The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens

Parthenon

The symbol of Greece and the most visited place in Athens.
The Parthenon is the epitome of ancient Greek Classical art. Built as an expression of ancient Athens's glory, it remains the city's emblem to this day.

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Where is the Parthenon

The Parthenon is the most popular thing to see in Athens with around two million visiting every year. Perhaps the most famous building in the world, the Parthenon, is the epitome of ancient Greece. Built as an expression of ancient Athen’s glory, it remains the city’s emblem to this day.

Situated on top of the Acropolis, it is dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens worshipped and considered their patroness.

Construction of the temple began in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC, although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC.

For a time, it served as a treasury, and around 590 AD was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Ottoman conquest, the Parthenon was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. 

On September 26th 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment during a siege of the Acropolis. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. 

From 1800 to 1803, The 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles.

The Parthenon itself replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon, that was demolished in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. 

The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, democracy and Western civilization and one of the world’s most significant cultural monuments. Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon served a practical purpose as the city treasury. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art.

To the Athenians who built it, the Parthenon, and other Periclean monuments of the Acropolis, were seen fundamentally as a celebration of Hellenic victory over the Persian invaders and as a thanksgiving to the gods for that victory.

Since 1975, numerous large-scale restoration projects have been undertaken to ensure the structural stability of the temple.

The Illusion of Perfection

Every aspect of the Parthenon was built on a 9:4 ratio, e.g. 9 wide and 4 high, to make the temple completely symmetrical. The sculptors also used visual trickery to counteract the laws of perspective. 

  • The base of the Parthenon is higher in the middle than at the edges.
  • Each column leans inwards very slightly. 
  • The steps curve slightly upwards at the centre to make them appear level from a distance.

The ongoing dispute over the Parthenon marbles

The dispute centres around the Parthenon Marbles removed by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, from 1801 to 1803, which are in the British Museum. 

A few sculptures from the Parthenon are also in the Louvre in Paris, in Copenhagen, and elsewhere. More than half are in the Acropolis Museum

The Greek government has campaigned since 1983 for the British Museum to return the sculptures to Greece. The British Museum has steadfastly refused to return the sculptures, and successive British governments have been unwilling to force the museum to do so (which would require legislation). 

Admire the perfect proportions of the temple – it was designed to represent the ideal human form.

Take in the panoramic views of Athens from the Parthenon’s summit.

Learn about the history of the temple and its construction at the on-site museum.

See the impressive remains of the Parthenon’s roof, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1801.

The frieze on the east side of the Parthenon, above the main entrance, depicts the mythical battle between the Olympian gods and the Giants.

The frieze on the west side the mythical battle of the Athenians against the Amazons.

The frieze on the south side shows the battle of the legend people of Thessaly aided by Theseus against the half-man, half-horse (Centaurs).

The mythological figures of the metopes of the East, North, and West sides of the Parthenon had been deliberately mutilated in the late roman empire.

Get there early – the early morning light is perfect for photography.

Stay away from the crowds – try to find a spot where you can take photos without people in them.

The front of the Parthenon, with the cityscape in the background.

The side of the Parthenon, with the steps leading up to it.

The back of the Parthenon, with the Acropolis in the background.

The top of the Parthenon, with a bird’s eye view of Athens.

The bottom of the Parthenon, looking up at its impressive structure.

At night when it is lit up.

Covered in snow.

Against a clear blue sky.

The Parthenon is located on the Acropolis of Athens and therefore has the same opening hours.

Summer (April 1st to October 31st)

Monday – Sunday 08:00 – 20:00

Winter (November 1st to March 31st)

Monday – Sunday 09:00 – 18:00

Closed

January 1st, March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, December 25th and 26th

Thanks to the Greek Government, from the beginning of 2021, visitors with mobility issues now have access to the Athens Acropolis thanks to a new lift and specially designed paths facilitating wheelchair access.

The modern lift, which replaces a repeatedly malfunctioning one, is located on the north face of the Acropolis along the ancient promenade and will transport wheelchair users and individuals with Disabilities and Impairments to the top of the hill.

The specially designed and renovated 500-meter-long and four-meter-wide pathways also provide access to and around the Parthenon.

Popular skip-the-line tickets for the Parthenon

 

 

My photos of the Parthenon

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