parthenon columns

THE PARTHENON TEMPLE HISTORY

History of the Parthenon on Acropolis

The Parthenon temple is the main attraction and the centerpiece of the Acropolis of Athens.

parthenon front

The Parthenon Temple

In the 5th century BC, the Parthenon was constructed in dedication to Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, and handicraft. The Parthenon on the Acropolis used to be the center of religious life in the powerful city-state Athens, the leader of the Delian league. The temple is the symbol of power, wealth, and Athens culture.

How Did The Parthenon Get Its Name?

The name Parthenon derives from the Athena Parthenos. The temple was named in the 5th century, and the name represented the chamber inside the Parthenon. The temple housed the cult statue of Athena Parthenos. It was also known as the ‘large temple,’ which referred to the length of the inner cella: 100 ancient feet. The whole building acquired the name Parthenon in the 4th century BCE.

Why Was The Parthenon Built?

The Parthenon temple, dedicated to the Athena Parthenos, was built in the age of Pericles between 447 and 432 BCE, and it housed the Athena statue. Parthenon was created to represent Athens’s victory as leader of the coalition of Greek forces, above the Persian armies of Xerxes and Darius.

The Parthenon replaced the older monument known as the Pre-Parthenon, destroyed during the Persian invasion of 480 BC. Pre-Parthenon served a practical purpose as the city treasury and shortly as the treasury of the Delian League. That political alliance of Greek city-states became the Athenian Empire over time.

Who Built the Parthenon Temple?

The project to build a new Parthenon temple to replace the damaged building on the Acropolis was investigated by the Pericles, the Athenian statesman, and founded by surplus from the war treasury of the Delian league. In its new form, the Parthenon survived for another thousand years. During the centuries, the Parthenon building was converted many times.

athens acropolis and theatre
parthenon temple acropolis

The Parthenon Was A Sacred Place To Many Religions

The Parthenon was a Catholic church dedicated to Virgin Mary from the 6th century AD till 1458. But the Turks seized the acropolis Parthenon in the 15th century. They adopted the Parthenon as a mosque in 1460 without changing the materials except for raising a minaret. A powder magazine located in the Parthenon temple blew up during the bombardment in 1687 by Venetians fighting the Turks and destroyed the center of the Parthenon building. The Venetian army besieged the Parthenon on the Acropolis in 1687 under general Francesco Morosini. On September 26th, a direct hit from Venetian’s shell damaged the Parthenon, which Turks used as a powder magazine. The massive explosion destroyed Parthenon inside except the walls on the east side of the Parthenon temple and columns collapsed on the south and north sides.

The explosion damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. Thomas Bruce, the 7th earl of Elgin, removed the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon temple with the permission of the Ottoman Empire. He paid the Turkish authorities for the rights to take away an extensive collection of architectural pieces, inscriptions, and sculptures from the Parthenon on the Acropolis. The British Government bought the Elgin Marbles collection in 1816, which resides in London’s British Museum. Elgin took 14 metopes from the south side of the Parthenon temple and some figures from the pediments. He took the torso sections of Athena Parthenos, Poseidon, and Hermes. Today the essential pieces reside in the Acropolis museum.

Want to learn more about the Parthenon and its History?

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Uncover the secrets of Ancient Greece on our Acropolis private tour! Gaze at the Parthenon, breathe in history at the Propylaea, and you won't miss a fun fact with your own expert guide. This tour is your backstage pass to Athen's cherished gem!

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Athens Bike Tour

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Acropolis Museum Tour

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Visit the Acropolis Museum and view famous historical treasures. Discover the excavations through the glass floor, then walk through the Acropolis. Climb the Parthenon, and learn from your archeologist guide about the history of these ancient monuments.

UNESCO’s World Heritage List

The Acropolis of Athens, where the Parthenon temple is located, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987. The Acropolis, together with its monuments, is the symbol of Greek civilization. It forms the most significant artistic and architectural achievement of the ancient Greek world.

The Parthenon Temple Today

Throughout the centuries, the Parthenon temple was damaged by earthquakes, fire, explosions, and warfare. Today the Parthenon temple is a powerful symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian culture, and democracy and one of the most significant cultural monuments. For Athenians that built it, the Parthenon on the Acropolis celebrated Hellenic victory over the Persians. The temple was made to give thanks to the deities for that victory.

parthenon at acropolis