtually nothing is known of the early Christian decoration, which in any case may have been removed or plastered over during the prevalence of iconoclasm in the eighth and early ninth centuries[21]. After this historical episode, the Parthenon continued in use as a Christian church for a thousand years. During this long period, minor modifications and repairs were carried out. Some burials took place within or immediately adjacent to the building, probably in the early period of Christian use.

            In the Parthenon, the ratio of 9:4 controlled both plan (e.g. length: breadth) and elevation. The eight columns of the peristyle (colonnade) on the front and back and the seventeen columns (1×1) on the flank show that the usual formula for the number of columns on the flank of a Doric temple was applied[22]. Though it is considered the preeminent Doric temple, the Parthenon did in fact incorporate unusual features[23]. Space was allowed both for an extra Large celia to accommodate the gigantic statue of Athena, and for a rectangular chamber where Athena’s treasure could be kept[24]. Another unusual feature was the inward angling of all the columns, still another the upward curvature of the sty1obste, the masonry course on which the columns rested: These were optical refinements calculated to allow the human eye to see lines that curve or slope as straight.

The result is that no4’here in the building is there a true right angle[25]. Yet another unusual feature is the placement of a continuous Ionic sculpted frieze: This encircles the exterior of the celia, the back chamber, and the two porches at a height that rendered it almost invisible. All was marble, precisely carved and fitted together[26]. Metopes showing victories of the world olorder and civilization over that of disorder and barbarism decorate the four exterior sides of the temple[27]. The pediments at front and back depict earth-shattenng events in the myth-history of Athens: the birth foramen at the east, and at the west the argument between Athena and Poseidon over who is to be the tutelary deity of Athens[28]. However, the frieze is the most astonishing sculptural feature of the building and has engaged most controversy[29].

The central figure of the five is a woman, often identified as the priestess of Athena, with young women on one side of her and on the other a male figure, perhaps the Royal Archon, who receives a folded garment from a girl. This is the famous “pepios incident,” which many think shows the presentation of the new peplos woven for Athena to wear. All of the west side and much of the north and south are taken up with the cavalcade, equestrians sometimes as many as seven abreast. Chariots, charioteers, warriors, marshals, musicians, elders, attendants, offering bearers, and sacrificial animals make up the complement of figures at north and south[30].

            On the east side, women move forward from either end and encounter male officials. Next, either side of the central peplos incident, are the Olympian gods, seared, watching, chatting away and apparently ignoring the central scene. The scene on the east side (the peplos incident) is to be seen instead as an episode in the sacrifice of a daughter of Erechtheus, a legendary early king of Athens[31].

The episode in the myth-history of Athens to which this refers is Erechtheus’ reaction to the oracle decreeing that he must sacrifice a virgin daughter if Athens was to be saved from the invasion of his rival, Eumolpos. What is thought in one interpretation then to be the peplos for Athena is in this interpretation the shroud for the sacrificial daughter[32]. The male figure is Erechtheus, the central female is his wife, Praxithea, the first priestess of Athena, and the two other young women are other daughters of Erechteus[33]. This interpretation has the distinct advantage of providing a mythological reading, but it has problems and has not yet been greeted with great enthusiasm[34].

Conclusion

            The Parthenon is the culmination of Greek architecture.’ The subtle refinements, which exploit the distortions of human vision, have only recently been fully observed and understood. It is also the culmination of Greek sculpture, far surpassing in both the quality and the quantity of its decoration any other building of the classical age. Building and sculpture were conceived and executed as part of a common plan. The importance of the Parthenon as a Panhellenic and not merely as an Athenian monument was recognized by Alexander the Great, who after his victory over the Persians by the river Granicus had twenty Persian shields suspended as votive offerings beneath the pediments of the temple.

Bibliography

Neils, J. Worshipping Athena: Panathenaia and Parthenon (Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1996) p.312

Harris, D. The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion (Oxford University Press, 1995) p.163

Pomeroy, S.B. Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 1995) p.88

Rostovtzeff, M. A History of the Ancient World: The Orient and Greece (Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1996) p.183

Starr, C.G. A History of the Ancient World (Oxford University Press, 1991) p.231

Janson, H. and Janson A.F., History of Art: The Western Tradition (Prentice Hall, 2004) p.244

Samons, J.L. Empire of the Owl: Athenian Imperial Finance (Franz Steiner Verlaq, 2000) p.211

Moffett, M. et.al., A World History of Architecture (Laurence King Publishing, 2003) p.334

Hitchens, C. The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece? (Verso Publishing, 1998) p.121

Pedley, J.G. Sanctuaries and the Sacred in the Ancient Greek World (Cambridge University Press, 2005) p.244

[1] Neils, J. Worshipping Athena: Panathenaia and Parthenon (Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1996) p.312

[2] Harris, D. The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion (Oxford University Press, 1995) p.163

[3] Pomeroy, S.B. Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 1995) p.88

[4] The practice of mixing the orders that is, having one order on the exterior and another on the interior, in a single building began during the sixth century. This is an idea that some commentators think began in the Greek West but culminated, of course, in the Parthenon at Athens (Neils, p.314)

[5] Changes over time in the proportions of columns of the Doric order offer a case in point. These columns evolved from squarness to slimness in the course of the sixth century, their height described in terms of a multiple of the lower diameter. So, in the mid-sixth century Temple of Apollo at Corinth, the height of the front columns is expressed as 4.15 times the lower diameter, sturdy indeed; whereas at Aegina in the Temple of Aphaia at the end of the century, the ratio is 5.33 times the lower diameter, much slimmer (Pomeroy, 89-90)

[6] Harris, p.164

[7] Rostovtzeff, M. A History of the Ancient World: The Orient and Greece (Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1996) p.183

[8] Starr, C.G. A History of the Ancient World (Oxford University Press, 1991) p.231

[9] Corner of columns are spaced closer to their neighbors than the regular spacing based on the governing module. The geometric mean of interaxial distances on the Parthenon equals 4,300 m; stylobate and paving blocks have a mean length of 1,433m, or just one-third the interaxial (Neils, p.314)

[10] Rostovtzeff, p.184

[11] Janson, H. and Janson A.F., History of Art: The Western Tradition (Prentice Hall, 2004) p.244

[12] Samons, J.L. Empire of the Owl: Athenian Imperial Finance (Franz Steiner Verlaq, 2000) p.211

[13] These slight shifts from total regularly serve to correct the optical or perspective distortions that can make straight lines seem to curve or vertical to lean. They also introduce an aesthetic quality to the buildings that might be called humane in its delicate shifting forms away from a strictly mechanical precision, blend of Doric and Ionic elements. The rectangular structure with a ratio of eight columns on the front and back ends to seventeen on the sides was aesthetically pleasing (Ibid, 213-214)

[14] Janson and Janson, p.246

[15] Three centuries Later Plutarch found in the sculptures both an aura of antiquity and the immediacy and freshness of youth, while for Pausanias, around 100 AD, the Parthenon was one of the ‘sights’ of Athens. In 362 — 363 the emperor, Julian undertook extensive repairs as part of his campaign to reestablish pagan religion in an ever more Christian world. He had spent some tune in Athens as a student, and knew and loved the city and its venerable monuments (Samons, p.212)

[16] Ibid, p.213

[17] Pomeroy, p.88

[18] Harris, p.172

[19] The roof, which may have been in poor repair, was raised along the central axis of the building, and clerestory windows were set between the new and the old roof sections to provide internal illumination. The occasional, apparently deliberate, defacement of sculptured figures was probably the work of over-zealous Christians at this time; but there was no systematic defacement. The interior of the new church may well have been decorated with mosaics and/or paintings, either directly on the marble of the walls or in fresco on a layer of plaster (Janson and Janson, p.248)

[20] Samons, p.214

[21] Harris, p.174

[22] Moffett, M. et.al., A World History of Architecture (Laurence King Publishing, 2003) p.334

[23] Moreover, the planners cleverly incorporated an early naiskos (small temple) and its circular altar in the north peristyle. Almost everywhere in the temple, the Doric order was used – in the peristyle, in the columns of the porches front and back, in the interior colonnade around the statue of Athena. There was one exception: In the back chamber where the treasure was kept, the Ionic order was introduced (Pomeroy, p.91).

[24] Ibid, 338

[25] Hitchens, C. The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece? (Verso Publishing, 1998) p.121

[26] Moffett, p.334

[27] Hitchens, p.124

[28] Janson and Janson, p.251

[29] Hitchens, p.123

[30] Moffett, p.334

[31] Pedley, J.G. Sanctuaries and the Sacred in the Ancient Greek World (Cambridge University Press, 2005) p.244

[32] Ibid, p. 211

[33] Pedley, p.247

[34] Hitchens, p.123

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The Parthenon. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-parthenon-essay

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