Destruction of the Parthenon  

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 This page Destruction of the Parthenon is part of the Ancient Greece series.   Photo: western face of the Parthenon
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This page Destruction of the Parthenon is part of the Ancient Greece series.
Photo: western face of the Parthenon

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The destruction of the Parthenon is an episode in the Morean War.

In 1687, the Parthenon was extensively damaged in the greatest catastrophe to befall it in its long history. On 26 September a Venetian mortar round, fired from the Hill of Philopappus, blew up the magazine, and the building was partly destroyed. The explosion blew out the building's central portion and caused the cella's walls to crumble into rubble. Greek architect and archaeologist Kornilia Chatziaslani writes that "...three of the sanctuary’s four walls nearly collapsed and three-fifths of the sculptures from the frieze fell. Nothing of the roof apparently remained in place. Six columns from the south side fell, eight from the north, as well as whatever remained from eastern porch, except for one column. The columns brought down with them the enormous marble architraves, triglyphs and metopes." About three hundred people were killed in the explosion, which showered marble fragments over nearby Turkish defenders and caused large fires that burned until the following day and consumed many homes.

Accounts written at the time conflict over whether this destruction was deliberate or accidental; one such account, written by the German officer Sobievolski, states that a Turkish deserter revealed to Morosini the use to which the Turks had put the Parthenon expecting that the Venetians would not target a building of such historic importance. Morosini was said to have responded by directing his artillery to aim at the Parthenon. Subsequently, Morosini sought to loot sculptures from the ruin and caused further damage in the process. Sculptures of Poseidon and Athena's horses fell to the ground and smashed as his soldiers tried to detach them from the building's west pediment.

The following year, the Venetians abandoned Athens to avoid a confrontation with a large force the Turks had assembled at Chalcis; at that time, the Venetians had considered blowing up what remained of the Parthenon along with the rest of the Acropolis to deny its further use as a fortification to the Turks, but that idea was not pursued.

After the Turks had recaptured the Acropolis they used some of the rubble produced by this explosion to erect a smaller mosque within the shell of the ruined Parthenon. For the next century and a half, portions of the remaining structure were looted for building material and any remaining objects of value.

The 18th century was a period of Ottoman stagnation; as a result, many more Europeans found access to Athens, and the picturesque ruins of the Parthenon were much drawn and painted, spurring a rise in philhellenism and helping to arouse sympathy in Britain and France for Greek independence. Amongst those early travellers and archaeologists were James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, who were commissioned by the Society of Dilettanti to survey the ruins of classical Athens. What they produced was the first measured drawings of the Parthenon published in 1787 in the second volume of The Antiquities of Athens. In 1801, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, the Earl of Elgin, obtained a questionable firman (edict) from the Sultan, whose existence or legitimacy has not been proved until today, to make casts and drawings of the antiquities on the Acropolis, to demolish recent buildings if this was necessary to view the antiquities, and to remove sculptures from them.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Destruction of the Parthenon" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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