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Acropolis ~ watching over an ancient city

September 21, 2009

Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens. Photo: smugmug

The Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena, built in the 5th century BC on the Athenian Acropolis. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered one of the high points of Greek art.

The Parthenon, part of the Acropolis complex, Athens. Photo: flickr member tsak_5

The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of restoration and reconstruction.

The Parthenon replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon, that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon was used as a treasury, and for a time served as the treasury of the Delian League, which later became the Athenian Empire. In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The imposing Parthenon within the Acropolis. Looming over Athens. Photo: tripadvisor After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted into a mosque in the early 1460s, and it had a minaret built in it. On 26 September 1687 an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. In 1806, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures, with Ottoman permission.

These sculptures, now known as the Elgin or Parthenon Marbles, were sold in 1816 to the British Museum in London, where they are now displayed. The Greek government is committed to the return of the sculptures to Greece, so far with no success.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 21, 2009 7:34 pm

    In the absence of unequivocal documentary proof of the circumstances under which Lord Elgin removed the Marbles, the legality of Britain’s acquisition of them will always be in doubt. More importantly, the fact that ‘permission’ to remove was granted not by the Greeks but by the Ottoman forces occupying Greece at that time undermines the legitimacy of Elgin’s actions and thus by extension Britain’s ownership. Many people around the world are backing the Greek governments commitment to reuniting the Parthenon Sculptures in Greece, not least the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and Marbles Reunited.

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