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Greek Art

The most impressive works that convincingly bespeak the elegance and endurance of ancient Greek architecture were produced between 700 BC and the Roman occupation in 146 BC.  The commencement of the classical era encompasses the years from 500 to 450 BC.  Known as the Early Classical period, this era saw the construction of the traditional Doric temple plan, as expressed most fully in The Parthenon. Ictinus, was responsible for designing the Parthenon, which persists as a timeless emblem of High Classical ingenuity and design sensibility.

Greek Art

The Parthenon was erected as a temple to the goddess Athena. The temple is surrounded by a single row of Doric columns, with 8 columns at each facade and 17 on the flanks.  The usual Doric temple was designed with a 6-column-wide façade, which lends to the Parthenon’s uncommonly expansive appearance.  A stylobate three steps high supports the building. Within the outer colonnade are two porticoes with six columns each, the pronaos and opisthodomos at the front and back of the building, respectively. Within the main cella, a Doric colonnade spanning two tiers supported the roof timbers and divided the space into a towering central nave that was confined by an aisle on three sides.

Within this nave stood the Athena Parthenos, an immense statue of ivory and gold completed by the sculptor Phidias in 438 BC. To the west, an inner chamber served as a small treasury and was accessed through a large doorway facing the west. The pediments at each end of the building were ornamented with depictions celebrating the birth of Athena on the eastern end and the challenge between Athena and Poseidon on the western end. The friezes above the porticoes and the upper portion of the cella walls formed an unbroken circuit of sculpture around the building.  This continuous circle was meant to represent the Panathenaic procession held every fourth year in homage to Athena. The architects obvious intention was to construct a grand building giving homage to the Goddess Athena and seeking her favor on Greece.

In light of the Greek tradition of worshiping Gods and Goddesses, I can understand why the Parthenon was such a monumental figure in Greek culture. The shape being a continuous circle with the icons of their culture surrounding the inner sanctum of the structure must have been awesome all who saw it in its glory days. Today, The Parthenon serves as evidence to a time long gone when it was believed that Gods and Goddesses determined the fate of man.

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