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Parthenon – Athens, Greece
In Greek culture, there is no greater achievement than the world-famous Parthenon (Temple of Athena the Virgin) atop of Acropolis of Athens. Though it has not been in use for many centuries, it still holds power over local residents and tourists alike.
The Parthenon was created as a tribute to the goddess Athena who is the patron goddess of Athens. After the Greek victory in the Persian Wars, the Parthenon was proposed by Pericles in 5th century BC as a way to thank the goddess for protecting the city. Unfortunately, her power was not strong enough to prevent the previous temple that sat on the grounds from being destroyed by the Persians.
Construction began in 447 BC. The superstructure was finished by 438 BC, while exterior and interior decoration continued through to 433 BC. Detailed financial documents still exist today, and they clearly show that the building was an expensive endeavor that required large amounts of money to move stone from Mount Pentelicus to the Acropolis.
For a thousand years, the Parthenon was the most important Greek temple. Even after Greek subjugation to the Roman Empire, the Parthenon was still a prominent feature of the Athens landscape. One of the Roman Emperors looted the Parthenon of the great statue of Athena in the 5th century CE. It was never found and is believed to have been destroyed.
By the 13th century it was converted to a Christian church. Much of the original sculpture work was removed, as it was blatantly pagan. By the 15th century, the Parthenon switched hands again, this time to the Ottomans. They converted it from a Christian church to a mosque, and added a large minaret to the site. Unlike the Parthenon’s Christian occupiers, the Muslims did not damage or destroy any parts of the Parthenon.
Things were going well for the structure leading up to the end of the 17th century, when Venetians attacked Athens in force and destroyed most of the structure with a well-placed shell that detonated a cache of gunpowder. Since then, the Parthenon has never again been used as either a place of worship or a storehouse.
You can still visit the Parthenon in its severely damaged and decaying state. To really understand what this building means, you have to go there and experience the entire Acropolis at once. The Parthenon was truly a grand achievement, but it is also an example of how the wars of men can ruin a good thing.