Jan 19, 2023

The Parthenon is one of the most iconic landmarks in Athens, Greece and is considered one of the greatest architectural masterpieces of ancient Greece.

This temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, sits atop the Acropolis and has been a symbol of the city's power and wealth for over two millennia. In this article, we will explore the rich history of the Parthenon, from its ancient origins to its current state. We will take a look at the key events and figures that have shaped this architectural masterpiece and examine the ongoing controversies surrounding its restoration and the Elgin Marbles.


The Parthenon was built in the 5th century BCE during the rule of Pericles. It was intended to be a symbol of the city's power and wealth and to showcase the accomplishments of the Athenian people. The temple was designed by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates and was decorated with sculptures by Phidias. The temple was built out of marble, and many of its sculptures were also carved from marble.

The temple was dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the virgin goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill.

The temple was built on the site of an earlier temple that had been destroyed by the Persians in 480 BCE. The new temple was built on a much grander scale and was designed to be the focal point of the city.

The temple was built in the Doric order, which was the simplest and most ancient of the three Greek architectural orders. The Doric order was characterized by its plain and sturdy appearance, with heavy columns and a simple frieze. The temple was also adorned with sculptures, including a statue of Athena that was made of gold and ivory and stood over 12 meters tall.

The Parthenon was used as a temple for over a thousand years. In the 4th century CE, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In the following centuries, it was used as a palace, a fortress, and a mosque. The temple suffered significant damage over the centuries, including from two major fires in the 5th century CE and the 17th century CE.


In the 19th century, Lord Elgin removed many of the sculptures from the temple, which are now known as the Elgin Marbles. These sculptures were purchased by the British government and are currently housed in the British Museum in London.

The removal of these sculptures has been a source of controversy, with Greece seeking the return of the marbles to Athens. In the 20th century, the Greek government began a major restoration project to restore the temple to its original state.

The restoration was carried out by the Greek archaeologist Manolis Korres and his team. The restoration was a controversial topic, as some experts argued that it was not possible to restore the temple to its original state, while others argued that the temple should be left in its current state as a reminder of its long and varied history.

The restoration of the Parthenon was carried out in several phases, beginning in 1975 and continuing to this day.

The main objective of the restoration was to remove the damage caused by centuries of exposure to the elements and to stabilize the structure. The restoration work included the removal of the Christian additions, such as the bell towers, and the reconstruction of the missing parts of the temple.

The restoration also included the cleaning of the sculptures and the replacement of the missing pieces with plaster casts.


The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a group of classical Greek marble sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century. Lord Elgin, a British diplomat, obtained a permit from the Ottoman Empire, which then controlled Greece, to remove the sculptures, claiming that they were in danger of falling into ruin.

However, many experts argue that Lord Elgin had ulterior motives, and that the removal of the sculptures was done without proper archaeological methods and caused significant damage to the temple. The Elgin Marbles have been the subject of a long-standing dispute between Greece and the United Kingdom, with Greece calling for the return of the sculptures to Athens.

The British Museum, where the sculptures are currently housed, argues that they are part of the museum's collection and have a significant historical and cultural value. The issue has been a source of diplomatic tension between the two countries, with many prominent figures, including the Greek government and UNESCO, calling for the return of the sculptures to Greece.


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The Parthenon remains one of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks in the world. Its rich history and architectural significance continue to captivate visitors from around the globe.

While restoration efforts and the removal of the Elgin Marbles have added complexity to the story of the Parthenon, its lasting cultural and historical impact remains undeniable. The temple is a testament to the skill and creativity of the ancient Greeks and continues to be an important symbol of Greek culture and history.

The ongoing controversy surrounding the Elgin Marbles highlights the importance of preserving cultural heritage and the importance of ethical practices in archaeology and museum curation.

The Parthenon, with its rich history, ongoing controversies and its architectural and cultural significance will always remain a subject of interest and will continue to be a subject of study for many scholars, students and enthusiasts.