The West has always put a great emphasis on how beholden it is to many cultural and political institutions derived from Classical Antiquity. This has been most consistent in aesthetic conceptions of art and architecture. Many monuments and architectural traditions of the West derive directly from ancient sources, in an attempt to link the ideals of modern life with those of ancient Greece and Rome. Nowhere is this more evident than in the capitol of the United States where a Neo-Classical style predominates. The Lincoln Memorial built in 1822 embodies the conscious attempt to sanctify an American President with a classical model. It was based upon the quintessential classical building of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built during the High Classical Period, when Periclean Athens was at its height. It more than any other building has come to symbolize the Classical ideal on which Western society supposedly stands. It came to represent the democratic tradition on which many Enlightenment thinkers, including the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution, had associated with Athenian Greece. The association between Ancient Greece and the ideals of freedom were so great that the Romantic poet Lord Byron rushed to his death to support the Greek revolution against their Turkish overlords. The Parthenon has served as an architectural model on which to instill the connection between the Ancient and Modern worlds.
It is no wonder that the young American Republic would latch onto the Neo-Classical ideal that dominated European aesthetics for the first half of the 19th century. They wished to both sanctify a fallen leader and idealized man, and make a conscious connection with the first democratic society. They chose the Parthenon as their model precisely because it serves as the climax of the Greek political and artistic lives.
Lincoln would be sitting within a recess behind fluted...