Standing watch over Athens for two and half millennia, the Parthenon is an enduring symbol of ancient Greek civilization and one of the world's greatest cultural treasures.
Erected between 447 and 432 BC, the Parthenon is the most impressive and significant, ancient Greek structure still standing today, and has become an abiding symbol of Greece.
A masterpiece of Doric architecture, the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis overlooking Athens as a temple dedicated to the city's patron goddess, Athena, and as a monument to the power of the city under the rule of Pericles, when it ruled over the empire in the Aegean Sea and was one of the most influential states in the Mediterranean.
The Parthenon was intended to impress; built from 22,000 tons of white Pentelic marble and measuring 69m long by 31m wide, with carved columns rising more than 10m in height.
Above the columns, the entablature was adorned with magnificent sculptures of deities and mythological scenes, which would have been painted in vivid colors in antiquity. Many of these sculptural groups are now in the British Museum while others may be seen in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the Louvre in Paris.
A colossal statue of Athena, created by the sculptor Phidias in gold and ivory, once stood inside, along with displays of war booty and Athenian treasures.
The Parthenon remained in use as a temple for a thousand years but was badly damaged by fire and by Germanic invaders in the third century AD.
In the sixth century, the Parthenon was converted into a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and it became an important pilgrimage site. The building was later repurposed as a mosque following the Turkish occupation in the fifteenth century.
Despite all the upheaval and remodeling over the centuries, the basic structure of the Parthenon remained intact until 1687, when, during a battle between the Ottomans and the Venetians, a shell destroyed much of the building, which had been used as a gunpowder store.
A major restoration plan, beginning in the 1970s, is ongoing, and today the Parthenon is the one sight everyone visiting Greece should see.
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The Acropolis of Athens,
Athens 105 58,