Why is the Parthenon important, special and famous? The Parthenon is so special for 3 main reasons:
- what it symbolized
- how it was built
- the many fine works of Art
What the Partheon symbolized
Why is the Parthenon important, special and famous? The Parthenon is so special because first of all is the symbol of Athens democracy. It was built after the victory on the Persians who occupied Athens in 480 BC. It was built to celebrate the victory and Athens political, economic and cultural superiority.
How it was built
The Parthenon is unique for its proportion and for the way it was built.
The Parthenon is the final result of a long course of development of the Doric order, which had begun at least 250 years earlier. It is built from Pentelic marble. The precision with which the marble was worked is astonishing.
It comprises around 16500 pieces that are joined together perfectly. Yet most impressive of all is the indiscernible deviation from a strict geometric form to create the famous optical refinements. This was made to have the desired effect.
The lines of the crepisis of the entablature curve slightly upwards rather than being straight. The shaft of the columns also has a slight convex curve which becomes narrower at 2/5 of their height.
The corner columns of each side are a little wider than all the others. All the columns have a small inclination toward the cella. These and other alterations from strict symmetry and uniformity serve to instil an additional pulse into the building.
As you can well understand it wasn’t easy to get the exact best result and effect desired. This is a demonstration of the skill the Athenians had in maths and geometry.
Parthenon works of art
Why is the Parthenon important, special and famous? The Parthenon is unique for the richness and quality of its sculptures.
The Statue of Athena
The most precious statue in the Parthenon was the statue of Athena. The central part of the temple was divided into 2 sections: the eastern and the western.
The great gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena was guarded in the eastern section. This magnificent work of art was made by the sculptor Pheidias and it was very big because it was about 13 metres tall. For all these reasons the statue of Athena was considered a masterpiece in antiquity. Unfortunately, this statue is now lost.
The frieze encircled the cella externally 12 metres above its base. It has a total length of 160 metres and is around a metre high. It was made by 115 bas-relief blocks with sculpture depictions of people and animals in motion represented, in a continuous way, all along the frieze.
The faces of the figures resemble each other but they have a great variety in their poses, movements and clothing. They are serious and calm, showing character, spirituality and pride. The horses of the procession are all shown in profile. Some walk quietly, others gallop, and others fight with each other. The head mane and tail give each horse distinct individuality.
The frieze was not only well graven but also well painted with rich colours that embellished the figures.
The statues in the pediments
Really noteworthy were the statues in the pediments. The pediments are the triangular areas formed by the sloping and horizontal cornices of the roof over the two narrow ends of the temple. The colossal sculptures of the Parthenon followed a specific theme. The east pediment depicts the birth of the goddess Athena and the west part depicts the conflict between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of Attica.
These statues were carved with the same care on the front side and on the back even if nobody would see the back of the statue. This was important because they were made as offerings to the gods and they had to be perfect.
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