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Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Athens, the capital city of Greece is continuously undergoing a highly radical urban renewal period. The magnificence of the Acropolis, the highest hill in the area, is crowned by the historical and iconic Parthenon, which rises above the cosmopolitan city as a reminder of the rich Greek culture of the past.
Tourism in Athens is driven by the volume of visitors from all over the world who come to personally see the Parthenon. The structure is known as the most popular remaining edifice of ancient Greece. Everyone will agree that the Parthenon is praiseworthy as being the finest achievement ever of Greek architecture. The temple’s decorative sculptures are considered among the best highlights of Greek art.
The Parthenon is no less than an enduring symbol and representation of ancient Greece, as well of the most admired Athenian democracy. In this generation, no other description fits the Parthenon than being the greatest cultural monument in the world.
Origin of the name ‘Parthenon’ is still unclear. Some researchers assert that the name literally means ‘virgin’s place,’ somehow referring to a specific room in the Parthenon. Another theory is that the room was used as a venue where peplos or women’s garments were presented to Greek goddess Athena during the celebration of Panathenaic Festivals. Some evidences point that the name could have been derived from the monumental cult statue called Athena Parthenos, which was housed in an eastern room in the temple.
As an architectural structure, the Parthenon is considered a Doric temple adorned with numerous innovative and unique features. Parthenon’s interior is demonstrative of innovative approaches to old and new elements. There were pediments that featured carvings of Athena and several other Greek gods. The corners of such pediments were adorned by marble statues.
Adding to the interest in Parthenon is its history. From a temple dedicated to wisdom goddess Athena, the structure was converted into a Catholic church dedicated to St. Sophia and then to Panagia or the Virgin Mary. During the Turkish occupation of Greece, the temple was turned into a Muslim mosque.
Presently, a restoration and conservation program is in place to restore and save what could be spared in Acropolis, including the Parthenon. The initiative started in 1975. The government of Greece finally established the Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments in 1983 to oversee the implementation and completion of the effort. The European Union is also providing funds and key technical support for the project.

Acropolis

Acropolis is a very prominent site within Athens because it sits on top of a hill. Thus, structures within the area seem to be overlooking the entire city. It is a spot where old and modern city centers are found. Acropolis simply comprises numerous structures like temples, gates, fortifications and yards.
The word ‘Acropolis’ is said to have been derived from the Greek terms ‘akra’ and ‘polis,’ which mean ‘high town.’ The description fits the bill as the site is apparently the highest point in Athens, geographically. The site is found at an altitude of about 156 meters. In the 13th century, a huge rampart was constructed surrounding the Acropolis to serve as protection of the king’s residence. Logically, Acropolis was address to dwellings of high-profile people like kings. The high location symbolized leaders’ domination over people. It is obvious why the Parthenon was built there.
Aside from the Parthenon, several other Greek temples were constructed in Acropolis, including the Apteros Nike (Wingless Victory) and Erectheion. The latter was renowned for its splendid columns that were designed to take female-looking figures. Today, Acropolis is still a wonderful site, a magnet for curious tourists who come in millions all year round. Nothing can compare to the breathtaking panoramic view from the site’s top.

History

The Parthenon’s construction during the archaic period was an important political issue in Athens. The structure represented a decisive turning point for Greek politics. The original Parthenon was a special temple built for Athena, the Greek mythological goddess of wisdom. The site was Acropolis, the highest hill in all of Athens. The original structure was made of limestone.
The original temple was ruined when Persia attacked Athens. After the Persian War, the Acropolis was left in ruins for a long time. It had served as a war memorial. In 447 BC, construction of a new, bigger and definitely better Parthenon began. Tribute money was used to fund the construction of the temple. (The money came from allies and was allotted to finance defense of Greeks from possible further Persian invasions.)
Two great architects, Ictinus and Callicrates, and sculptor Pheidias were hired to rebuild the Athenian temple. From limestone, the new Parthenon was made entirely of marble. The new Parthenon was built next to the site of the original temple. Because it was somehow a replacement, the new Parthenon had to reproduce the original’s main features. Basically, the new one had to be bigger. If most Greek temples had just six columns standing across the front, the Parthenon had eight. The new structure also came complete with metopes and frieze, which were present usually one without the other in most other temples.
The designers of the temple made Parthenon look as if it was actually floating. Thus, the structure was curved slightly upward in the middle, looking as if the temple is actually taking off into the air. The columns were made thicker in the middle to create an optical illusion that they are straight. To the front of Parthenon was carved a triangular pediment showing images of Athena and Poseidon in battle. The back pediment had a carving of Athena being borne out of Zeus’ head. These pediments are now housed in a museum.
The great Parthenon mightily stood at Athens for about 800 years. The Athenian temple was converted into a Christian church when Athens embraced Christianity in 400 AD, the Byzantine period. The Parthenon stood for another 1,000 years. When the Ottomans conquered Greece in 1400s, they disregarded care for the church structures because they were Muslims. In the 1600s, the Parthenon was made into a storage house for ammunitions of the Ottomans. In the succeeding years, the temple was further damaged by fire and explosions, explaining the destruction of the roof and the original carvings.
In the 16th century, Lord Elgin, an English noble man, bought several of the original Parthenon carvings and brought the items to England, where they now lay in the British Museum. Until now, it is still debated whether the carvings should be brought back to Athens.

Tourism

Athens is undoubtedly Europe’s oldest city. It remains as a major city of various contradictions. It is old, but it is still in an obvious and noticeable state of transition. The Athens Olympic Games in 2004 spurred major changes, which pedestrians and tourists are raving for. The once congested city has turned golden again. Thus, going to Acropolis and of course, the Parthenon is made easier for guests.
To the delight of tourists who partake in the magnificence and splendor of Parthenon, there are nearby sights and other tourism attractions. Below the Acropolis could be found ancient theaters of Dionysus and Herodeion. The Theatre of Dionysus is among the most ancient and still standing marble theaters in the country, having been built in the 4th century. Herodeion still serves as an appropriate and lively music hall or odeion. However, this theater is not anymore bearing its exquisite rooftop, which attending audiences prefer more especially on a full moon.
Not far is the Pnyx. It is a hillock that serves as an important assembly point for Athenians in the past. In the vicinity could also be found Philopappou, which is another hill crowned with a funeral monument of Philopappou, a Roman consul who lived in the 2nd century. Underneath could be found a cave, which is believed to be the original prison used to hold Socrates at the time of his infamous trial. Areios Pagos, the lower hill, was site to the Highest Court of Law of the ancient Athenians. The place was also a venue where St. Paul the Apostle preached the Holy Gospel in the middle of the 1st century.
After exploring Acropolis, the Parthenon and other tourism spots in the area, tourists could hop to some other sites around. Syntagma (Constitution) Square is known as Athens’ most central square. In the area could be found the Greek Parliament, the Presidential Guard and the National Garden. The square is serving as a convenient and appropriate starting point if you aim to wander around Athens.
Plaka District is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It is a very beautiful and captivating location that tourists should not miss to visit once they get to Athens. As a tourist spot, Plaka is flooding with numerous tourist shops, cafés and traditional restaurants. Enjoy the most sumptuous Greek dishes and the most refreshing beverages available. As a bonus to guests, the area boasts of neoclassic buildings and picturesque walkways. Indeed, like the Parthenon, Plaka is a true pride of Greece.

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

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