We will not try to say something new about Parthenon. We will try instead to focus on its basic features that made this temple the iconic symbol that it is. We will put an effort to illuminate its most important dimensions, from history and architecture to ideology, philosophy and politics, ending with its current value both as a global symbol of human ability to know and understand and as an eternal symbol of beauty and harmony.
The name Parthenon comes from the goddess Athena, who is the goddess protector of the city of Athens. The temple was dedicated to ‘Athena-Parthenos’, which can be translated as ‘Athena the Virgin’.
Parthenon predominates in the whole area of Acropolis, but is one of the newest buildings within it. Pericles gave the order to begin the erection of the temple at 447 B.C and the temple was completed fifteen years later at 432 B.C, which is a miracle by itself!
In terms of architecture, Parthenon is a rectangular temple of the Doric order, which is the simplest order of the three main orders.The other two are the Ionian and the Corinthian. It is made of pentelic marble. Its main architectural features are harmony, balance, solidity and the ability to embrace the bright and powerful sunlight of the Athenian sky.
Parthenon’s architecture is characterized by simplicity, frugality and rigidity. Whenever we look at it, we recognize immediately its powerful but yet simple form.
Parthenon encapsulates without effort the ultimate cosmic order with the absolute beauty. Universe’s mystery along with human capacity for exploring this mystery coexist in the austere lines of Parthenon’s details. Eight columns at the façade with seventeen columns at the flanks establish a ratio of 9:4. This is the ‘golden’ ratio, which governs every single aspect of the temple.
Pericles spent more than 469 silver talents to built it. This was the 70% of the annual Athenian gross incomeat Pericles’ times.
Inside the temple was the notorious Pheidias’ golden and ivory statue of Athena. At the back of the temple was the place where the money from the Athenian alliance were kept. In a way then, money, as a social power, coexist with cosmic order and the human need for beauty.
What characterizes Parthenon is complexity masked as simplicity. From the complexity of its architectural features to its multidimensional cosmological, ideological and political nuances, Parthenon is eternally calling us to measure our mind and our soul according to its demands.
Pericles’s vision for democracy, the Athenian cultural climax and ‘logos’ created an eternal symbol for humanity. We still fight to find our ‘golden’ ratio in our societies and in our souls. Parthenon will never stop to inspire us!