Parthenon Reconstruction

Julia Stewart

               At the time of its construction, Athens’ Parthenon dominated the religious and civic aspects of the city, both conceptually and physically. This temple, poised above the city, served as a constant reminder of Athenian patriotism and religion. The Parthenon was constructed of white marble on a rectangular stylobate with three stairs. The temple was colonnaded with fluted Doric columns. The northern and southern sides had seventeen columns each while the East and West facing sides both featured eight columns. The latter sides additionally had a second row of columns of six apiece. Pediments were included at the conclusion of the gabled roof. These pediments housed figural sculptures. An architrave encompassed the perimeter of the structure below the roof. Under the band of stone was a frieze that featured low-relief sculpture through triglyphs and metopes. The interior cella was composed of a walled-off rectangular space divided into two separate spaces accessible on either end. The West-facing cella compartment had a small interior colonnade and housed the cult statue for the city.[1]

             Construction on the edifice began during the mid-fifth century BCE under the orders of Athenian statesman Pericles. Greece was shifting away from the principalities ruled by monarchs and instead began ruling the various city-states through a government of councils and assemblies. This change in power dynamic affected Athens not only administratively but also architecturally. Temples were being raised in honor of the city-states’ patron deities, the collective citizens’ new focus rather than the kingship. These temples were essentially homes for the gods or goddesses with an internal cult figure statue. While the temples were religious in nature, they served an equal nationalistic and civic purpose as well. The Parthenon was constructed by locally quarried stone, something of which the Athenians were vehemently proud, and was located on a site with deep historical significance, the Acropolis. This natural citadel was elevated towards the heavens and had ties to ancient Greek rulers and mythology.[2] Legend dictated that the Acropolis was the site in which Athena and Poseidon battled to determine who would claim the land of Attica. The two gods provided a gift to the citizens who then voted for the victor. Athena’s olive tree trumped Poseidon’s salt pools, and thus the city of Athena came into existence.[3] The Athenians demonstrated their nationalism through the construction of their patron deity’s temple at the site of her famed victory and also the depiction of the mythic story on the West pediment. Further bolstering the idea of civic nature of the temples is the idea that it was not necessary in the practices of Grecian religion to have a temple to worship. In fact, the altar was often placed outside of the temple to be accessible to the masses because the interior of the temple, the cella, was reserved only to highest religious leaders.[4] While the Parthenon lies in ruin today, stripped of its decoration, roof, and interior walls, the ritualistic and civic significance of Athena’s temple may escape the modern viewer. It is my hope that a reconstruction of the Parthenon through an investigation of object, style, and technique may encourage a better understanding of the structure’s form and function.

To begin the reconstruction process, exact measurements were necessary. I was able to find several articles that provided detailed drawings and dimensions of the Parthenon. Working at a 1/100 scale, I drew several models and calculated my desired measurements. The ancient Greeks’ fervor for perfection and the architects’ mathematical prowess were extremely evident in my findings. Through the subtle change in column length and floor height, an optical illusion was achieved to feign perfection and counter the eye’s natural tendency to determine distance.[5] This knowledge allowed me to tailor the columns and base to the proportions of the original Parthenon. To further assist with my reconstruction process, I discovered information regarding the rhythm, proportion, and technique utilized in Athena’s temple.[6] This was instrumental in drafting and completion of reconstruction, particularly in reference to the restructured cella and interior colonnade.

At the completion of my data research and mathematical conversions, I began the reconstruction process. I started with a wooden rectangular base and fashioned a styrofoam stylobate as the base. Using foam board, I constructed the three sets of stairs with mitered corners. I then measured the desired distances between all of the columns and inserted a short wooden dowel into the styrofoam. Focusing on the changing dimensions, I carved fifty-eight columns out of the styrofoam and capped them with Doric capitals of the same material. The cella walls were made from the foam board and pressed into the soft base. I created the smaller interior colonnade and columns out of dowels and styrofoam. To cap the reconstruction, I made a removable roof, including the architrave and frieze, out of foam board. The pedimental sculptures were composed of adapted ‘Army Men.’ I coated the entirety of the reconstruction with white spray paint to emulate the white marble of the original Parthenon.

The development of reconstructing the Parthenon revealed clues to the original form and function of the structure. With the rebuilding of the cella walls, it became apparent the exclusivity and sanctity of the interior of the temple. Additionally, the thorough dedication to the preciseness of appearing perfect in this ancient Greek landmark divulged the values of the culture that constructed the temple. The reconstruction process of the Parthenon provided insight into its form and function based on the object, style and technique of the structure.


Julia Stewart

Works Cited

Agard, Walter R. “Athens’ Choice of Athena.” The Classical Weekly   

38, no. 2 (1994): 14-15.

Angelopoulos, Athanasios G. Metron Ariston. Athens: Aeropos,


Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s. v. “Parthenon.” Accessed April

16, 2015.

Kappraff, Jay and Ernest G. McClain. “The System of Proportions

of the Parthenon: A Work of Musically Inspired

Architecture.” Music in Art 32, no. ½ (2005): 5-16.

Ritté, Christopher. “Athens: Recreating the Parthenon.” The 

Classical World 91, no. 1 (2003): 41-55.


[1] Encyclopedia Britannica Online, “Parthenon,” Accessed April 16, 2015,


[2] Christopher Ritté, “Athens: Recreating the Parthenon,” The Classical World 91, no. 1 (2003):



[3] Walter R. Agard, “Athens’ Choice of Athena,” The Classical Weekly 38, no. 2 (1994): 14.


[4] Christopher Ritté, “Athens: Recreating the Parthenon,” The Classical World 91, no. 1     (2003): 43-45.


[5] Athanasios G. Angelopoulos, Metron Ariston (Athens: Aeropos, 2003), 275.


[6] Jay Kappraff and Ernest G. McClain “The System of Proportions of the Parthenon: A Work of Musically Inspired Architecture,” Music in Art 32, no. ½ (2005): 12.