3.1- 2 TRANSCRIPT FOR The Acropolis and Parthenon of Athens A visitor to Athens in the late fifth century bce would have been impressed by a grand complex of temples and other buildings. This was the Acropolis, or “highest city” in Greek. Originally a fortress, by this time the Athenian Acropolis was the site of some of the finest art and architecture in Greece. The Acropolis was an imposing mound of rock that rose steeply above the surrounding city. The largest building on the Acropolis was the Parthenon, built entirely of fine marble. Although more familiar to us as a temple, the Parthenon was also utilized as a treasury. It was used to store thousands of pounds of silver, paid annually to Athens by the Delian league: a group of memberstates set up in joint opposition to the Persians, but which Athens came to have command over. The treasure was kept in a chamber called the “Virgin Room,” or “Parthenon,” hence the temple’s name. To the north of the Parthenon was a smaller temple, dedicated to Athena Polias, the city’s patron goddess, who gave Athens its name. This building is known today as the Erectheum. To the east was a monumental entryway to the Acropolis, the Propylaia, or “Gateways,” named after its five doorways. The Propylaia was designed to be not merely a gatehouse, but also to impress visitors before they passed through to the temple precincts. Jutting out to one side of the Propylaia was a small temple dedicated to Athena Nike, the goddess of victory in war. Appropriately, in the fifth century bce the temple was adapted from a military building, and covered in fine marble during the construction of the Propylaia. To the south stood the open-air Theater of Dionysos, named after another Greek god. Sitting on semicircular banks of marble bleachers, the audience watched the actors perform in a circular space called the orchestra. Behind stood the skene, where the actors prepared for the performance. Athenians flocked to see the latest tragedy or comedy by such playwrights as Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides, all of whose works are still performed today. The Parthenon as we see it now stands on the site of an earlier, unfinished temple, destroyed by the Persians when they invaded in 480 bce. A few decades later, when the Athenians rebuilt the temple, they did so in grand style, sparing no expense; the new Parthenon was bigger and constructed of the finest materials. Work on the Parthenon began in 447 bce and was mostly complete by 437 bce. It was overseen by three men: Pheidias directed the sculptural program and the overall design, Iktinos was the architect, and Kallikrates organized the works. Ancient Greek architects adhered to certain rules and style guidelines. The two main architectural styles were Doric and Ionic, but the Parthenon mixed both. Its plan and outer facades were Doric, but the columns of the rear chamber were Ionic, and an Ionic frieze ran round the outer walls of the inner building. The building we admire today has been significantly altered by the effects of war and other damage inflicted over several centuries. We can gain an impression of the Parthenon’s original splendor from a replica constructed in Nashville, Tennessee, between 1920 and 1931. The Parthenon was not just a marvel of architecture; it was also decorated with the finest Greek sculpture. In its main hall stood a 30-foot-tall gold-and-ivory statue of Athena, accompanied by statues of Athena Nike, each 6 feet 6 inches tall, and covered in gold. The four sides of the building were richly decorated with relief carvings. One set of reliefs portrayed a mythical battle between the centaurs (part-human, part-horse creatures) and the Lapiths (a mythical Greek people.) This mythical conflict was a reference to the real-life wars in which the Greeks, aligned with the heroic human Lapiths, fought off the marauding Persians, represented by the barbaric centaurs. The frieze on the walls of the inner building depicted the ritual procession of Athens’s most important civic festival, the Great Panathenaia: a celebration of the goddess Athena’s birthday. On that day, Athenians paraded from the Dipylon gate in the city wall, through the Agora marketplace, up the ramp and steps leading into the Acropolis, and finally through the Propylaia into the temple precincts, where bulls were sacrificed in honor of Athena. The famous frieze shows horsemen; chariots; girls in the procession; women leading bulls to sacrifice on the Acropolis; and the gods themselves. Although we see the Parthenon today as a pure-white marble monument, in its day it would have been a brashly colorful building. Weathering has worn away the paint over time, leaving only traces for scientists to find. The metope sculptures would have been painted bright colors, enhancing the contrast of relief to background. Many of the sculptures from the Parthenon are now in the collection of the British Museum in London. The carvings are known as the “Elgin marbles,” after the early nineteenth-century British Ambassador to Constantinople, Lord Elgin. In 1801, the Turks, who governed Greece at the time, gave Elgin permission to remove the sculptures from the Parthenon site to England. The Greek government has long demanded the return of the sculptures to Greece, where in 2009 it finished building a new museum to display them. The British Museum responds that the sculptures were removed with legal permission, and that, as part of world heritage, they are available to visitors the world over in London. The scenes of conflict depicted in the Elgin marbles remind us that these magnificent works of art remain the object of this great and unresolved controversy.