Parthenon: Cultural Significance, Essay Example

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Essay

The Parthenon can be seen as one of the most recognizable buildings in Western civilization.  Standing in Athens, Greece, it is a symbol of the Ancient Greek Civilization.  Dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, the Parthenon was built as a reconstruction of the original Parthenon, known today as the “older Parthenon.”  Destroyed in 480 BC, the current Parthenon was completed in 438 BC, nine years after construction began.

According to Regula, Phidias, Ictinos, and Callicrates were responsible for the building of the Parthenon (n.d.).  The latter two were architects and oversaw the project.  Phidias designed the Parthenon, who was a famous sculptor in Ancient Greece.  The Greek politician Pericles, who was responsible for the founding of Athens, reportedly ordered the project.

Religious Meaning

By definition, the Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena.  From its exterior to the centerpiece of the Parthenon – a large chryselephantine sculpture of Athena – the building was a monument to Athena.  However, it is believed not to have been a “typical” temple, according to most scholars.

The Parthenon never hosted the cult of Athena Polias (Burkert).  It did not have the typical religious activity as a temple had in Greek culture.  While some facts remain disputed about the Parthenon, it is generally agreed that while the Parthenon was a religious temple, there is a general consensus that the Parthenon is more of a monument to the goddess. That is, the Parthenon is more of a beautiful stage for the central piece, the statue from Phidias, rather that a site of worship.

Architectural Significance

Today, the Parthenon has more cultural relevance associated with the architecture of the Parthenon.  According to Ancienct-Greece.org, “the master planners of the Parthenon conceived it as a theatrical event” (n.d.).  With the smooth transition from the exterior to the interior, the ultimate glimpse of the status was the prize for onlookers who wouldn’t enter the temple (n.d.).  When it was created, this was certainly a focal point of the Parthenon: a significant architectural experience with a focus on the statue.

While the same can’t hold true today, due to its current state, the Parthenon retains cultural significance.  Seen as a grand display of the Doric order, the style of architecture which the Parthenon utilizes, the Parthenon remains an ultimate symbol of overarching Greek architecture.  The pediments, frieze, and metopes illustrate the fine detail of the building.

As a result, the architectural masterpiece has remained an important cultural work.  Similar to other architectural masterpieces, such as the Pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon retains such a high status.  Blending Greek art and architecture at its highest points, the Parthenon excels in its artistic merits.

Conclusion

From art, architecture, history, and religion, the Parthenon contains a multi-dimensional insight into Ancient Greece.  As it continues to be enjoyed and studied, the work will certainly remain instructive in all of these subjects.  It remains one of the most iconic and beautiful symbols of not only Ancient Greece, but of Western civilization.

Works Cited

Burkert, Walter.  Greek Religion.  New York: Harvard University Press, 1985.

“Fast Facts on The Parthenon and the Acropolis.”  Regula, deTraci.  About.com.  n.d.  Web.  4 June 2012.

“The Parthenon.”  Ancient-Greece.org.  n.d.  Web.  4 June 2012.

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