Click on the photos for a close-up of a detail from the thumbnail. Description
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One of the famed 'refinements' of the Parthenon are these gargoyles. They divert water from the room away from the walls and keep the water from staining the building. Common today, but this was in 450BC.

All photos are by me.

[ g1025a.jpg - details ] But the "refinements" that have justly made this building famous are various departures from strict linearity - the columns bulge in the middle and they aren't exactly vertical. And the floors - as seen here - have a curve to them. This isn't bad design, but the result of a cunning understanding of the optics of the human eye. A totally linear building from a distance will look flat. The various curves of the Parthenon were designed to make it look light, alive, to the human eye. We really aren't the smartest generation that ever lived, are we? Of course, it's pretty good for drainage also.
[ g1002a.jpg - construction  ] How did they build the columns? They were assembled in sections. The hole in the center held a block of wood, with a dowel in the exact center. A layer of sand was placed on the surface and the next section of the column lowered on top. A hole in the upper section matched the dowel on the lower section. Ropes attached to the upper section allowed many workers to slowly twist the upper section back and forth on the lower. The sand ground the surfaces smooth and was slowly forced out. The result - two sections that match so closely that you cannot insert a knife in the seams. The flutes on the outside were cut after the column was assembled.
A detail (reconstructed) of the roof, which lasted for hundreds of years.
A detail of the top of the column. The engineering problem is to transfer the weight to the columns. Note the careful attention to such details as the horizontal banding at the top. Remember, this detail is more than 30 feet above the ground.
arch Three marble blocks were used for the architrave, You can see them here. The blocks are 1.3 meters high. (1998 photos)
The damage done to the Parthenon isn't really the result of 2,400 years. Most of the destruction has occurred in the last 400. In 1687, the roof and many columns were blown off during a war when a shell exploded a powder magazine kept in the building. Modern pollution, specifically sulfur oxides from autos and other sources are slowly eating the building away. Left unchecked it could destroy the building in a century. Work is of course, in progress to clean up Athens and check this problem.
Not all the damage is modern. These holes are what is left from an inscription honoring the corrupt emperor Nero in the first century. From the east side.
The pediments at each end provide a difficult problem for sculpture. Notice in this, and the next photo how the artists have used the limited space to suggest a larger composition.
The three horse's heads economically suggests the full team of horses. This and the previous photo are from the east pediment. (1998 photo.)
pediment Another detail from one of the pediments.
A metope from the Southwest corner A scene from the battle of the Centaurs. Note the darker line below the left part of the metope and extending below the triglyph. This is part of a modern attempt to hold the building together. (1998 photos)
Careful efforts at reconstruction are underway and have been for twenty years or more. This involves fixing problems from previous reconstruction among other issues. (1986 photos.)
[ g1024a.jpg - reconstruction ] An example of a reconstructed area. You can see here that new stone is being added to the building at points to rebuild it. The different color is deliberate, so that viewers will know what it original and what is new. (1994 photo.)
Last modified 9/29/10; posted 1/03/2000; original content © 2010, 2000 John P. Nordin