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A model of the gold and ivory statue of Athena inside the Parthenon

A model of the gold and ivory statue of Athena inside the Parthenon

Inside the Parthenon, the great sculptor Pheidias carved a huge statue of Athena made out of gold and ivory (chryselephantine). (The statue isn’t there anymore; it was melted down to get the gold eventually. This is an artist’s idea of what it might have looked like).

The Parthenon stood as the great glory of Athens and Athena for eight hundred years. When the Athenians converted to Christianity about 400 AD, they made their Parthenon into a Christian church, and it continued to stand for another thousand years. But when the Ottomans took over Greece in the 1400s AD, they weren’t so interested in Christian churches, because they were Muslims. But they didn’t make the Parthenon into a mosque. The Parthenon began to fall into disrepair.

In 1801 AD, an Englishman, Lord Elgin, bought some of the carvings from the Ottoman government and brought them to England. (Napoleon was bringing lots of things from Italy and Egypt to Paris at the same time.) Now they are in the British Museum. Many people feel the British Museum should return the carvings to Athens; other people feel they should stay in England.

Learn by doing: build a model of the Parthenon in Lego or on Minecraft
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Bibliography and further reading about the Parthenon:

A Greek Temple, by Fiona MacDonald, Mark Bergin (2002) (this is specifically about the Parthenon, not just any Greek temple)

Parthenon, by Lynn Curlee (2004). Easy reading. Lovely pictures.

The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present, by Jeffrey M. Hurwit (2000). This is not a children’s book, but it is pretty interesting reading. Hurwit is a archaeologist and art historian who works on the Athenian Acropolis.

Take our quiz – how much do you know about the Parthenon?
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