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The Architecture of Classical Greece: The Parthenon

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The Architecture of Classical Greece: The Parthenon

The Parthenon was a great achievement in Greek architecture. Not only was the Parthenon an achievement in the world of architecture, it was also an achievement for the reconstruction of the Greek acropolis.

I am first going to address Greece at the time before the Parthenon was even built. I suppose you can call it pre-Parthenon. The democrats became really involved in central Greece and were pushing for the Greek army to keep central Greece protected. However, Egypt revolted against the Persians, and the Greeks realized that this result needed a lot of men, so they provided some of their own army to the Egyptians. Pericles arose as the new leader of the democratic party of Greece. Although Pericles wanted to move slowly in his new leadership role, but a various number of military defeats put him in a position where he had to declare peace with Persia in 449 BC. 1

Pericles said that he wanted three things to happen in or for Greece: "complete neutralization of the Persians, maintenance of the cohesion of the [Athenian] League by means of exemplary punishment of secession, confrontation with Sparta from a position of strength". He conquered in the neutralization of Persia in his declaring of peace with Persia. He wanted to give Greece power. He wanted to establish Greece as a military, political, as well as a sort of social power by being a "provider for the school of Hellas"2. This "reform" of Greece involved what is called the inter alia which basically meant involved the building of monuments, statues, temples, etc. that would do give the city of Athens credit.

Pericles had attempted to call a Panhellenic congress or meeting to talk about the reconstruction of the structures that had been burnt down. Unfortunately, the Lacedaemonians disliked and hated the idea of congress taking place. I believe that this is due to some form of an oath or agreement that the Greeks had supposedly taken after the Battle of Plantae. This supposed "oath" said that the Greeks would not rebuild the statues and monuments that the Persians had destroyed. The charred remains of the Greek monuments and statues were to remind the future generations of Greece how savage and cruel the Persians were to the Greece and its entire people.

Because no one had ever made an attempt to rebuild the Acropolis that Xerxes had burned, Pericles was the first to take the initiative in the rebuilding of the Acropolis. Pericles said that he was to dedicate the rebuilding of the Acropolis to the ancestor myths of Attica. In the mind of Pericles, this symbolized the Greeks finally conquering or even triumphing over the Persians and the destructions and torment that the Persians have put on them. Pericles also wanted the reconstruction to promote the magnificence of Greece. This was because Greece was at the height of its military, political, and intellectual power that Pericles had hoped to reach when he first came into power. Many people at that time, as well as historians today, believe he also decided to rebuild the Acropolis to also provide jobs. This theory can be backed up by the fact that Greece was at peace at the time so many people who were involved in the military were out of jobs.

Pericles decided to start the reconstruction of the Acropolis with the building of the Parthenon, which was dedicated to Athena. This was a celebration of the Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon. Unfortunately, a Persian invasion had occurred. The Persians had destroyed the superstructure of the building. Fortunately the sterobates of the building had survived. Another happening that was fortunate was that many materials were not completely damaged beyond repair. This building that the Persians had destroyed is now called the pre-Parthenon.

Pericles was not flustered by the Persian attack and decided to continue in the building of the Parthenon. He had it basically built on the same base as the pre-Parthenon. This was towards the south-side of the Acropolis. As I had stated before, many of the materials were not destroyed. This was a huge break for Pericles and the Greeks, for most, if not all of the temple was made of marble. The architects were Ictinus and Callicrates. A man named Pheidias acted as the main sculptor. He also participated as a general overseer in the building of the Parthenon. I guess a modern day term for his role would be a sculptor/foreman.

Before I speak about the architecture of the Parthenon, I would just like to talk about the three types of columns and/or orders. The first category of order or column is the Doric style. Doric columns and orders are the simplest in their design. They are plain in their design. They are almost always thicker and shorter.

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