The Parthenon, Greek architecture

clip_image001Few phrases are more suited to sum up the beauty of the monuments of the Acropolis of Athens, and in particular of the Parthenon, which wrote Plutarch makes more than two thousand years: «In such a way shines always in them a flower of youth that has preserved its appearance of the passage of time. It seems as if these works were a breath ever live and inaccessible old soul»

The Acropolisa symbol of the glory of Athens
The time of maximum splendor Athenian begins with Pericles, after the war with Persia, who shortly after being elected as first judge instructs Phidias for the direction of the works required for the reconstruction of the Acropolis .
It was intended to symbolize the victory of Greece over barbarism and the new dominance of Athens over Hellas, financed their project with the Treasury of the League Delica, i.e. of the money contributed to the war by the cities who were allied.
Without a doubt, from the Neolithic, the Athenian Acropolis, had served as refuge and natural fortress for the settlement of the. It was situated on a Rocky Hill, in the South of the country. For centuries, successive temples were rising over it, although many were destroyed during the wars. The origins of this town sink their roots as deep as in the Greek tradition and its relationship with ancient legends about its foundation.
For example, its current name comes from a dispute between gods (Poseidon and Athena) for the domain of this beautiful place. These events and the provision of the buildings give a "messy" look to the polis, unique space articulator element was the via processional, related to the most important rites that were carried out in the same.
Phidias, a great sculptor was appointed by Pericles, from the supervision and direction of the reconstruction works on the Acropolis. The first start was the Parthenon, followed that of the Propylaea, then the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. Once concluded the same, the general appearance of the polis was different from the current, the temples were no longer isolated, but instead passed to be embedded in a harmonious whole ornate by an endless statues of bronze or stone. So, as including the most significant was the Atenea Prómaco, magnificent work of Phidias, which was characterized by its high altitude everywhere (9 meters) and that sailors could be seen from the waters.
The AcropolisAthenian, built between 437 and 432 BC, was designed by Mnesides and consists of a passage between columns with unequal sides two wings: to art gallery and library, which did not complete. But without a doubt, in Greece all the religious groups had more or less similar structures.

The PARTHENON: Doric, rectangular plant and made the Pentelic marble, the Parthenon was built in the time of Pericles by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates. It was a temple dedicated to the goddess Atenea Parthenos, into whose hands the fate of the city was entrusted, and was divided into a "pronaos" - first ship-, which gave way to the "celia" - ship central-, from which is accessed the "Parthenon" enclosure that contained the treasure of the deity. To the West, has established the "opisthodomos" - rear, symmetric the "pronaos" ship-, which completed the ensemble. The decoration of its friezes and "metopes" - space which mediates between two triglyphs in the frieze - was made by Phidias and his most prominent disciples.
 
The Temple of the maiden goddess
The AthenaParthenosor "Virgin", with its majestic height (12 meters), was another of the great sculptures of Athena to the Acropolis conducted by Phidias. The same held it in wood and it took ivory and gold, more precisely in ivory the visible part of the body, and gold costume and ornaments. It is here where underlies the idea of construction of the Parthenon, the main building of the whole on the occasion of shelter to the statue. This work of magma, it was designed by Ictinos and Callicrates, architects who emplazadores the new temple on the highest part of the rock, in the years 447 to 435 BC
The Parthenon, is characterized by its image of perfection, accuracy that comes from the Doric style with Ionic touches. It is considered the building Summit within the project Pericles, medical raised over another temple whose firm dating back to the wars, the Hecatompedon, which also seized some materials.
The temple, peristyle, it has the classic of a number of columns proportion, i.e. eight in this case, in its narrowest part and double plus one, i.e., 17, on its longest side. Conceived in an enclosure of marble with limestone foundations. Each column is 10,43 meters high. For his part, on a base of three steps, columns argued an entablature consisting of architrave on which was based the frieze of triglyphs and metopes. In the front of the temple are the handball courts, under each one of them there are 14 metropas. The Eastern pediment represented the birth of Athena and the Western recalled the dispute of the goddess with Poseidon.
The Parthenon, also inside, comprises a pronaos preceded by a row of six columns, which opened by a blind double door to the celia, it separated by a solid wall, arranged four ionic columns. Only opened this room towards the opisthodomos, i.e. westwards towards symmetric of the pronaos.
This architectural work was further characterized by its unity and balance, primarily based on their neat proportions set from an initial module taken from the bottom of the column diameter: 1,10 m. but the architects, as in other Greek temples also, introduced a small variation to achieve an optical effect of surprising lightness. In fact, columns, with a slight convolution in its central part, are not vertical, leaning more and more towards the inside and the four corner pieces are more coarse. In addition all rise above a basement that is not horizontal, but it has a slight curvature that culminates in the center of the sides. And therefore, the end result is a splendid Athenian Temple, the Parthenon.

The reliefs from the Parthenon
The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon - located in pediments, metopes and frieze - to Phidias, although it is difficult to specify what part of the work is the work of his workshop has traditionally been attributed. Assumes that it dealt with making moulds in plaster or clay that later his aides went to the marble. The Western pediment represented the contest of Athena and Poseidon for the patronage of Athens: the goddess made to spring from the soil of the Acropolis the olive tree, and the God the horse. Beat the goddess because, according to the Athenians, the tree provides more wealth than the animal.
The Eastern pediment illustrated the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus. In the metopes, a total of 92 metro pictures and medium height in high relief, depicted the gigantomachy - fight of the gods and the Titans-on the East side, the centauromaquia - battle of the lapiths with the Centaurs-in the South, and the amazonomachy - battle against the Amazons and the barbarians in the war of Troy - on the Western side. The metopes of the north side, probably dedicated to the destruction of Troy, are virtually lost. The choice of topics is no coincidence: the gigantomachy reminded that Athens had won the fight against the barbarism that is personified by the Persians, in the same way that the gods had beaten the Titans and imposed order on Olympus.
The frieze, which toured the interior of the celia, represented the theme of the Panathenaic procession, feast which is held every four years in honor of the goddess. Promoted from the second half of the century saw BC by Pisistratus, were supposed by the same Theseus. All the city gathered to carry the statue of the goddess a mantle of wool (peplos). These reliefs were situated at considerable height, by which the upper part was a little deeper than the bottom (about 5 cm) and leaned out, to avoid that the observer lost detail due to the reflection of light. All the figures were painted with bright colors, but the polychrome has been lost. Referred to the location of these sculptural groups thanks to the drawings of the French painter Carré, which was part of the retinue of the Ambassador of Luis XIV in the Turkish Court in 1674. The procession begins on the Western side and follow parallel paths by the northern and southern flanks.
A group of riders composed the beginning with its restive horses, which are quieting as the show progresses. In front of them are trucks with their aurigas, then a group: elderly and musicians: precede drivers of animals for slaughter (sheep and oxen). The ceremony itself, such takes place; on the eastern side, which. approaching the jovenes-atenienses beautiful peplos-clad. -In the Centre, a ' young gives the blanket folded a judge, in the presence of the priestess of Athena; contemplate the scene several gods and heroes seated, whose presence is not advised by: mortals. Stylistically reliefs differences are noticed to others, due to the intervention of numerous hands and that plates were dressed in the workshop and others when already were in the building. Unifying traits are airy and natural modeling of cloths, the perfect study of the anatomy and serene expressions. All this marks the peak of classicism in Greek sculpture. The Parthenon, as well as all the temples ' Greeks, was painted. It is assumed that stretch marks of the columns were decorated in red; the abacos, blue; the triglyphs, in blue and yellow, and the funds of the pediments and the metopes, in red.

Other buildings of the Acropolis
Dead Pendes and Phidias, arose the Hephaisteion (420-405 b.c.), ionic temple to various deities associated with the founding myths of Athens. Its builders were forced to adapt to the needs of ritual and religious traditions, and should save a pronounced drop in the ground. One side has a gallery supported by caryatids. Carved rich moldings with geometric and floral motifs; the frieze consisted of marble figures trimmed and encased in a stone background. The bases and capitals of the columns were gilded and embedded in them fragments of glass. Another beautiful example of the Athenian Ionian is the Temple of Athena Nike, built between 421 and 415 b.c., to commemorate peace of Callias.
The most beautiful ruin of the world
The Parthenon remained virtually intact until the century and d. C., when the statue of Phidias retired and became a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Theoto kos. Towards the 7th century it suffered some structural changes in its interior. The Turks took the acropolis in 1485 and the building became mosque, which built a minaret on the southwest side.
The set has come in very poor condition until today because it housed inside a Tinderbox, and in 1687 badly damaged it a grenade thrown by the Venetians during the siege of Athens. At the beginning of the 19th were pulled out most of the reliefs, which were sold to the British Museum; some remains of sculpture are preserved in the Louvre, Copenhagen, Athens.
The Parthenon was seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1894; the architect Balanos tried to rebuild it at the beginning of the 20th century by the process of anastylosis, a type of intervention consists in recovering fragments and try to return them to the place they originally occupied. Serious mistakes were made in this restoration. In recent times, the building suffers from a dangerous deterioration by mass tourism and pollution. 

Source: Gran Enciclopedia Universal Espasa Calpe


TO FIND OUT MORE...
When, in the middle of the 5th century a. a.d., was the non-party, created three different groups of sculptures to decorate: the metopes, frieze and pediments. The metopes, the spaces separated by the triglyphs and situated around the building, on the columns, were decorated with 92 sculptures. The frieze, 160 meters, was on the inside of the columns line and, finally, the pediments were placed in the triangular space at each end of the temple.
The metopes, made in alto-relieve, showed scenes of the Trojan war, of the battles between Greeks and Centaurs, of the struggles of gods and Giants and those that took place between Greeks and Amazons. The frieze, decorated in low relief, is the procession of the Panathenaic, the great feasts in honour of the goddess Athena. And the pediments, also in high relief, explained the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus and Poseidon fighting for dominance of Attica. All of the sculptures that have survived is, currently, distributed between London (British Museum) and Athens, and this is the cause of a long controversy between the two countries.
The origin of this dispute dates back to the early 19th century when, while Athens under Turkish sovereignty, the British Ambassador in Constantinople, lord Elgin, visited the Acropolis and decided to remove the Parthenon sculptures that liked to take them to England. Once there, after having them for years in his house, got sold to the British Museum, which placed them in a gallery built especially for them.
The controversy arose following the request of the Greek authorities for the return of the marbles from the Parthenon, one of the most important buildings in Greece, to their country of origin, arguing that such cultural treasures were stolen. The Greek Government intends to bring together in a single collection all the sculptures, today separated by more than 2,000 kilometers, so they can visit together in the new Museum at the foot of the Acropolis. In his defense, the British Government says that the marbles were purchased legally and that under no circumstances will allow his departure from the United Kingdom. In addition, they allege that in London are better preserved and are visited by a larger number of people (five million visitors a year).
For its part, the Greek Government, hoping that sooner or later the treasures of the Parthenon will return to Athens, began to build the new Acropolis Museum. The Museum, located at about three hundred meters from the temple, included a rectangular Gallery of glass, called "Hall of the Parthenon", in which it would expose the marbles with the same provision in the temple, which can be seen from the Museum.
Greece, whose attempts to restore the sculptures which is considered the most important monument of Greek Antiquity have led even to ask for the support of the European Parliament, hoped that with the holding of the 2004 Olympic Games, London will change its position and to return the sculptures to Athens but, for the moment, the British Museum still refuses to marbles out of the United Kingdom.
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Explanation above sculpture: The first thing that we noticed in them is the sharpness with which the artist has taken reality scene, and its expertise to represent it in marble. Of horses and men, vibrant life, figures are in full motion. This evidence of nervous muscle of the horses and the quiet and dominant attitude of riders, which restrain the momentum of his caracoleo. The tunics and coats highlight the agility of the horses young bodies. All these figures produces admiration and awe.
This sculpture was executed with the bas-relief technique, but the scene has a remarkable depth, which Phidias succeeded in arranging figures in diagonal and sculpting them on different planes. To convince us of this, simply to note the game of legs of the horses and the legs of the Knights.
This repetition of figures would have been monotonous if the work had been done by another sculptor. Phidias averted the danger by changing the attitude of the horses, the disposition of the robes of the riders and the position of their heads. In this way, he managed to infuse his figures a "rhythm" that gives them life and movement.
Another element came to also contribute to the vitality of the scene: the color. It seem strange, because we are accustomed to imagine the all-white antique statues, as they have come down to us. The reliefs of Phidias, however, highlighted in red know blue background, and weapons, which have been lost, were not sculpted in marble, but added later, and were bronze, Rod, than the sun make them Flash.
But if the merit of this work were just listed ' so far, Phidias would not be a great virtuoso. True art always involves a deep spiritual significance, and the artist knew how to give it to this work, as it is shown by the faces of the riders, they expressed a solemn calm, in contrast to the nervous mobility of their horses.
They are collected, thoughtful faces, and reflect the importance of the moment who are living: what led the procession to the Temple of the goddess was a religious feeling, and young men lived it with intensity. In his attitude of self-absorbed tribute to Palas moral dignity is manifested, also. And it is precisely this feeling that gives composure and balance to the scene, revealing that harmonious, serenity that we are accustomed to call "classical".