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Parthenon (Wonders of the World) by Mary Beard

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By Mary Beard

The ruined silhouette of the Parthenon on its hill above Athens is likely one of the world's most renowned photos. Its 'looted' Elgin Marbles are a world reason celebre. yet what really are they? within the first of an occasional 'series' on wonders of the realm - equivalent to the Colosseum, Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Alhambra, Mary Beard, biographer, reviewer and top Cambridge classicist, tells the background and explains the importance of the Parthenon, the temple of the virgin goddess Athena, the divine patroness of historical Athens. "The Wonders of the realm" is a sequence of books that makes a speciality of many of the world's most famed websites or monuments. Their names might be popular to just about everybody: they've got accomplished iconic stature and are loaded with a good volume of mythological luggage. those monuments were the topic of many books over the centuries, yet our target, throughout the ability and stature of the writers, is to get anything even more enlightening, stimulating, even arguable, than effortless histories or publications.

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Elsewhere in his Guidebook he brings up a painting in the Parthenon which featured the fifth-century BC general (later defector and exile) Themistocles, as well as [ 25 ] 10/16/08 7:04 PM Page 26 Contest between Athena and Poseidon 14 metopes (battles of Greeks and Amazons) ➔ procession ➔ ➔ east chamber frieze frieze base of statue of Athena main east door ➔ ➔ ➔ 14 metopes (battles of gods and giants) Birth of Athena Figure 2. The Parthenon and its sculpture (scale 1:400). 32 metopes (battles of Greeks and Trojans) ➔ 32 metopes (battles of Greeks and Centaurs) west chamber ➔ 01 Parthenon* 01 Parthenon* 10/16/08 7:04 PM Page 27 Main entrance to Acropolis n Temple of Victory Propylaia Foundations of old temple of Athena parthenon Erechtheion (showing foundation of pre-Parthenon) Temple of Rome and Augustus Figure 3.

Among the many thousands of such inscribed documents that survive, there are a few that refer to the Parthenon. We shall look in Chapter 5 at the inscribed inventories of its contents: for the Athenians, these were a weapon in the fight against embezzlement and theft; for us, they are a rare hint of the precious bric-à-brac that once cluttered the inside of the temple, from Persian daggers and broken stools to gold cups and ivory lyres. Just as revealing is a small group of fragments from the inscribed accounts for the building work itself and for the production of the statue of Athena.

Did he just fail to notice it? If so, was it because he was generally unobservant or simply tired and losing concentration by the time he reached the Parthenon? Or was it that the frieze was actually very difficult to see? High up on the [ 30 ] 01 Parthenon* 10/16/08 7:04 PM Page 31 wall, behind an outer colonnade, maybe it was effectively hidden from even the most conscientious ancient tourist. Or is it because it came low on his list of priorities, so far below the statue of Athena that it did not rate even a word?

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