The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the protector of Athens, It is located in the homonymous city of Greece, specifically on the Acropolis. It was built between 447 and 438 BC
It has been considered the most important and representative monument of Ancient Greece. This is because it is a very important and beautiful Doric architectural work, so its value to humanity is invaluable.
Athena, the protector of Athens
In Greek mythology, Athena was a warrior goddess. The story tells that she was the daughter of Zeus, who was born from her father’s head and as an adult. The reason? Zeus would have swallowed her mother, causing Athena to be born that way.
Athena —one of the 12 Greek gods—, She is the goddess of war, civilization, wisdom, combat strategy, justice, science and skill, so he was impeccable in these qualities. Her brother, Ares, was the opposite of her, since he represented violence and barbarism.
This goddess received worship and worship throughout Ancient Greece, from the Greek colonies of Asia Minor to those of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. Due to the great recognition of her, she was the patron saint of many cities, but She is mainly known for being the patron saint and protector of Athens.
Why was the Parthenon dedicated to the goddess Athena?
Turns out, to celebrate and commemorate the victory of the Greeks against the Persians in Marathon in the Attica region, they opted to build a temple to Athena on the sacred hill of the Acropolis.
Ten years later, Greece was attacked by a new Persian army that, with a thirst for revenge, attacked mainly the religious buildings of the Acropolis. In this way, the new temple — still under construction — was totally destroyed.
The Acropolis remained in this state of destruction for more than three decades, until Pericles – an important Athenian lawyer, magistrate, general, politician, orator and ruler – proposed its reconstruction.
The ambitious project
The new project contemplated the idea of a new temple dedicated to Athena, the one that would be in charge of guarding the treasure of Athens, commemorating the feat of Marathon —or the two wars against the Persians—, and above all, containing a huge gold and ivory statue of Athena.
The idea was to impress anyone who entered the naos —lit by windows on the sides of the door— with the image of the memorable goddess. Her sculpture stood on an imposing scenic frame, which was an innovation on the part of Phidias, the person in charge of creating said sculpture.
For its part, the temple has been built in white marble —obtained from Mount Pentelico— by Ictino and Calícatres, with approximate dimensions of 70 meters long and 30 meters wide, and had 8 main façades and 17 lateral ones. In the frieze, divinities such as the gods Poseidon, Apollo and Artemis could be observed.
The Parthenon: its conflicts
After its reconstruction already detailed above, during the following centuries, crises and political decline in Athens were stripping the riches and monuments.
It was subjected to Roman rule, victim of a fire in the 3rd century AD and was reused and consecrated as the Church of the Virgin Mary by the Christians. The latter forbade the worship of ‘pagan’ gods, and the statue of Athena disappeared.
At the end of the 12th century, faithful Christians came to the temple of Our Lady of Athens to worship Mary, the mother of Jesus. This resulted in modifications to the temple, especially inside.
For more than two centuries —between 1204 and 1456— Athens was in the hands of different invaders from Western Europe. With this, the temple ceased to be a Byzantine church to become a Catholic cathedral.
In the year 1456, the city was occupied and dominated by the Turks. Sultan Mehmed II converted the Our Lady of Athens church into a magnificent mosque. The Parthenon, along with other temples on the Acropolis, were closed to foreign visitors for centuries.
In 1687, strong disputes between the Turks and the Venetians were ‘the final straw’ and caused a catastrophe for the Parthenon. The Turks turned the temple into a storehouse for gunpowder and weapons for protection against Christians, and even women and children also took refuge.
For their part, the Venetians advanced and bombarded the temple, which led to its ruin. However, months later, they left Athens and the Turks once again set up a garrison there. Inside the ruins of the Parthenon they built a small mosque.
As we have seen, throughout history the Parthenon has been the protagonist and in turn the victim of numerous events. This lost much of its columns and ceiling, as well as its decoration and sculptures. There are nothing left but ruins, but it attracts the visitor in an incredible way.
Several took advantage of the situation to take something, such as Lord Elgin, who between 1801 and 1811 sent his agents to strip the temple of valuable remains and pieces. Today, we can see them in the British Museum.
The independence of Greece in 1831 brought with it the care of the Acropolis, trying to recover as much as possible and eliminating what was not old. In the 20th century, the silhouette of the Parthenon was recomposed and other improvements were made, which triggered the creation of the New Acropolis Museum, inaugurated in 2009.
The Acropolis of Athens was declared a World Heritage Site under criteria I, II, III, IV and VI. It contains several temples such as the already mentioned Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea or the temple of Athena Nike.
Because represent a universal symbol of civilization, Its value is unique to humanity, which is why UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Add this heritage to your list of places to visit. Surely you will want to take a trip through time and visit the Parthenon, a temple consecrated to the protector of Athens.