When the city of Athens was sacked during the Persian Wars of the fifth century B.C.,
many of the buildings on the Acropolis were destroyed. Following the defeat of Persia,
the Athenian statesman Pericles began rebuilding the area as a display of Athens' wealth
and power. "Acropolis" means "upper city," and this high, rocky piece of land had long served
as the city's cultural and religious center. The building of the Parthenon was just one of the
projects Pericles undertook to honor Athena, the champion of Athenian military power. The temple
was begun in 447 B.C. and dedicated in 438 B.C.
What inspired the Parthenon's design?
Like many Greek architects of their time, the designers of the Parthenon were
inspired by the Doric order, one of three Greek architectural traditions. One
feature of Doric order temples is a series of columns with minimal detail. Ictinus,
the chief architect of the Parthenon, called for eight columns, instead of the usual
six, on the east and west ends of the temple, and seventeen instead of thirteen along
the sides. The result was a vast structure101' 228 ft. in sizethat conveyed
Athenian pride and strength.
In Europe and the United States, there are many fine examples of how the Parthenon inspired the architecture
of 19th-century public buildings. Among the finest examples are the Second National Bank of the United States
in Philadelphia, the United States Patent Office in Washington, D.C., and the Mausoleum of Antonio Canova in
Possagno, Italy. The uses of these buildings were different from those of the Parthenon, but their homage to
the Parthenon's form is readily apparent.
Credits: Parthenon © SuperStock.
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