25 Fascinating Facts About The Parthenon

Posted by , Updated on June 21, 2024

The Parthenon, an amazing piece of architecture, still stands proudly on Athens’ Acropolis after facing earthquakes, fires, stolen art, explosions, and poor repairs for almost 2,500 years. While its building didn’t break any new engineering ground, its beauty set the standards for classical architecture, shaping designs even today. If ancient architecture fascinates you, these 25 Intriguing Facts About The Parthenon will definitely catch your eye.

There is no architecture quite like the Parthenon. During its heyday, the Parthenon played a key role in Athenian life, as temple, artistic masterpiece, and national symbol, but in time the monument’s importance surpassed the narrow borders of its country and the world of architecture. The Parthenon became the symbol of antiquity and the “golden age of Athens” where democracy was born. However, despite being one of the planet’s greatest and most viewed cultural monuments–attracting millions of tourists every year from all over the world–not many know its secrets. So sit back, relax, because you are about to learn about a truly marvel of antiquity. These are 25 Impressive Facts About the Parthenon.


The Acropolis of Athens, where the Parthenon is located, is also called “the sacred rock” and was built for defensive purposes. During wartime the Greeks used the Acropolis to get a better view of their enemies’ positions.

Acropolis of AthensSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

Neolithic remains discovered on the slopes of the Acropolis indicate a continuous settlement on the hill from at least 2800 BCE, well before the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures that later gave birth to the so-called Archaic Greek.

Neolithic remains in AcropolisSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Long before the construction of the Parthenon the site had been a sacred place and seat of other temples. For that matter, the Parthenon itself replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon, or Older Parthenon, that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BCE.

Old ParthenonSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

The name Parthenon comes from one of Athena’s many epithets: Athena Parthenos, meaning “Athena the Virgin.” Parthenon means ‘’house of Parthenos,’’ which was the name given in the fifth century BCE to the chamber inside the temple that housed the cult statue. The temple itself was known as the ‘‘large temple,’’ which referred to the length of the inner cella: one hundred ancient feet. From the fourth century BCE the whole building acquired the name the Parthenon.

Goddess AthenaSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

Construction of the Parthenon started in 447 BCE and was completed in 438 BCE but decorating the temple continued until 432.

Parthenon's decorationSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

Built by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates under the supervision of the sculptor Phidias, the Parthenon is considered by most modern architects and historians the supreme expression of the ancient Greek architectural genius and represents the marriage of simplicity and power. The temple is also considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order, the simplest of the three classical Greek architectural styles.

PhidiasSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

It has been suggested by some contemporary historians (including art historian Sir John Boardman) that the frieze above the Doric columns of the Parthenon depicts the 192 Greek warriors who fell in the Battle of Marathon against the Persians in 490 BCE. There is an inspiring symbolic side to the whole affair, with the building showcasing these fallen heroes being presented in a ceremonious manner to the Olympian gods.

Parthenon's architectureSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

Some of the financial accounts for the Parthenon survive and show that the largest single expense was transporting the stone from Mount Pentelicus, about sixteen kilometers from Athens, to the Acropolis.

Mount Pentelicus MarbleSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

A restoration project funded by the Greek government and the European Union is now entering its forty-second year, while the ancient Athenians needed a little less than a decade to build it.

restoration of the ParthenonSource: Wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The rectangular building (measured at the top step of its base to be 101.34 feet wide by 228.14 feet long) was constructed of great quality white marble, surrounded by forty-six columns, roofed with tiles, and housed a nearly forty-foot-tall statue of the goddess Athena. The statue, known as Athena Promachos, “Athena the Champion,” was made of wood, gold, and ivory and could be seen from a distance of many miles.

Athena PromachosSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

While much of the structure remains intact, the Parthenon has suffered considerable damage over the centuries. It all started in 296 BCE when the tyrant Lachares removed the gold from the statue of Athena in order to pay his army.

statue of AthenaSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

In the fifth century CE the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church and in 1460 the Parthenon held a Turkish mosque. In 1687 gunpowder stored by the Turks inside the temple exploded and destroyed the central area.

ParthenonSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

The Parthenon had forty-six outer pillars and twenty-three inner pillars, but not all of them survive today. Also, the roof (now nonexistent) was covered with large overlapping marble tiles known as imbrices and tegulae.

ParthenonSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

If you’re not impressed by the temple’s architecture, however, know that the Parthenon’s design is earthquake-resistant. In spite of its columns subtly leaning inward so that a person can view them better on an upward angle, the Parthenon boasts a very fine parabolic upward curvature that allows the monument to decisively shed rainwater while also reinforcing it against earthquakes. Those ancient Greeks were well ahead of their time indeed.

earthquakeSource: smithsonianmag.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The Parthenon was also used as a treasury like many other Greek temples of the era.

treasurySource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: pixabay.com

Despite the Parthenon being the most popular Athenian structure of all time, it was not really financed by the Athenians. Having concluded the Persian wars, Athens had become, by 447 BCE, the dominant power in what is now Greece, the center of a regional empire. Funds from the other city-states in the Delian League, initially formed to fight Persia, were used to build it. In other words, the money that financed the ambitious architectural project mainly came from tributes exacted from the allied city-states under Athens’ protection rather than from the Athenian citizens.

Delian LeagueSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Monetary contributions of the Delian League, of which Athens was the leading member, were stored in the opisthodomus, the back room of the cella (the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture).

opisthodomusSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

During the classical period not only the Parthenon but also the Erechtheion and the Temple of Nike (yep, the goddess of victory who inspired Nike sportswear) were built over the old ruins of the Acropolis.

ErechtheionSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

Apart from these structures, another significant monument found at the foot of the Acropolis is the ‘’Theater of Dionysus,’’ which is considered to be the first theater in history.

Theatre of DionysusSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

While modern media depicts Greek temples and structures as having gleaming white facades, it is actually the opposite that was true. The Parthenon most likely had multicolored facades, but of course the visual vibrancy has lost its shine due to the juggernaut of Time and the pollution of present-day Athens.

Parthenon by NightSource: livescience.com, Image: Wikipedia

Pericles, probably the greatest Athenian statesman of all time and the city’s first citizen, was the one who was inspired to construct the Parthenon.

PericlesSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

From 1801 to 1803 parts of the temple’s remaining sculptures were sold by the Turks (who controlled Greece at the time) to the Englishman Lord Elgin. These sculptures were forcibly removed, sold to the British Museum, and called the Elgin Marbles. Greece has asked the British Museum to return the sculptures but the Brits have refused to do so.

Elgin MarblesSource: theguardian.com (Article by Helena Smith: As a Briton, I hang my head in shame. We must return the Parthenon marbles), Image: Wikipedia

According to tripadvisor.com the Parthenon is the most copied building in the world. There are many buildings worldwide that follow its architectural order and look like it and there’s a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon located in Nashville, Tennessee.

Parthenon (Nashville)Source: tripadvisor.com, Image: Wikipedia

More than half a million people visited the new Acropolis Museum during its first two months of operation back in 2009, and during that same time more than 409,000 individual Internet users from 180 countries visited the museum's website, www.theacropolismuseum.gr, breaking the record for the most visited museum (online) in such a short period of time.

Acropolis MuseumSource: theacropolismuseum.gr, Image: Wikipedia

Throughout history, the ratio for length to width of rectangles of 1.61803 39887 49894 84820 has been considered the most pleasing to the eye. This ratio was named the golden ratio by the Greeks. In the world of mathematics, the numeric value is called “phi,” named for the Greek sculptor Phidias, who widely used the golden ratio in his sculptures. The exterior dimensions of the Parthenon form a perfect golden rectangle and it is believed that the Parthenon was built to extremely precise dimensions according to this mathematical ratio of sacred geometry.

golden ratioSource: The Parthenon (Wonders of the World), Image: Wikipedia

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