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The Parthenon: Athenian Victory Essay

2596 words - 10 pages

The scene was 5th century B.C. Athens in ancient Greece. The Athenians had just defeated the Persians in an impressive defense of their great city. An overwhelming sense of pride and victory permeated the minds of every loyal citizen. Cultural and political achievements had reached new heights. Pericles, a fiery orator and elected statesman, had proposed a massive resurrection of the Athenian temples long since destroyed by the Persian invaders. Perhaps the crowning achievement of his new building program was the Parthenon, the temple to be dedicated to commemorate the greatness of the patron goddess of Athens, Athena.Finished in 432 B.C., the Parthenon represented much for the people of Athens. In the work Pericles, Plutarch explains that the best materials, artists, and laborers were called upon from the entire region to take part in the massive project. Stone, bronze, ivory, gold and other precious and expensive materials were used. Pheidias, one of the greatest artists of his time and a friend of Pericles, became the artistic director of the building program while the best carpenters, bronze-smiths, stonecutters, leather-workers, rope-makers and many other professionals all gathered in Athens to add their own expertise. Nothing was spared in order to fully represent the vision Pericles and his artistic friends had for the Parthenon and its surrounding buildings. Of course such a project was expensive and Pericles spent money of the Athenian government in large sums to pay for it. Much of this money in fact came from Athens' allies in the Persian war. Because of this, there were those who objected, including Pericles' political rival Thucydides who, as Plutarch explains "kept denouncing Pericles for playing fast and loose with the public moneys and annihilating the revenues." (Plutarch. "Pericles." Lives. pg. 47) However, when Pericles threatened to make the inscriptions of dedication of the buildings in his own name only, Thucydides quickly rescinded his complaints and "bade him take freely from the public funds for his outlays, and to spare nought whatsoever." In such an open society where freedom of speech allowed all opinions to be expressed, it was an impressive accomplishment to gain the support of even one's political rivals. This can only be seen to represent how incredibly important the Parthenon and the surrounding buildings were to the Athenians of this era.The sculpted ornament of the Parthenon is located on three major elements: the pediment, the metopes, and the frieze. A close examination of these major elements along with the statue of Athena can give us a better understand of the purpose and significance of the structure.Of course the overriding theme throughout all the depictions found on the Parthenon is that of victory and Athenian dominance. Nowhere is this more evident than on the metopes, which are divided into four main sections depicting famous episodes of Greek victory found in their myth. On the northern side, the...

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