Abstract: Building the Parthenon


From building accounts, we know exactly how a temple was built: year 1, foundations for the colonnade; year 2, colonnade and foundations for the cella; year 3, cella; year 4, ceilings over peripatos and cella; year 5, roof. And we know how long this process took for a temple of standard dimensions (e.g., Hephaisteion): five years with several more years for miscellaneous furnishings. We can also match this testimony with temples that are unfinished at various stages in the process.

The Parthenon is more complicated because it is much larger and heavily decorated with sculpture. Its building accounts run from 447/6 to 443/2, and their fragments give (or imply) the following information: 447/6, foundations; 446/5, interruption (Euboean campaign?); 445/4-444/3, colonnade; 443/2, Parthenos begun; 441/0, colonnade fluted, ceilings begun; 440/439, ceilings finished, Parthenos gilded, pedimental sculptures begun; 439/8, roof finished; 438/7, dedication; 437/6-433/2, miscellaneous expenses, pedimental sculptures finished.

Using the schema outlined for conventional temples, we can flesh out the Parthenon’s building process (quarrying begins early and continues to 436/5): stage 1 (447/6), foundation work; stage 2 (445/4-444/3), colonnade and metopes; stage 3 (443/2-442/1), cella; stage 4 (441/0-440/439), frieze, ceilings, roof; stage 5 (439/8), roof finished.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

J. Boardman & J. Finn, The Parthenon and Its Sculptures

J. Neils, The Parthenon: From Antiquity to the Present

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