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date: 19 April 2018

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology

Timothy Darvill

Parthenon, Athens, Greece 


The principal temple situated in the centre of the Acropolis in Athens and visible from many places within the city. The temple has a long and chequered history, and in the late 20th century was the subject of a major conservation and restoration programme. The temple is dedicated to the maiden Greek goddess Athena and was probably begun in limestone at the end of the 6th century bc. It was replanned in marble after the battle of Marathon in 490 bc, but it was not constructed in its final form until 447–432 bc, when it became the centre‐piece of Pericles' scheme for the Acropolis. The architects were Ictinus and Callicrates, who worked under the supervision of the sculptor Phidias. Pentelic marble is the main material used in its construction, the design and form of the buildings being widely regarded as the highest achievement in the Doric Order of architecture. In 438 bc a great statue of Athena in gold and ivory was dedicated in the shrine, where it remained until its transportation to Constantinople in ad 426.

After the classical period the temple was converted first to a church and then to a mosque. It survived well until Turkish occupying forces used it as powder magazine; it exploded in 1687 after being hit by Venetian fire. Some of the finely sculptured marble friezes were acquired from the Turkish authorities by Lord Elgin and taken to London, where from 1816 they have been displayed in the British Museum.


R. A. McNeil, 1991, Archaeology and the destruction of the later Athenian acropolis. Antiquity, 65, 49–63Find this resource: