By A.Savin – Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Facts about the Parthenon in Greece


Travelling to Athens, Greece always makes for an incredible experience. There are several sites and museums to visit that tell the story of the country and its people.

One of the historical sites to visit is the famous Parthenon. This temple was built at the top of the Acropolis.

It was dedicated to the goddess Athena who is the patron of Athens. The Parthenon is among the most important symbols of democracy in Athens. It has been here for more than 20 decades.

This temple was also viewed as a symbol of victory against the Persians by the ancient Athenians.

It continues to stand tall, 2000 years after it was completed. There existed another Parthenon, also a temple of Athena, now referred to as the Older Parthenon.

Check out these top 10 facts about the Parthenon that you will find useful during your next visit to Athens.

1. The name Parthenon translates to ‘an unmarried women’s apartments’

By Pierre Peytier – Wikimedia

The name Parthenon or also Parthenonas in Modern Greek means ‘an unmarried women’s apartments.

It relates to the goddess, Athena Parthenos, to whom the temple was dedicated.

The name Parthenos means virgin in Greek, while Parthenon describes the inner chambers of the temple.

This name was given in the 15th century BCE when the statue of goddess Athena was housed.

2. Ictinus and Kallikrates were the architects who designed the Parthenon

Behind every beautiful and magnificent structure, are great architects that designed it.

In the case of the Parthenon, there were two greatly talented and reputable architects tasked with this job.

Ictinus was an architect in the mid-5th century BC. He also designed the Temple of Apollo at Bassae and Telesterion at Eleusis.

Kallikrates was another ancient Greek architect active at the same time as Ictinus.

He designed the Temple of Nike in the sanctuary of Athena Nike on the Acropolis and the Classical circuit wall of the Acropolis.

3. Building the Parthenon was a costly affair

By Steve Swayne – Wikimedia

The columns of the Parthenon are made of marble, while the base is made of limestone. This is definitely not a cheap affair.

Approximately 469 silver talents were spent in the construction of the Parthenon. This is about $30 million in current money.

About 100,000 tons of cut marble was used in the construction. The Parthenon is famous for its 34-foot high Doric columns together with 50 imposing marble figures sculpted into the mural.

4. The Parthenon was initially colourful

By Pierre Peytier – Wikimedia

Most Greek structures and statues maintain their natural hues from the marbles and stones.

This was not how they were centuries ago. About 2500 years ago, the Parthenon and the statues were colourful.

There are some sculptures from the Parthenon at the Acropolis Museum. These artefacts still have their original colours.

This means that the Parthenon once upon a time had a splash of colour. Some historians dispute the existence of colour on the Parthenon.

They were proved wrong by a German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann. He used high-intensity light bulbs, ultraviolet light and special cameras.

He proved that the Greek sculptures had colour.

5. It was both a church and a mosque

By Dorieo – Wikimedia

The Parthenon was used for different activities and people. After the completion of the Temple, the Parthenon was used as a shrine for the goddess Athena.

At one point in the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted to a church. It served as an important pilgrimage centre for the eastern Roman empire.

Most of the pagan sculptures at the temple were removed. The Christians also renovated the temple and added conventional church elements.

 In 1456, the Ottomans took over the temple and converted it into a mosque.

Two centuries later, Athens was attacked by Venetians. The Ottomans used the Acropolis to store gunpowder.

The Venetians fired at the Acropolis and in the process blew up the building. Part of it was destroyed.

6. It was used to store gunpowder and other weapons

As mentioned, the Ottomans idea of keeping gunpowder in the Parthenon was not a good idea.

The Venetians blew cannonballs at the Parthenon causing an explosion. It led to the destruction of the Doric columns and collapsing of metope and sculptures.

Buildings close to the Parthenon were destroyed too while others caught fire.

7. Marbles from the Parthenon were reused

With the change in rule over Athens, the Parthenon got vandalized. Part of the marble from the temple were used as building materials.

The columns were ground and used as concrete.  

8. Another Parthenon existed before the current one

By Steve Swayne – Wikimedia

There existed an old temple at the current location of the Parthenon. The old temple had been destroyed during the Persian Wars.

The current temple was built in the 6th century and was decorated with sculptures. These sculptures can be found in the Acropolis museum.

Construction was completed nine years later, which is considered to be a record time.

An interesting fact about this temple is that it was not a strictly religious place. It also doubled up as an art gallery that exhibited sculptures from that period.

9. Some of the sculptures from the Parthenon are in the Louvre in Paris

By Wikimedia commons

If you visit most European museums, you will find part of the Acropolis or the Parthenon on display.

The British Museum has several sculptures from the Parthenon that they bought from Thomas Bruce.

Another museum with a collection from the Parthenon in the Louvre in Paris, as well as in Copenhagen.

The Greek government has been campaigning to have the artefacts returned to no avail.

The British government has refused to return them thus far.

10. The Parthenon is the epitome of Doric architecture

By Pierre Peytier – Wikimedia

The Parthenon is said to be the truest representation of the Doric ancient Greek architecture.

This temple displays a combination of both iconic and Doric forms. The Doric style is simple while the Iconic style is more elaborate.

Doric architecture represents masculinity, through its large, plain, solid forms.

The Ionic style, on the other hand, is more delicate in nature, with its femininity manifested in its slender, intricate columns.