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(pär`thənŏn) [Gr.,=the virgin's place], temple sacred to Athena, on the acropolisacropolis
[Gr.,=high point of the city], elevated, fortified section of various ancient Greek cities.

The Acropolis of Athens, a hill c.260 ft (80 m) high, with a flat oval top c.
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 at Athens. Built under PericlesPericles
, c.495–429 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was a member of the Alcmaeonidae family through his mother, a niece of Cleisthenes. He first came to prominence as an opponent of the Areopagus (462) and as one of the prosecutors of Cimon, whom he replaced in influence.
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 between 447 B.C. and 432 B.C., it is the culminating masterpiece of Greek architecture. IctinusIctinus
, fl. 2d half of 5th cent. B.C., one of the greatest architects of Greece. His celebrated work is the Parthenon (447–432 B.C.) upon the acropolis at Athens, which he built with the architect Callicrates as associate.
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 and CallicratesCallicrates
, 5th cent. B.C., Greek architect. In association with Ictinus he built (447–432 B.C.) the Parthenon at Athens. At Athens also he designed (c.427) the Temple of Nike.
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 were the architects and PhidiasPhidias
or Pheidias
, c.500–c.432 B.C., Greek sculptor, one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. No original in existence can be attributed to him with certainty, although numerous Roman copies in varying degrees of supposed fidelity exist.
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 supervised the sculpture. The temple is peripteral, with eight Doric columns at each end and 17 on the flanks (46 in all); it stands upon a stylobate three steps high. The body of the building comprised a cella and behind it an inner chamber (the Parthenon proper), which gave the temple its name. At front and rear, within the outer colonnade, were two porticoes, the pronaos and opisthodomos, respectively, with six columns each.

Within the cella a Doric colonnade two tiers high supported the roof timbers and divided the space into a lofty central nave bounded by an aisle on three sides. Toward the west end of this nave stood the Athena Parthenos, the colossal gold and ivory statue by Phidias dedicated c.438 and destroyed in antiquity. The inner chamber, to the west, apparently served as treasury and was entered through a large western doorway. The pediments terminating the roof at each end of the building were ornamented with sculptured groups depicting the birth of Athena on the eastern end and the contest between Athena and Poseidon on the western end. The upper part of the cella walls and the friezes above the porticoes formed a continuous band of sculpture around the building. The friezes traditionally have been said to represent the Panathenaic procession held every fourth year in homage to Athena, but this interpretation of them only dates to the late 1700s; no ancient description of the subject of the friezes survives. Of the 525 ft (160 m) of this sculptured frieze, 335 ft (102 m) still exists. The western portion is now in the Acropolis Museum; the greater part of the remainder, removed by Lord Elgin, is in the British Museum (see Elgin MarblesElgin Marbles
, ancient sculptures taken from Athens to England in 1806 by Thomas Bruce, 7th earl of Elgin; other fragments exist in several European museums. Consisting of much of the surviving frieze and other sculptures from the Parthenon, a caryatid, and a column from the
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). Fragments also are in museums in six other countries.

In the 6th cent. the Parthenon became a Christian church, with the addition of an apse at the east end. It next served as a mosque, and a minaret was added to it. In 1687, in the Venetian attack on Athens, it was used as a powder magazine by the Turks and the entire center portion was destroyed by an explosion. The beauty of the Parthenon began to be appreciated in the 18th cent., and in 1762 measured drawings by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett gave strong impetus to the classic revivalclassic revival,
widely diffused phase of taste (known as neoclassic) which influenced architecture and the arts in Europe and the United States during the last years of the 18th and the first half of the 19th cent.
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. After the end of Turkish control (1830), intensive archaeological study of the Parthenon commenced. Numerous attempts have since been made to establish the mathematical or geometrical basis supposedly employed in producing the design's high perfection. Restoration work is still being done.


See studies by P. E. Corbett (1959), R. Carpenter (1970), M. Beard (2003), and J. B. Connelly (2014).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a temple in Athens dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos; the highest achievement of ancient Greek architecture.

The Parthenon was built on the Acropolis by Ictinus and Callicrates between 447 and 438 B.C. The sculptural ornament was produced under the direction of Phidias and was completed in 432 B.C. The marble Doric temple is 30.89 m wide and 69.54 m long; it has a peripteron of eight by 17 columns, which are 10.43 m high. Phidias’ chryselephantine statue of Athena formerly stood in the cella, which was surrounded on three sides by two-story colonnades. Adjoining the cella from the west is the treasury of the Delian League.

Over the outer colonnade are metopes representing centaurs, Amazons, and giants. The pediment groups, carved in the round, show, on the east, the birth of Athena and, on the west, Athena’s contest with Poseidon for the land of Attica. The continuous frieze around the top of the cella depicts the Panathenaic procession. The temple itself is distinguished by its striking proportionality, its synthesis of the Doric and Ionic orders, and the serene majesty and humanity of its architectural and sculptural elements.

The Parthenon was severely damaged in 1687, when the Venetians besieged the Acropolis during their war with Turkey. Between 1801 and 1803 most of the sculptures were taken to Great Britain, where they have been kept in the British Museum in London since 1816.


Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury, vol. 5. Moscow, 1973.
Carpenter, R. Die Erbauer des Parthenon. Munich, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Originally, the room behind the cella in the great temple of Athena Parthenos on the Athenian Acropolis.
2. More commonly, the name of the entire temple.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


magnificent temple of Athena, dominating the Acropolis of Athens. [Gk. Hist.: Benét, 761]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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RELIGION: Originally built to honor the Goddess Athena, the Parthenon later served as a Christian church (fifth century C.E.) and an Islamic mosque (15th century C.E.).
Over the Bank Holiday, I bought a ticket to attend an exhibit that had opened a few weeks ago called "Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece." The exhibit included some of Auguste Rodin's most iconic sculptures, The Thinker and The Kiss, on loan from Musee Rodin in Paris, all mixed in a room with the British Museum's own Elgin Marbles, originally part of the Parthenon in Greece.