The Parthenon of Athens

The Parthenon is one of the crown jewels of the Acropolis of Athens and a formidable testament to the wealth and culture of ancient Athens, Greece. It is constructed as a dedication to Goddess Athena after whom the current city is named. Parthenon has been the center of the history of this city in the past and has seen lots of battles and various owners staking their claim to this magnificent monument that was constructed on top of the rock mountain in Athens. Its construction was completed in 438 BC the architecture is a Peripteral Octastyle Doric temple with Ionic architectural features.

The Parthenon temple is built on the site of the older Athenian temple which was decimated by the Persians in 480 BC. The Parthenon has seen lots and lots of events in history. It started as a treasury and was later converted to a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the last decade of the 6th century. The Parthenon was also converted into a mosque at one stage by the invading Ottomans. It was during this unfortunate time that the siege of the city by Venetian forces and bombardment brought its way to igniting the gunpowder stored here and thus heavily damaging the monument and its sculptures.

The Architecture of the Parthenon of Athens

The whole architecture was decorated and designed with marble sculptures that represent past images from Athenian cult and mythology. There are three categories of architectural sculpture. The frieze which was made from low relief goes high up around all four sides of the building. The metopes which were made in high relief were positioned at the same level as the frieze above the architrave above the columns on the outside of the temple. The pediment sculptures which were carved in the round filled the triangular gables at each end.

The Parthenon was planned to go under a lot of changes but it remained untouched until the seventeenth century. The early Christians then turned the temple into a church, adding an apse at the east end. It was at this time that the sculptures representing the birth of Athena were removed from the center and lots of other sculptures were defaced. The Parthenon of Athens from thereon was viewed as a holy church until Athens was conquered by the Ottomans in the fifteenth century and they subsequently made it a mosque that was worshipped by many.

The Venetians after a prolonged battle succeeded in capturing the Acropolis but held it for less than a year. Further damage to the building was done in an attempt to remove sculptures from the west when the lifting equipment broke and the sculptures fell and were smashed.


While we refer to the Parthenon as a temple—and it looks like one architecturally—the building doesn’t function quite the way one would think. Traditionally, a temple would host a cult image of Athena—the patron saint. Instead, the main cult image of Athena Polias is located in a different area of the Acropolis. While a colossal statue of Athena by the famed sculptor Phidias would have been located inside the Parthenon, it was not related to a particular cult and so would not have been worshipped.


While we often think of classical art as being white and pristine, the Parthenon—as with much Greek architecture and sculpture—would have been colored originally. While historians debate just how much of the structure would have been covered in colour, archaeologists often use UV light to uncover pigments that have now been lost.

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