To what extent were propaganda and national pride as important as
religion in the design, construction and decoration of the Parthenon?
Although the decision to build the Parthenon was highly controversial
in Athens because of the politics that surrounded it, was the
Parthenon erected simply as sign of dedication to the gods? Or was it
to fuel the dwindling pride of the Athenian citizens? By studying the
structure, decoration and design, I hope to come to a conclusion as to
whether the Parthenon was simply physical evidence of Athenian pride
or whether it was pride in religion.
Though the Persian wars were possibly over before the Parthenon was
being considered, the wars played a vital role for Athens and her
temples. During the wars, the armies of Persia attacked Athens and
sacked the city leaving much of it in ruins, including the new temple
in honour of Athene atop the Acropolis that was under construction.
During the struggle, many of the states in Greece joined together to
fight against the Persians and decided that they should not rebuild
any of the temples that had been destroyed by the Persians to have an
eternal memory of the devastation they caused and the lack of respect
they have for religion. The once impressive city of Athens was
reduced to dust, with small basic houses and nothing really imposing.
The relatively basic buildings of Athens must have crushed the pride
of the people, however, due to the oath taken at Plataea not to
rebuild any of the temples, the people remained humbled by their
modest buildings in their cities. Some of the states in Greece joined
together in a league to sustain a navy that could protect them from
more attacks from the Persians. The money given by each of the states
was kept at a treasury in Delos, the Greeks then referred to the band
of states as the Delian League. Eventually, it became obvious that
Athens would be the leaders of the league and so the money was
transferred to Athens. After rebuilding and fortifying the city, the
Athenians made peace with Persia in 449BC. The oath of Plataea no
longer seemed necessary, and a popular Athenian politician, Pericles,
began advances to persuade the Athenians to rebuild the temples of
Athens. Pericles wanted to discuss rebuilding the temples and
guarding the oceans with the other states in the Delian League.
However, no other states came to the conference that Pericles had
organised. When this happened, Athens made the decision to rebuild the
temples without the input of the other states. As Pericles had
proposed the building of the Parthenon, he had to influence the
population about funding the huge project. It was decided to use state
funds and money given by the Delian League to construct the Parthenon.
Structure of the Parthenon
As a Doric temple, the Parthenon would have been expected to have
certain attributes that would immediately classify it. For example, a
typical Doric temple...