Parthenon temple in Athens, photo and description

Parthenon in Athens

Parthenon in Athens is a famous ancient Greek temple that is more than 2.5 thousand years old. It stands proudly on top of the Acropolis and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Creating the Parthenon, the Greeks dedicated it to their favorite goddess – Athena. So they thanked the mighty daughter of Zeus for patronizing the city and saving it during the Persian wars.

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Video: Parthenon in Athens

The road to the ancient temple

The Parthenon is located in the center of the capital, so it’s impossible to get lost. Tourists are guided by two heights: the Acropolis and the Lycavitos Hill. It is necessary to go to the station “Acropolis” and from here by a small street to go to the ticket office. The ticket office is open from 8:00 and from 8:30 on weekends and holidays. The ticket costs 12 euros and allows you to visit four other local museums. Experienced travelers advise arriving in the morning for three reasons: lack of crowd, quiet and cool. Near the ticket office, you can buy a bottle of water to escape the heat. Souvenirs are also for sale and there’s a wide variety of souvenirs to choose from.

Dionysiou Areopagitou walking street that leads to the Acropolis in Athens

Continue along the spacious pedestrian street Dionysiou Areopagitou. It goes straight ahead and there is no need to turn off: you will reach your goal by climbing up the mountain. First, tourists get to the Acropolis, an ancient architectural complex built on a high rocky hill. On the southern side of the “upper city” is the Parthenon.

The ancient landmark also has its own address: Dionysiou Areopagitou 15. It is not necessary to come to the Parthenon with a guide. Many people come on their own to enjoy the architectural wonder in a leisurely fashion. From the top of the hill it is worth admiring not only the Parthenon, but also the enchanting panorama of Athens.

The temple can be caught both in complete tranquility and surrounded by noisy merriment. During local festivals, a festival is held near the Parthenon: a procession in folk costumes, a parade, a fireworks display. In the quiet period the place is filled with serenity: you can sit down on one of the stones near the ancient masterpiece and dream. But move carefully: around very slippery boulders and slabs.

Some tourists try to grab a pebble from the Acropolis. Locals are well aware of this tradition and cunning – “ancient souvenirs” are regularly brought into the territory. But if a visitor tries to take a pebble from the building itself the price for such an “exploit” will be great: you will be fined a significant amount.

Parthenon towering over Athens

A gift for Athena

To experience the full power of the Parthenon you must travel back in your mind to 447 BC. On the foundations of the earlier sanctuary the temple began to be erected. The idea belonged to Pericles, the Athenian ruler and renowned military leader and reformer. The design and construction were undertaken by the famous masters Ictinus and Callicrates, the decoration was entrusted to the famous sculptor Phidias. The entire Hellenic people took part in the creation of the masterpiece. Materials such as snow-white marble, gold, ivory and cypress were brought from various parts of the country. Thousands of slaves were involved in its construction. The authorities kept the public informed about all the stages of construction. Fragments of marble plaques with financial reports have been preserved. You can see them in the museum.

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It was not until 438 B.C. that the temple was completed. Since Athens was in its highest period of prosperity, money was in short supply, so the decoration and furnishing of the masterpiece was most exquisite. In the center was installed a statue of the goddess, made of marble and ivory. For many years the Parthenon was at the center of social life of the Athenians – in the Acropolis global issues were resolved.

View of the Parthenon from the Propylaeum. 1821 Illustration of the Parthenon, published in 1688

Remains of luxury

During its lifetime, the Parthenon was a Greek temple, a treasury, a church, a mosque, and a fortress. The main hall was filled with streams of light entering through the doorway. Additional lighting was provided by lamps. Inside the building was divided into two parts. The western part held the treasury and the eastern part served as a temple – a sculpture of Athena was set up there.

Tourists cannot appreciate all the beauty of the Parthenon – the ancient structure was destroyed. It was transformed into both a Christian church and a mosque. Most of the sculptures were stolen. In 1687 a shell hit the building and the explosion blew away the roof and partially the colonnade. Left a “trace” in the history and the British Ambassador Lord Elgin, who visited here in the early XIX century. With the permission of the Turks, who occupied the place, he took away many sculptures. The local inhabitants had stolen the marble blocks.

Secrets of the Parthenon

The remains of the former beauty give an idea of the aesthetic perfection of the temple. The structure is located on three marble steps with a total height of about 1.5 meters. There are 8 pillars at the ends and 17 more at the sides, if the corners are counted twice. From any vantage point the structure is completely proportional. Despite its considerable size – 31×70 meters, the building is not overwhelming. The fact is that the landmark remains within human proportions.

Examining the Parthenon, pay attention to the visual perfection. Its creators, with substantial financial resources and capabilities, implemented various innovative solutions. One of the main is that from any of the three sides perfectly viewed facade of the building. An optical method was used: the columns were not installed in parallel, but slightly bent: angular ones to the center and main ones – from the center. The columns were given different shapes so that the central ones would look slender without being too thin. The outermost pillars were the most convex. This had the desired effect: All the lines of the building look straight.

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Take a closer look at the coloring of the Parthenon. The ancient temple was once bright: the roof was painted blue, red and gold. The main building material was Pentelian marble, which was mined near the Acropolis. It has an interesting property: under the influence of sunlight the material turns yellow. When the construction work was completed, the Parthenon was unevenly colored. But this only added to the perfection: on the northern side it was gray-petal, while on the southern side it shimmered with a delicate golden hue.

The Lost Statues

The Parthenon was decorated with a variety of sculptures and reliefs. There were about 50 sculptures on the pediments alone. The ancient Greeks admired the scene of the birth of Athena, depicting the dispute with Poseidon for power over Attica. The sculpture of Parthena Athena, carved by the famous master Phidias, was considered the most important. During the festivals, it was solemnly brought out into the street so that everyone could admire the masterpiece.

The main pride of the temple tourists can not see – 12-meter statue was lost more than 900 years ago. Late copies have come down to us, the original has been lost. Full-scale recreation of the ancient sculpture can be seen in Nashville, USA. There is also a full-size copy of the Parthenon itself, built for the international exhibition in 1897.

Most of the other sculptures have also been lost. A few surviving ones can be seen in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum in London. The corner elements of the “Birth of Athena” pediment, the statues of Helios and Selene are abroad. In their place were placed casts-copies made of cement and marble chips. Only a few authentic masterpieces remained: the two figures on the western pediment and the frieze on one of the walls.

A reconstructed copy of the Parthenon in Nashville

The Age of Archaeology and Restoration

Some tourists complain that the ancient temple gets in the way of viewing the crane. But for the Parthenon it is rather a blessing: until 1832 the building was abandoned, only after the independence of Greece have taken up the restoration. First the area was rid of the “barbaric presence” – the structures that had nothing to do with the Greeks were demolished. The Parthenon was restored according to descriptions left from ancient times.

The restoration process continues with varying success. Due to the works the tourists can see the northern colonnade – it was rebuilt in the early XX century. If possible, the pediment sculptures were restored. In the 50s the floor of the building was restored. The original statues were given to the museum and replaced with copies. Today, negotiations are being held with the British Museum in order to return the remains of the temple to the country.

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Although only the west wall remains of the central volume of the Parthenon, it is still considered the pride of Athens. The ancient temple towers over the city, giving a special grandeur to the capital. Be sure to take a look at it in the dark, when the lights come on.


Parthenon is one of the most perfect temples of ancient Greece and the main attraction of the capital Athens.

Parthenon temple is one of the symbols of Greece, monument of ancient architecture, located in the central part of the Athenian acropolis.

Parthenon is an ancient temple and the main symbol of Athens, the capital of Greece, and of the whole country. Parthenon together with other buildings of the Athenian acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to the patroness of the city, Athena the virgin, who is also considered the patroness of all Attica – the area around the city.

The Parthenon means “pure” or “maiden” in Ancient Greek. This epithet Athena was awarded for her virginity, which is one of the goddess’ most important qualities. From the cult of the maiden warrior Athena, it is believed that the Christian cult of the Virgin Mary later developed.

The temple is located in the center of the Acropolis, the upper city of Athens. The Acropolis of Athens is a hill in the center of the city, a rock 150 meters above sea level with a declining peak. The acropolis rises 300 m by 170 m in size and since prehistoric times has housed temples, palaces and sculptures.

Architecture of the Parthenon

Thanks to the advanced culture of the Athenian polis, history has preserved to this day the names of the people who built the temple. The marble tablets on which the city authorities wrote their decrees tell us who built the Parthenon. The author of the design was the architect Ictinus; the architect Kallikrates supervised the construction of the temple; the great sculptor Phidias executed the external decoration of the building and was the author of the sculptures decorating the pediments and the interior of the temple. Pericles, the great statesman and founding father of Athenian democracy, was the general director.

Parthenon is a classic ancient Greek temple, rectangular in its basis, surrounded on all sides by a colonnade of Doric order. The central facades have 8 columns on each side and 17 on each side, the Parthenon has a total of 50 columns.

The Parthenon is interesting first of all due to its unique architectural solution used in the construction of the temple. To avoid optical distortions the authors of the project had to resort to innovative architectural techniques: the columns were thickened in the central part, and the corners were inclined towards the center of the temple and had a slightly larger volume. During the construction of the temple the principle of the golden section was used. Thanks to the methods used by architects the impression of absolutely straight lines of the temple and its perfect appearance was created.

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The temple was built almost entirely of expensive Pentelian marble, and in the original decoration gold was widely used. The temple stands on three one and a half meter high steps, with the central western façade of the building cut down for the entrance. The total length of the building is 70 m, width – 31 m, height – 14 m.

Not all of the Parthenon’s treasures have survived to this day: lost forever to humanity is the 13-metre high statue of Athena Parthenos by the great sculptor Fidias, which once stood in the center of the Parthenon. Of the many sculptural groups representing scenes from the lives of ancient gods and decorating the pediments of the building only 11 survived, another 19 sculptures in the XIX century were barbarically cut down and exported to Britain, where they are now stored in the British Museum.

History of the Parthenon in Athens

The marble tablets on which the city authorities recorded their decrees and orders have preserved for us the exact date when the Parthenon was built. The construction began in 447 BC. It took 10 years to erect the temple, and then in 438 BC it was opened. The construction of the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena cost the city treasury 700 talents – more than 18 tons of silver.

In the 3rd century BC, Athens was invaded by the Heruli during which the Parthenon was sacked and the temple was set ablaze. The roof, ceilings and doors of the temple were damaged. During the restoration, the ancient builders did not seek to restore the Parthenon to its original form, so architectural distortions were made to it.

Parthenon was a pagan temple for about thousand years, but after the fall of the Roman Empire and the formation of the Byzantine Empire it was converted to a Christian church presumably in the 6th century AD During the stormy medieval history of the Balkans and Athens in particular the Parthenon was either a Catholic temple or returned to the control of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In the 15th century Athens and all of Greece were conquered by the Ottoman Turks, after which the Parthenon was turned into a mosque, and the Athenian acropolis housed a military garrison, a pasha’s palace and even a harem. A severe blow to the Parthenon was the Great Turkish War between the Christian states of Europe and the Ottoman Empire. During the storming of Athens by the Venetians in 1687, the Parthenon was destroyed. The acropolis was shelled with cannons, and the temple, which had a gunpowder warehouse, exploded.

The Venetians, who conquered the city, recorded the enormous damage caused to Parthenon by their own artillery. Three dozen columns were destroyed, the roof collapsed, some of the sculptures were destroyed, and the central section of the building collapsed. From this time the Parthenon was reduced to ruins and was never again used as a temple.

The Parthenon slowly deteriorated in the 18th century: the local inhabitants used the debris as building material and numerous European hunters of antiquities exported elements of the sculptures and finishes of the building to their countries. Completing the picture of the Parthenon’s destruction was the British ambassador to Turkey, Thomas Bruce, who in the early 19th century took more than 200 crates of sculptures, fragments of columns and other Parthenon artifacts to Great Britain.

In the end, it is impossible to give a definite answer to the question “Who destroyed the Parthenon?” The destruction of the great temple was the work of many people, from the Ottoman rulers of Greece and the inhabitants of Athens to connoisseurs of ancient art from Europe.

After Greece gained independence in the first half of the 19th century the acropolis was cleared of late constructions such as the minaret, the medieval palace and even sculptures from the Roman period. The reconstruction of the temple began in the XIX century, but it was interrupted by an earthquake in 1894, which further destroyed the building. The reconstruction of the Parthenon by Greek architects continued from the beginning of the 20th century until the middle of the century, after which the temple acquired its present appearance. Restoration and archaeological work, however, did not stop after that and continues to this day.

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What is it now

Nowadays, the Parthenon is the main attraction of Athens, one of the national shrines of Greece and a treasure for all mankind. The perfect appearance of the temple, though not fully preserved to this day, not only gives an idea of the cultural and technical achievements of ancient Greece, but is also a symbol of the possibilities of human genius. The Parthenon attracts millions of tourists every year to Athens and since 1987, together with the whole acropolis of Athens, it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Parthenon is located on the Athens acropolis in the center of the Greek capital. In order to get to the hill of the Upper City you need to get to the center of Athens. If you travel by surface metro in Athens, you need to get off at the Acropolis station of the red line of the Athens metro. There is also a large pedestrian street Dionisiou Areopagitou that leads to the hill with the temple on it.

Acropolis Tours

You can visit the acropolis territory on your own, for this you need to buy a ticket at the ticket office at the entrance to the archaeological monument.

Schedule of the Acropolis of Athens: 8:00 – 20:00, seven days a week.

Ticket price: 12 EUR, the ticket is valid for 4 days from the date of purchase.

When visiting the Acropolis it is strictly forbidden to touch the ancient buildings, including the columns.

Individual tour to the Acropolis and the main sights with a Russian speaking guide will cost 320 EUR. This excursion also includes a sightseeing tour of Athens. Duration of the tour: from 2 to 5 hours.

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