Abstract: Before the Parthenon: the Architecture of the Archaic Acropolis

Lecturer: Nancy Klein

Our modern view of the Acropolis is focused on the magnificent temple of Athena Parthenos, built under the leadership of the Athenian statesman Pericles in the 5th century BC. In the early 19th century AC, the fledgling country of Greece devoted itself to establishing a national identity that reflected its classical heritage. The Acropolis of Athens was central to this vision and became a symbol of the birthplace of democracy and the humanistic arts. While this vision reflects the acme of Athenian culture, it also eclipses thousands of years of human activity before and after the Parthenon. In the 19th century, efforts to free the classical monuments of the Acropolis from the overburden of later history saw the removal of many post-classical buildings and an excavation from modern ground levels to bedrock. An unexpected result of these excavations was the discovery of thousands of fragments of architecture, sculpture, pottery, and small finds from the early history of the Acropolis.

In this lecture, I present the architectural evidence for small limestone buildings whose remains were uncovered in the 19th century excavations, as well as an overview of the development of monumental architecture in the sanctuary on the Acropolis from the archaic to the classical periods. In particular, I examine the ‘life-history’ of these buildings, from formal evidence for their design and construction to an examination of archaeological context of reuse. My conclusions suggest that the architecture of the archaic and early classical Acropolis introduced a variety of forms echoed in later Periclean buildings. Moreover, the programmatic reuse and recycling of damaged or redundant buildings in the second half of the fifth century suggests a complex approach to the rebuilding of the Acropolis as an expression of constructed memory.

 

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Robin F. Rhodes, Architecture and Meaning on the Athenian Acropolis (Cambridge MA, 1995).

Jeffrey M. Hurwit, The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles (New York 2004).

Featured Lecturer

William Fitzhugh is with the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, and holds his degrees from Harvard (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Dartmouth (B.A.).  Dr. Fitzhugh’s areas of... Read More

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