Topographic Issues of the Acropolis
The content of the essay that follows is the same as that of the oral presentation; however, its form differs. As part of the oral presentation 92 images were also shown, thus playing a decisive part in determining its form. The present essay has resulted from a reorganization of the oral work, to make it as self-sufficient as possible, despite the small number of images in it.
As this is a vast topic, it has been deemed necessary to divide the essay into the following parts:
From the above division it immediately becomes clear that the examined topics are not a random selection from the total of the topography of the Acropolis. On the contrary, they constitute a separate unit, which can be found within the borders of its central section – Athena΄s sanctum. The sole exception to this is the Erechthaeum, whose western section, together with the smaller sanctums adjacent to it, are not exactly parts of Athena’s sanctum.
I wish to express my thanks to the Management of the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF) and especially to Ms E. Grammatikopoulou, Head of the Educational Events of the NHRF I also wish to thank Mr. G. Dontas, Ms. E. Touloupa, Mr. P. Kalligas, successively supervisors of the 1st Ephorate of Antiquities (Α Εφορία Αρχαιοτήτων) and through them a multitude of other colleagues. Finally, I also wish to thank Professors Ch. Bouras and G. Gruben and through them a host of other academics and scholars of ancient architecture.
1. Topography and Excavations
Although the archaeological topographic examination of the Acropolis is still continuing in our days, its prime time was the 19th century. Back then, extensive excavations brought to light remains of buildings, signs, countless works of art and a host of other aspects of life in sacred and other places, not only on the Acropolis but also in its immediate surroundings. The Great Excavation between 1885 and 1890 is the most important, but not the only outstanding point on this long archaeological journey. The progress made during that time becomes instantly obvious when one gets to study (even hastily) old publications or more recent reviews. As far as the figures of the buildings and the public places are concerned, a simple comparison between the ground plan drawn up in 1853 by J. Stuart and that composed after 1900 by W. Judeich should suffice. The latter contains not only all the monuments of the Acropolis but also those of the South slope, and also distinguishes the various historical periods starting from the Mycenaean Era up to more recent times. The ground plan that accompanies Michaelis' work (1871) represents the intermediate step along this evolutionary process. On that ground plan is expressed for the first time an interest in the medieval, and the historic phases that followed are suitably depicted both on the Propylaea and on the Parthenon.
The Great Excavation is distinguished not only for the unity of its means and methods but also for the unity of its products. Its products comprise almost all known works of sculpture and architectural parts of the sandstone archaic temples and of other buildings of the archaic Acropolis, almost all offerings of the same period, marble items (marble Kores, inscribed bases, etc), copper or clay items and, finally, a host of works of sculpture of the Classical Era. The most important of these items were published timely in various Greek and foreign periodicals, but also in the form of monographs. The excavation itself, however, was published only 17 years later and its pottery four decades later. Matters for which an assiduous stratigraphic substantiation would have been needed came up only when it was too late. Surprisingly, the annotated drawings of some stratigraphic views that had been made by G. Kawerau from the actual items had not been included with the publication of the excavation, perhaps because the authors did not regard them as particularly necessary (they were published a lot later, see below). When in 1902 the need for a stratigraphic examination of the historic phases of the Acropolis, south of the Parthenon, arose pressingly, Dörpfeld resorted to a solution of necessity. He made drawings of two incisions (Pic.1), mainly based on photographs. Of course, this method is not entirely permissible and the drawings in question were sometimes disputed (similar incisions were later drawn by A. Tschira, J.A. Bundgaard, von Gerkan and others). In that particular case, however, there shouldn’t have been serious doubts. Thankfully, Dörpfeld’s photographs are very clear and the way he used them very honest. This can be ascertained even today, not only via carefully comparing all available photographs, but also with the use of Kawerau’s drawings. After the Great Excavation, only a few undug places remained. The excavations made at that time were more for clarification. Of these let us mention the one inside the Parthenon in 1910 by Hill and Dinsmoor; in the Erechtheum in 1900 by Stevens, L.B. Holland and others; in the West of the Propylaea in 1928 by Dinsmoor; inside the Parthenon in 1956 by A. Tschira; in the ancient temple in 1980 by I. Beyer.
However, apart from the grounds in and around the Acropolis, a great source of information are its walls themselves, especially the one in the North, with the enwalled architectural parts of two great temples: a great number of rough marble fulcrum of the Pre-Parthenon and large sections of the entablature from the ancient temple – epistyles, triglyphs, metopes and cornices in regular succession. At this point, however, it would be useful to make a brief review of the history and the methodological issues pertaining to the Acropolis excavations.
Excavations commenced in 1835 in the West and South of the Parthenon by Ludwig Ross, assisted by the architects Lorent and Schaubert. This was the first and also the last time that the findings and the conclusions from an excavation got published without any delay: only within a few months! (Tubinger Kunstblatt, 1835). It was also the first time that the stratigraphy was studied, and sketch incisions of the layers were drawn up to better substantiate the related study – perhaps Ross should also be credited with the inception of the archaeological stratigraphy method. Ross’s excavations took place in carefully selected positions, with considerable, for the standards of the time, economy – still they were exceptionally productive both in findings and in conclusions.
This brief enterprise was followed by a much larger one, directed by K. Pittakis (Κ. Πιττάκης), which lasted until the end of the Ottonian period. This enterprise aimed: at clearing the Acropolis of the numerous later-era buildings (already in ruins) that inundated it; at restoring the grounds back to the level of the Classical Era; at freeing stones that had fallen from the monuments; and at the subsequent initiation of relevant re-erection programmes. The digging work carried out all over the Acropolis during that long period exceeds in magnitude even the Great Excavation (1885-1890). Areas measuring many thousands of square metres were excavated at a depth of about two metres (outside the Propylaea the depth exceeded the five metres). However, that enterprise was not seen as a normal excavation neither by its leaders nor by the newer generations of archaeologists. Not a single drawing was made of the buildings and of the ground stratifications that were then dug up. Only a few of the mobile findings were drawn, together with ancient works of sculpture and signs that were, after all, the only target of the excavators. However, although it would have been possible to draw the mobile findings a lot later, non-mobile ones –buildings and historic ground layers– could not wait. Their destruction forever wiped out the ground testimonies, not only of the millennia that followed Christ, but also of a great part of Antiquity itself. Unfortunately, this situation continued for the following two decades (under the supervision of P. Eustratiades (Π. Ευστρατιάδης), especially inside the Propylaea and in the place where the Museum was built – for which a widespread and deep excavation was needed. Again no drawings of later buildings, no stratigraphy incisions and no adequate publications were made.
Over this long period some relatively minor excavations were made by foreigners, the most important of which, in terms of our presently examined topic, are: in the Southern web of the Parthenon’s stereobate by A. Paccard in 1845 and by E. Ziller in 1865; and in some parts of the Erechthaeum and of the Parthenon by C. Botticher in 1862.
With the beginning of the Great Excavation under the supervision of P. Kavvadias (Π. Καββαδίας) and with the cooperation of the architect G. Kawerau things improved.
The excavation began in the Northern part of the Acropolis and continued from West to East. Its main findings were the archaic Kores in the Northwest of the Erechtheum. Archaic art was already known, but it was only then that so many of its works became accessible at the same time. The marble Kores gave a very good idea of the temple’s decoration with rich offerings, and a collection of marble pieces of sculpture, located in room VI of the old museum of the Acropolis, gave a rather satisfactory knowledge of the content of the pediments of the ancient temple.
However, the biggest and most difficult part of the excavation was the one south of the Parthenon (1888), where the excavation reached the rock (where that was possible) at a depth that exceeded 15 metres from the axon of the temple. The drawings substantiation made by Kawerau was neat: many tens of metric designs in scales 1:50, 1:100, 1:200 and even more drawings of measurements and sketches of some mobile findings.
The photographic substantiation (mostly made by Dörpfeld with a camera of large shape), although relatively economical (about 100 photos), is generally of very high quality. The photographs have been taken with care and after good selection of topics, and the lighting is sometimes so good that very small details can become visible, including the stratigraphy of the ground itself.
It is worth mentioning the two-volume work by J.A. Bundgaard, The excavation of the Athenian Acropolis (1974), which for the first time made accessible in printed form Kawerau’s drawings, up to then kept in the archives of the German Archaeological Institute, together with almost all the photographs from the excavation. This material is accompanied by a host of comments and general maps for locating and correlating the individual drawings and photographs. This material is extremely valuable, despite the fact that by today’s standards, but also even by much older ones (e.g. those of H. von Hallerstein) Kawerau’s drawings are inadequate.
2. THE PRE-PARTHENON: Parthenon I, Parthenon II
The marble column drums built into the Northern wall were first studied in 1807 by the famous W.M. Leake, who climbed up the steep rock, often risking his life. Leake, who was rarely mistaken, again arrived at a correct explanation: the drums must be parts of that older temple that Hesychios (Ησύχιος) had in mind when referring to the Parthenon (λ. εκατόμπεδος) “…νεώς εν τη ακροπόλει τη Παρθένα κατασκευασθείς υπό Αθηναίων, μείζων του εμπρησθέντος υπό των Περσών ποσι πεντήκοντα”.
This is how the study of the Preparthenon began. According to Leake, the Preparthenon must have been smaller than the Parthenon, and certainly older than Persian Wars. What Leake started was continued by Ross, in 1835, with excavations in the West and South of the Parthenon, which revealed the following:
- A large quantity of rough drum in the East across an area that stretches up to the Southern wall, together with tools and other items specific to stonework -such as paint pots in containers- which we know to have been useful for making various notes and for checking the perfection of flat areas.
- For its greatest part, the foundation of the Parthenon is much older than the temple. This part is independent and constitutes the originally visible pedestal of the older temple. From the dimensions of the pedestal (31,4 x 76,8 m) one can infer that that temple must also have been very large and rather oblong in figure.
- At the East of the Parthenon the gigantic podium does not fit in with the Classical temple, but protrudes by about 5 metres from the line of the first marble step.
- To seat the Classical temple the original podiuml had to be extended a little to the north. That extension was made using similar material -stones from Piraeus- but without caring much about elaborate appearance. Obviously, the new designs called for extended leveling of the ground via artificial landfills up to the level of the axon of the temple, while the older designs provided that all around the temple the ground would be much lower and that the upper section of the podium would be visible and thus elaborate.
Ross also studied extensively the sequence of the layers of the ground. Leake’s and Ross’s opinions as to the dating of the Pre-Parthenon were widely accepted with no disagreements, except insofar as the possible figure of the building was concerned. Let it be noted that, among others, this matter also occupied F.C. Penrose (1851), J.H. Strack (1860), E. Ziller (1865), A. Michaelis (1871) and E. Burnouf (1877). These specialists’ only worth-mentioning mistake was that they attributed to the temple not only the drums but also the sandstone entablature built into the Northern wall.
After that and up until 1936, acceptance of the Pre-Parthenon’s dating before the Persian Wars was universal – still fresh disagreements arose with respect to its depiction and distinguishing its construction phases. In any case, the most important event was the discovery of the Pre-Parthenon’s figure, made by B.H. Hill, assisted by W.B. Dinsmoor. At that time (1910), and for the first time ever, systematic study was made of a large number of scattered stones, of some others reused in the Northern part of the Acropolis (which came from the staircase of the Preparthenon), as well as of stones that had been reused in the Classical Parthenon itself. For that purpose and particularly in order to locate the most ancient parts in situ, excavations of newer landfills were made in various places, where the floor of the temple was already ruined. This study complemented and far surpassed all previous ones. Its conclusions (AIA 16, 1912) are summed up as follows (Pic. 2):
This mistake was corrected only in 1885 when W. Dörpfeld proved that the big incorporated entablature belongs to the ancient temple, the sandstone Peripteros temple of Athena. The foundations of this temple still survive north of the Erechtheum. Dörpfeld’s first announcement regarding the ancient temple also included a theory on the dating of the Pre-Parthenon, contrary to the that of Leake’s and Ross’: the plausible dating of the ancient temple from the 6th century (due to style) and the obvious destruction of the temples before the time of the construction of the Northern wall led Dörpfeld to the conclusion that it must have been that temple that got burnt by the Persians and not the semi-complete marble Pre-Parthenon. But why would the temple burnt by the Persians have to be only one? Based on written testimonies, Dörpfeld insisted, only one temple of Athena must have existed on the Acropolis before the Persian Wars. He saw no proof for the existence of another temple in that distant time thus came to the conclusion that the Pre-Parthenon should be dated after the Persian Wars, and more specifically around the time of Kimon. That theory resulted from a certain scientific conception of the shrine’s history and the evolution of the temple’s architecture; however also perhaps from some temptation to throw over old classic theories. The new theory had immense consequences for the course of the topographic study of the Acropolis.
Between 1885 and 1902, acceptance of Dörpfeld’s theories was almost universal. Everyone instantly sided with him and quickly rejected the reasons for which they had previously sided with Leake and Ross. Everyone except one man, F.C. Penrose.
The great scholar of the Parthenon’s architecture and author of the Principles of the Athenian Architecture (1851) already was part of a bygone era. He had been only 28 years old and exceptionally pioneering when he was making his greatest discoveries (1847); but at the time when he met Dörpfeld with obstinacy and prejudice he was already seventy years old and his direct contact with the Acropolis had almost ceased for decades. Although his conviction for the classic theory of Leake and Ross was correct, the arguments he used were sometimes unfair. Some of them were so unfortunate that caused more damage to his own work rather than to that of Dörpfeld’s (see Ch. 6).
Things remained like that until 1902, when a groundbreaking article appeared, under the title “Die Zeit des alteren Parthenon”. To everyone’s surprise, in this Dörpfeld himself supported a dating of the Pre-Parthenon before the Persian Wars. In the same year (1902), A. Michaelis had shown that during the ancient times there were two temples of Athena on the Acropolis, and certainly that must have influenced Dörpfeld very positively. Leake’s old theory assumed again its original prestige and its only faithful supporter, Penrose, got, toward the end of his life, his own back. However, Dörpfeld’s new study added something novel as well: the distinction between two phases of the construction history of the Pre-Parthenon. In the older phase (Parthenon I or Pa I), perhaps at the time of Kleisthenes (Κλεισθένης), the temple was, or rather was meant to be made of sandstone. In the more recent phase (Parthenon II or Pa II), after the battle of Marathon, the unfinished work was continued in marble (on this new distinction, Dörpfeld calls the Periclean Parthenon as Pa III).
Among other things, Dörpfeld’s change also betrays a rare for him flexibility. He was successful in “rescuing” himself, literally the last minute, based on someone else’s position, notably appropriating it and abandoning his own entirely opposite one.
- The staircase of the Pre-Parthenon had three rises. The first one was made of red limestone from Hymettos (Υμήττειος) (Kareas or Karas), while the other two of marble.
- The stones of the staircase were of about the same height and width as the ones in the Classical temple; however, they were somewhat longer.
- The first and second steps of the Southern side still survive in their original positions – exactly through the respective steps of the Classical temple. This can be seen in several places, in small later-era gaps of the Classical staircase, and especially in a position where a large part of the first stair of the temple had been long chiseled off. As a result, the SW corner of the older staircase was well visible. These findings show that the Pre-Parthenon did not occupy the whole area of the giant stereobate, but only 4/5 of it. It was 5 metres smaller in width and 7 metres smaller in length. Therefore it did not feature eight pillars, like Dörpfeld believed, but only six, with somewhat larger wheelbases than those in the Classical Parthenon. The pillars of the Preparthenon were the same diameter – exactly like Penrose had inferred.
- The staircase of the alcove had two or perhaps only one rise (today the latter is proven) and the walls had a monumentally sized Lesbian cyma as their base.
- The small ledge of the pilasters –as betrayed by the familiar base, decorated with a cyma– shows that the Prostases (προστάσεις) were columned (πρόστυλες). Penrose had come to the same conclusion, judging from the number (5) of the remaining first fulcrums of the Prostases (προστάσεις). The pillars of the Pronaos (Πρόναος) would have been only four if they had stood between the pilasters, as opposed to standing in front of them.
- Despite the stones of the Pre-Parthenon being of equal size to those of the Classical temple, the distinction is possible on good criteria. The external surfaces of the Pre-Parthenon stones feature rough that is they are not treated to the finest level possible and the lead of the joints feature the single-sided chiseling needed for disjoining the stones. In most cases of older stones getting reused, new lead were used for the connections, so the disabled older lead make distinguishing older from newer stones very easy. In some cases, however, identification can be really problematic because no identification clues exist – except perhaps for some indicative dimensions.
After Hill’s brief but invaluable work, research of matters pertaining to the Parthenon stagnated for a long while, although views regarding its dating got expressed very frequently: G. Fougeres (1912) and R. Heberdey (1919) regarded it as a work of the newly-founded republic; H. Schräder (1922), Walter (1929) and W. Zschietzschmann (1934) regarded it as a work of the tyrants. What was mainly missing was a serious platform for the stratigraphic dating of the findings of the Great Excavation. That platform was no other than the abundant pottery of the grounds that had been excavated still that pottery remained unpublished. Its publication by B. Graef and E. Langlotz became possible only four decades later (vol 1, 1925, vol 2 1933) and up to that point all dating attempts had been made based on other evidence – also including a generous dosage of arbitrary assumptions.
Therefore, it was no coincidence that the first specialized study of the Pre-Parthenon’s dating appeared only as late as 1935. In this study (“The date of the older Parthenon”), W.B. Dinsmoor, using 26 well-dated sherds, whose position within the layers had been well documented, concluded that the Pre-Parthenon’s large pedestal was no older than 490 BC. The even more accurate estimate of 488 BC offered in the same study was based on an astronomical calculation of faults in the ancient calendar and on the hypothesis that the temple should have been looking to the sunrise on the festival in honour of Athena. In the same work, Dinsmoor insisted that nothing proved Dorpfeld’s distinction of two phases of the Pre-Parthenon.
Dörpfeld’s reaction to Dinsmoor’s position was immediate. Not only did he insist on his distinction between Pa I (unfinished sandstone) and Pa II (unfinished marble), but also moved his own datings (1902) back by two decades.
The Pre-Parthenon’s dating issue started to become more complex in 1936 W. Kolbe defended a dating from the years immediately after the Persian Wars.
Later on (1936), his associate, A. Tschira, also sided with the same opinion. The following year, H. Riemann claimed that the Preparthenon was the work of Kimon. Later on, this moving of the dating backwards reached its absolute extreme: K Syriopoulos (Κ. Συριόπουλος, 1951) and J.A. Bundgaard (1976) claimed that the Pre-Parthenon was just a Periclean construction of the Classical Parthenon. A special case is R. Carpenter (1970), who, despite endorsing Hill’s semi-complete marble Pre-Parthenon of 490 BC, accepts the necessity of the existence of a subsequent semi-complete Parthenon dating from Kimon’s time! Supporters of the dating from the era before the Persian Wars increased in number in recent years –K. Schefold (1946), W.A. Plommer (1960), A. Rumpf (1964), G. Gruben (1964 etc), G. Beckel (1967), H. Drerup (1980), M. Korres (Μ. Κορρές, 1983 etc)–, however, the existence of other theories always causes a certain confusion, especially to those people who, without having any particular specialty or experience of the particular topic, are often forced to express a preference.
Another reason this state of affairs remained unaltered was because not the best arguments were used to support the before the Persian Wars dating. The main issue was and still is the nature of the damages to the stones of the semi-complete temple. Unfortunately, this discussion was continued not by specialists in chemistry, physics or mechanics. Those who kept it alive had no understanding of the natural mechanism of thermal rupture of the stones, so they did not pay the proper attention to the very serious damages of that type they were confronted with (they regarded them as geological faults or breakages from stone falls or collisions, etc). Thus they went on and on about certain irrelevant chromatic changes on some stones of the stereobate (a group thought these had been… significant witnesses to the Persian flames, while another, assisted by chemistry specialists, easily disproved their arguments).
Over the course of the modern interventions on the Parthenon I was given the opportunity to conduct some new research of the remains of the Pre-Parthenon. My research yielded strong evidence for dating it before the Persian Wars. The main piece of evidence to support this were the extremely heavy thermal ruptures that were observed not only on the scattered materials (about claim could also have been made that they happened later), but on about all the whole sections of the staircase and the walls of the Classical temple (pic.3) or the re-positioned marbles (pic.4) of the Pre-Parthenon.
The continuing study of the architecture of the ruined semi-complete temple confirmed Hill’s conclusions, but went even further in terms of detail and has already come to an accurate representation of the ground plan (pic.5) and of the alcove’s front.
The distinction of the Pre-Parthenon’s two phases has already been discussed. This was first suggested by W. Dörpfeld in 1902 and became endorsed by A. Furtwängler (1906), B.H. Hill (1912), O. Walter (1929), W. Kolbe (1936) and K. Schefold (1946); whereas Dinsmoor (1934) rejected it. According to Dörpfeld, the huge stereobate (measuring 31x77m) and the semi-complete marble Preparthenon standing on it do not belong together as parts of the same architecture plan. The stereobate was simply used by the semi-complete marble Pre-Parthenon, as it was also used by the Classical colonnade temple. However, it must have been built for an older, even bigger sandstone temple. For ease, Dörpfelf named that temple ‘Parthenon I’ (Pa I), the semi-complete Pre-Parthenon ‘Parthenon II’ (Pa II) and the colonnade temple he named ‘Parthenon III’ (Pa III). According to Dörpfeld, the construction of Pa I must have been aborted at some early stage, which explains not having found any pieces of pillars or other architectural parts that could be attributed to it. Therefore, what still remains from Pa I is the stereobate, whose upper layer (22nd from the rock) has to be identified as one of the rises of its staircase. Dörpfeld believed that the Pa I would be an 8-column, peripteros sandstone temple.
“But how can anyone prove that the 22nd layer is the step on the staircase of a different temple, and not merely a morphological emphasis of the upper end of the stereobate as axon of the semi-complete marble Pre-Parthenon?” retorted Dörpfeld’s rivals. And even more, between a totally imaginary construction and a building that did exist, but disappeared entirely –or existed simply as a plan, without ever materializing– there is no difference of practical significance (that could possibly ever constitute reliable archaeological testimony).
As part of the preservation work I had the opportunity to conduct a new study on this matter too. In two places it became possible to explore the internal structure both of the upper layers of the stereobate but also of the one that stretches behind the first step of the Preparthenon’s staircase. This last layer has feature in common with the underlying ones, but differs a lot from the two super imposing sandstone layers (which are the last ones under the peristasis)
All observations, older and newer, relating to these particular layers clearly support a distinction of two successive phases of the Preparthenon:
- In construction terms it is no use increasing the podium size of any one building when the ground type happens to be rock (the ground declination does not matter if the seats are carved horizontally) and the construction is made with good chiseled stones. The architecturally purposeful placement of the Dorian temple upon a podium is a rather rare occurrence (e.g. Sounion), and one would not have expected to encounter it in our present case because of the specific problems of the area around the Parthenon – but also due to the sizeable expenditure it would have involved. However, if something like that did happen, it would have been totally improper for the upper end of a podium to assume the improbable form of a step and not of one of the regular forms of pedestal crowing.
- The horizontal surfaces of the steps of the Pre-Parthenon are equipped with elaborate protective remains whereas the equivalent, well preserved surface of the 25th layer of the stereobate does not feature (and never did) such remains (pic. 8, No 2, 3).
- The face of the 22nd layer of the stereobate (pic. 8, No 2a) features elaborate protective remains similar to those of the Preparthenon’s staircase but a lot richer and more elaborately treated (pic. 8, No 3b).
- The anatherosis of the Pre-Parthenon’s staircase stones (pic. 8, No 3) are about 10cm wide. Those of the stereobate’s upper layer are on average 15cm wide (pic. 8, No 2).
- The stones of the staircase stones of the Preparthenon generally lack gomphoi. By contrast, the stones of the 22nd layer all feature gomphosis, notably in two places each (pic. 8, No 2 shows only one of the two wedges and one semi-wedge (παράγομφος).
- For the corners of the stereobate more and bigger joints have been used than those of the Pre-Parthenon’s counterpart.
The stylistic and structural differences between the Pre-Parthenon’s steps and the sterobate (see 2-6 above) are very serious. Comparison with other monuments proves that the building style of the Pre-Parthenon’s staircase has its equivalent in the staircase of the Classical Parthenon’s staircase (signs of its semi-final form still survive, pic. 8, No 4c, 4d), and in its semi-final surfaces (for example on the Western entrance’s opening, pic. 8, No 4a), while the very different construction details of the stereobate have their equivalent rather in the foundation and the staircase of the ancient Olympeion (pic. 8, No 1-1b)!
However, although with respect to the distinction into phases it seems that one should agree with Dörpfeld, the same cannot be said about the hypothetical form of the Parthenon I. If the temple had featured eight columns, it should possess all the basic characteristics of a temple of that type (columns, wheelbases, epistyles, etc) smaller not only than the ones in the Classical Parthenon (by 13%) but also those in the ancient temple. In no way can this be combined with the degree of detail of the stereobate (Pic. 8). The height of the 22nd layer (first step of the staircase of Pa I) was almost 59cm, much higher (by 12%) than the steps of the Classical Parthenon (-51,6), but virtually equal to that of the steps of the Olympeion (-59)! Therefore, one should agree with Hill, who had expressed the view that if a Pa I had actually existed, it couldn’t have featured eight columns but only six. Such temple would have indeed been very monumental, with columns larger than two metres in diameter and wheelbases larger than five. That temple would have been much more comparable to the temple of Zeus in Olympia, than to the Classical Parthenon. In the latter, things are very different. Its great width and the use of eight instead of six columns at the fronts is the result of both very daring but also compromising decisions: a revolutionary increase in internal space, even at the expense of the space of the side wings, and as extensive reuse as possible of drums already prepared for a much narrower temple – the marble Pre-Parthenon.
The distinction into Pa I and Pa II phases suggests the following historical interpretation:
With the establishment of democracy, the building of the giant Olympeion, the most splendid programme of the old tyranny, came to a halt. The best confrontation with the stopped work would have been a relevant programme of the newly-established democracy: the construction of a new temple to honour Athena, on top of the Acropolis, to replace the older of the two archaic temples, i.e. the one with limestone pediments dating from Peisistratos (Πεισίστρατος) time. The new work would demand carrying up the hill thousands of stones of total weight between 2 and 15 tons, from the quarries of Piraeus, which, of course, were already on standby for the construction of the Olympeion. The new work, which could have begun around the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 5th century, progressed very fast. For the stereobate about ten thousand stones weighing two tons must have been carried from Piraeus to the Acropolis. The distance was ten kilometers, the first of which on very pliable soil, and the last on rising roads. Before the Persian offensive, the first step of the staircase was in place together with a considerable part of the second one. The transport of drums (a lot heavier than 10 tons!) had not begun yet.
After the success in Marathon this work continued, but only after it underwent a very serious revision. That change must have benefited it rather than harmed it. Instead of sandstone, the finest of materials, marble, was preferred; however the dimensions had to be reduced in order to compensate for some physical and financial differences between the two types of materials and to make completing it within reasonable time technically possible. Limiting the dimensions facilitated the new building’s coexistence with a small sanctum already present in its Northern side (see Ch. 8).
The new work must have been stopped already in 485 BC and not in 480 BC. With Darius’ death (485 BC) and Xerxes’ enthronement, a new much greater military threat became immediately apparent. Athens responded with a government change (Themistocles) and with the immediate application of a new defense programme (fortification of Piraeus, harbour works, the construction of a fleet), for which all possible resources must have been used. The very expensive work of temple building could not have continued… until the day when the Persians would burn the Acropolis.
From the abundant existing material testimonies it is estimated that within the short time that work on the marble pre-Parthenon lasted, the huge work of the staircase was ready, together with the heavier part of the columns. Hundreds of column drums were ready in the quarries and some capitals had already been transported to the Acropolis. Poles and numerous other stones for the walls were ready to be placed.
The distinction into Pa I and Pa II phases satisfies, besides everything else, what one could call quantitative appreciation of the completed work: without it, it would be even more difficult to explain how a work of that magnitude –huge stereobate and semi-complete marble temple– was completed in so little time!
The above do not seriously clash with Dinsmoor’s dating. Ten years before or after is not outside the accuracy limits of the stratigraphic dating.
3. The Landfills and the Kimoneion
The ancient landfill touching the Parthenon’s stereobate showed, as E. Ziller (1865) had first inferred, a repeated succession of three layers, corresponding to the robust stony layers of the stereobate itself: the first one was blue limestone (Lapis) from the cut on the rock within which were laid the foundations of the Northernmost stones of each layer; the second one was yellow Lapis from the unitary treatment of the upper surface of each layer – after it had been put in position; and, finally, the third one (of dark shade) was soil that supplemented the thickness of the aforementioned (also useful to facilitate the construction workers while placing new stones upon each new layer).
These landfills, inevitable because of the large quantities of discarded Lapis, but also necessary as auxiliary, constantly elevated work surfaces, were made at the same time as the stereobate at a time when the strong Acropolis wall (except, perhaps, for a part at its base) had not yet been constructed. That wall is the so-called ‘Kimoneion’. This is indicated by their North-to-South arrangement as well as by their strong downward end, which had as its only buttresses the low remains of the Mycenaean wall and some temporary revetment walls, built especially for this purpose.
With the construction of the Kimoneion wall (466 BC) new layers were added upon the old ones, this time arranged from South to North. Finally, other more extensive and posterior layers, contemporary to the Classical Parthenon covered both those of the Pre-Parthenon and those of the Kimoneion wall. These layers, three metres thick on average, contain the foundations of a large workshop built with stones of the Pre-Parthenon and conclude at the five uppermost standstone layers of the Southern wall, which represent a special historic phase of it, the Periclean superelevation.
The Periclean superelevation is distinguished from the purely Kimoneion part because it also features a greatly increased thickness (pic. 1). With this form it stretches up to the SE corner and, equally horizontally, it continues to the Eastern side. There, a problem becomes better visible: to achieve regular leveling up to the point of the horizontally carved level of the rock despite the NE angle of the Acropolis “Belvedere” the wall should have had seven more layers, over half a metre thick (not including the parapet). However, this omission is not because of some older destruction of its upper part. On the Eastern side, the upper still surviving layer is untreated and was never prepared to accept the next one (the part which collapsed in 1703 –and was replaced after 1750 with a newer construction– did not differ from the surviving one). The interruption of further raising the wall resulted in leaving the higher part of the rock unwalled, that is a large part of the Eastern side of the Acropolis.
The above observation, together with various details of the stratigraphy which Ross studied, the treatment of the Parthenon’s axon in the East and the South and from the level of the axon of the Northern wall on the NE of the Parthenon, allow the conclusion that the construction of the Southern and the Eastern wall is for some reason semi-complete. The original intention was to develop a unitary flat surface at the height of the temple’s axon (with only a very slight declination of about 1% for rain water) all over the area in the North, the East and the Northeast of the Parthenon up until the wall. For the full realization of the project, seven more layers would have to be placed upon the upper part of the wall (about 4m). That this plan was impossible to realize was also obvious to Dorpfeld, at least insofar as the Southern side was concerned (as indicated by a dotted line on the design incisions of the Southern wall) and must have also been quite plausible for P. Kalkos (Π. Κάλκος) who designed the museum with its rooftop chamber exactly under the level of the Parthenon’s axon.
The reasons for the postponement or maybe even the cancellation of the original plan to shape the grounds in the South and in the East of the Parthenon are not, of course, known. The most probable ones though are:
- The general cease of works because of the Peloponnesian war.
- So that the Parthenon’s visibility from the area of the Odeum and the temple of Dionysus would not get further reduced.
- So that Pandion’s shrine would not ‘sink’ any further within the constantly rising landfills around it.
At this point it should be added that prior to the Classical Era such problems did not exist. The grounds of the Acropolis followed almost exactly the original natural shape of the rock and the wall –the work of the Mycenaean era– was adjusted not only to the horizontal inconsistencies if the rock’s perimeter, but also to its great height variations (the latter often goes unnoticed because the most usual depiction of the wall in archaelogical and other books is simply a ground plan). However, up until the dawning of the Classical Era, the difference in grounds level between the two sides of the Acropolis exceeded twenty metres. Artificial landfills had also been carried out then, but they were small, simply achieving only local equalization or rather moderation of any differences in height. Therefore, the inside of most temples –especially of the bigger ones- was still of unequal. The transformation of the Acropolis into a much more regular whole of horizontal parapets, with very high supportive walls, huge landfills and not insignificant chiselings out of the rock was the idea and work of the Classical Era (Picture 23).
4. The Mycenaean Wall (Picture 9)
One of the most important findings of the excavation in the North of the Parthenon was also the Mycenaean wall. Even in the area which, at the time of the excavation had already been occupied by the museum for twenty years, it became possible to observe the course of the wall after temporarily removing the floor in some rooms of its Northern side and with careful excavation between its foundations. Only underneath the rooms on the Southern side it was not possible to repeat the same work because there the museums foundations are placed upon ancient landfills whose depth is, because of the rock’s declination, very great. Insofar as the wall’s course is concerned, it is worth pointing out that, although it generally coincides with the steep borders of the rock, in the museum area it withdraws inwards very strongly. On the one hand this has resulted in an increase in length (and thus in the wall building work), and on the other in allowing for an accessible area of a few square metres to remain unwalled. That form would have been unexplainable if in the deeper part of that big alcove of the wall there hadn’t once been a gate. As we know, placing the gates further into large courtyards or corridors was one of the typical means to increase their defense capabilities.
Unfortunately, in the place where that gate must have most probably existed, the drawing substantiation during the excavation was very inadequate, due both to the obstruction posed by the museum’s foundations and the landfills underneath and to poor maintenance of the wall itself. Therefore, that gate –as it is shown in drawings by J.A. Bundgaard and in some made by the author (and based on which the simulation of the Acropolis in the archaic times in the Centre of Acropolis Studies was developed)– is hypothetical but still very probable. Its existence is after all supported by other indications: rough rock cutting steps exactly above the theatre, a few metres to the West of its axis, a wall older than the theatre ascending towards the rough rock-cut steps and, finally, the road that surrounds the shrine of Dionysus in the South and the West, and whose curvilinear course makes for a serious indication that that road precedes the rest of the street-planning of the southern side. Its course with respect to the rock on the one hand (with a first stop at the ancient fountain), and with respect to the Olympeion on the other, and especially with maneuvers characteristic of pathways upon uneven ground, must not be accidental. Perhaps it is reminiscent of the prehistoric Athens whose one part, according to Thucydides, was in the area of the Olympeion and the other, the Polis, upon the rock.
At this point it should be emphasized that the midsection of the Southern part of the rock once was equally accessible to, if not even more accessible than the Western side. This is not easily understood today because the original form of the rock is covered by huge landfills of the 5th century or has been wiped out during the removing of the rocks of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The plausible assumption of Southern access also chimes in with the large number and concentration of prehistoric graves in the area between the Asklepeion and Eumenes’ Stoa (Στοά του Eυμένους). It also tallies with the internal division of the Acropolis into temples, and especially with the course of the central street, which has the shape of an arrow, the one edge of which points to the West and the other to the Southeast. The gradually increasing rightward divergence of the axes from the Propylaea towards the temple of Athena, then towards the temple of Zeus and from there to the temple of Pandion is the result of the compliance of these temples and their axes with the arch-like (polygonal) ground plan of the street. This arch-like form then seems to be what survived of that original road, which, passing from the rock’s back, allowed access from the West and from the South-Southeastern. The indications discussed earlier show that with the construction of the Mycenaean wall in the 13th century BC the old Southeastern access was not abolished, but rather was preserved.
The poor preservation of the Mycenaean wall poses one of the most serious issues. In a lot of places the decay is so great that only a few stones remain, or only a few traces on the rock. This is seen not only where the wall had been exposed and where other constructions had to take its place (for example the Propylaea courtyard, the seats of the new walls, etc) but also where it was protected within the landfills of the Classical Era. But would it ever have been possible for it to arrive to such a condition only due to natural dilapidation?
The period from its construction till the Classical Era (approximately 8 centuries) is very short, bearing in mind the durability of walls of such type – quite obvious in Mycenae and Tyrentha. These constructions do not fall in pieces so easily. The destruction of the Acropolis walls is the work of man – like their construction. But then whose? Definitely not of the Persians! At one point the SW corner of the stereobate of the Parthenon intersects and covers the derelict internal web and the supportive wall (known as S2) of the landfills in the South of the stereobate sits on a previously destroyed part of the Mycenaean wall and, most importantly, is not constructed with stones of this wall. Therefore, the wall was already in that condition before the arrival of the Persians. If, on the other hand, its destruction had been the work of the Persians, the Parthenon’s stereobate must have been the work of the years after the Persian Wars, but, during the stratigraphic dating, the stereobate was not assessed as newer that 490 BC.
At this point let O.Walter’s relevant view be mentioned: if the Mycenaean wall had been in good condition, the Delphic oracle wouldn’t have posed the famous dilemma for the Athenians. Its double interpretation would have been possible only if the then existing wall was in a state of great disrepair, so that repairing it with stones was not possible – leaving repairing it with wood the only option. And of course, the oracle were not ignorant of a situation well known to everyone.
Therefore, the only option remains that the walls must have been destroyed by invaders (although supposedly the Dorians never captured the Acropolis) or by the Athenians themselves, after a regime change (for example monarchy, or tyranny) as a precaution against its unwanted reinstatement.
5. Ancient Temple (Pictures 10 & 11)
The level of the knowledge regarding the Acropolis topography in 1871 is depicted in the best possible way in one of the tables that accompany Michaelis’ written work on the Parthenon. It is worth noting that in this table Michaelis points out the outline of the today well known foundation of the ancient temple, in the South of the Erechtheum, with the characterization “platform (άνδηρο) of Athena”, a lot before it was officially revealed as a temple foundation. That ‘revelation’ only became possible in 1885, when the Great Excavation began. As already mentioned, Dorpfeld was the first to observe the foundation (before it was properly excavated) and came to the correct interpretation. The brief study he published then (1885 and 1886) in the magazine of the German Archaeological Institute proved that upon that foundation once stood the literature attested to ancient temple of Athena, and he thus offered science a brief but still wholly correct drawn restoration of its original form (pics 10 and 11). That study still retains its value. The first brief announcements regarding the ancient temple were followed by others (1887 etc), which discussed literary matters of the history and the operation of the temples of Athena.
Dörpfeld’s main positions regarding the history of the ancient temple were the following: the temple assumed its full form at the time of Peisistratos and (the Peisistratids) (prior to that it was a simple alcove with prostases; it was destroyed by the Persians, and then repaired in 479 BC; its colonnade was demolished in Kimon’s time; the alcove suffered damages from a fire in 406 BC, but was repaired and preserved until the Middle Ages.
The publication of the famous inscription IGII2 3-4 “inscription of the hundredth level temple” by H. Lolling in 1890 to some extend revised Dorpfeld’s positions, who in a following article claimed that the temple referred to in the inscription must have been the Eastern part of the ancient temple. Since then, these positions have been re-examined many times and revised to a great degree. The temple is no longer dated from Peisistratos’s time but from the time of the Peisistratids and its retention after the Persian Wars is endorsed only for its Western part of the alcove (Dinsmoor, 1932). The temple was of Doric style with 6x12 columns, made of sandstone, and with marble pediments.
Among its peculiarities are:
- Instead of a graded staircase the temple only featured a single stylobate.
- The internal division of its alcove, which featured prostases on both its fronts, is more multiple that what is usually found in ancient temples. A partition separated the interior into an Eastern compartment, or Athena’s main temple, entered from the Eastern Prostase and a Western compartment with entrance from the Western Prostase. The Western compartment –the main temple– featured internal pillar rows, which split it into a central and two lateral sides. Dorpfeld claimed that the Western compartment was the opisthodomus (Οπισθόδομος), referred to both in the literature and on the inscriptions, in a special area of which, to the right, was Athena’s money, and in another to the left, that of the other gods. That view became almost generally accepted.
- The prostases of the alcove were exceptionally shallow. Dorpfeld found it difficult to interpret that, but in the end he assumed that they were distyles-in-antis. Later on, Schräder claimed that the prostases were Ionian four columns after an alcove renewal (which is supposed only on the theory of the succession of the two temples on the same foundation, see Ch. 7). Dörpfeld agreed with that too. Dinsmoor accepts that the prostases had been Ionian four columns since the beginning (so for him this matter is independent from that of the succession of the two temples upon the same foundation, which he rejects anyway). The examination of the matter today also concludes rather that the Prostases were colonnaded, but not that they had to be Ionian.
- The length of the temple, only 12 columns, seen in the light of what was the norm in the 6th century and more especially compared to what one might have expected from a temple with so many internal areas, looks exceptionally short. A reflection of that in the interior is the hard to miss atrophy of the Eastern compartment (main temple) and the shallowness of the prostases (pic. 10). Undoubtedly, the multiple stylistic peculiarities of that temple must be for particular reasons, much older than the temple itself. Sadly, however, the distant past of the ancient temple is not known. Still, all indications show that that is the most ancient temple of Athena upon the Acropolis, of course not in the form that we have come to know it, but in other, much older ones.
- Among the temple’s foundations were found, during the excavation, two bases of simple architecture. These bases, on which once stood, wooden columns approximately half a metre in diameter, were originally attributed to a hypothetical Mycenaean mansion. Afterwards, however, it was proved (C. Nylander) that they belonged to a temple of the Geometric Era that is to the predecessor of the Archaic Era temple.
- The one and only altar of Athena’s shrine once stood in the East of the ancient temple. In the East of the Parthenon or of the Erechtheum there were no other altars of Athena. It is plausible to conclude that even before the first temples on the position where the Parthenon or the Erechtheum would subsequently be built there already had been an even older temple across the one and only (and even older) altar.
The adjective “ancient” must have already been given to that temple (after the erection of the “original Parthenon” to distinguish it), however, it was retained by the new temple (of the 6th century) together with the position.
The reuse of materials from the temple for the construction of the Northern wall presents special interest. The known parts of the entablature appear in two neighbouring positions and are only a few epistyles long. According to Penrose, who was the first to sketch and study them carefully, these parts are only remains of the original whole. That whole was continuous, without interruptions and at the location of the wall’s Northern small Gate also formed a corner, exactly like the wall itself, and continued along with another two epistyles. On its Northern side it must have been as long as it was on the temple. The choice of location and length and even the use of the angular fracture of the wall must have resulted in a very adequate reproduction of the general impression the temple once gave to those who gazed at the Acropolis from the Agora area (pic. 23). Another great whole, but one used in a totally different way, are the capitals of the pillars. Placed with the upper surface of the abacuses upright and turned outwards, they appear as a long series of poles along the Easternmost part of the Northern wall (pic. 12).
The Ancient Temple was, of course, a brilliant architectural work of the departing 6th century, with exquisite sculptural decoration. Its columns were smaller that the Parthenon’s by 1/5, but still featured larger capitals: 2.26x2.26m as opposed to 2.00x2.00m! Due to their positions and sizes these capitals must have been very impressive. As they were much wider that the epistyle, a large part of theirs protruded uncovered like a balcony (pic. 11). The entablature of the temple was of almost the same scale as the entablature of the Parthenon; its metopes, however, were plain flat plates (marble from Hymettos). The heavy horizontal cornice was the last upper sandstone part of the temple. On the pediments, except for the sculpted and the pediment cornices, all drums were also made of marble. So was the richly ornamented cornice above the pediment (pic. 11). The marble of the aforementioned parts had been imported from Paros. Finally, the Corinthian style tiling of the temple was also made of marble, but of material from the best quarries of Hymmetos. There always are a lot of questions regarding the architecture and the decoration of the prostases. Schrader’s assumption that the alcove featured an Ionian frieze to which should also be attributed the glyph No. 1342 of the Museum of the Acropolis, as well as some smaller items that belong together, is probably correct, but for the time being remains unproven. One thing looks certain though: the Ionian capital on which the hypothesis of an Ionian colonnade (Penrose) and the hypothesis of Ionian prostases (Schräder) were each based is too large for the dimensions of that temple (see Ch. 6).
But even the part that remained in place after the programmed dissolution, that is the stylobate of the colonnade preserved and increased a use it had had since it bore pillars: an ideal pedestal for the erection of statues and other offerings. A part of that pedestal was later dissolved because of the construction of the Erechtheum. The stones taken from it were used on the base of the built part of the great staircase in the West of the Parthenon.
The giant Ionian capital that once became the reason for the hypothesis of Ionian columns in the ancient temple survives in two halves. The one, in better condition, remains in the location where it was used as second hand material in the Northern wall. The other, pulled up from the same area, lies in the East of the Erechtheum.
This rare Ionian capital, 2.45m in width, is the biggest in mainland Greece. Only the capitals in the gigantic Ionian temples in Samos and Ephesus were bigger. Judging by its size, the Acropolis capital should be attributed to an autonomous Ionian column of similar shape and importance to the ones standing in the shrine of Delphi (Sphinx of the Naxians), in the shrine of Aphaia and elsewhere.
Placing that column's location where the Western wall of the Erechtheum features large wide cutting incisions on its Southern part must be considered certain. These incisions were made so that a previous construction wouldn’t be harmed. The wall incisions on that previous construction are the negative (or complementary) shape (analogous phenomena have been noticed in the Southern side of the Northern prostases, in the foundation of the Eastern side and in other places). The form and the type of that construction are betrayed thus by the particular shape of the successive incisions. They are also indicated by chiselings on the underlying rock, which betray their ground plan. It was a square pedestal approximately 2x2m, built with successive chiseled stones, whose directions and heights can be easily estimated with the aid of an analytic study of the incisions. That construction is found throughout the area of the Kekropion and the Pandroseion, the only one that had its foundations built so deeply, so that it touched the rock, thus demanded that it was leveled. However, such foundations and at such depths can be justified only for buildings or for tall pillars and columns. Therefore, it is plausible to associate the large column and the foundation in the Kekropion.
Judging from the capital’s dimensions, the height of the building is estimated at approximately 10m (pic. 13). From the technical characteristics of the finding, it is inferred that the deep foundation of the column was made of sandstone and was in direct contact with the temple. During the Persian invasion and the temple’s destruction, the column fell (or was knocked) down, certainly to the East (of course, the Erectheum was not there yet). Pieces from the pillar were used later for the construction of the wall, a short distance to the Northeast.
Surfaces left unfinished rough, uncut construction corner-stones and semi-complete cymae all throughout the height of the Western wall of the Erechtheum, exactly above the foundation of the column make it almost certain that, in that location, works usually carried out for the placing of stones were obstructed by something. The concentration of such occurrences in a vertical zone, where prior to the Persian Wars the column must have stood, affords the conclusion that after the Persian Wars a monument (pillar, column or stele) was again erected (pics 14 and 23), and that it must have been there when the Erechtheum began to be constructed so close to it.
7. “Building H” or “Original Parthenon” (The temple with large sandstone pediments, Picture 19).
In 1888 the excavation was already advancing to the Southern part of the Acropolis, uncovering –besides the aforementioned ancient technical works (landfills, revetment walls, foundations of workshops)– numerous fragments of sandstone sculptures and architectural limbs. These findings (if somewhat segmentally) together with some others also found in other locations on the Acropolis, made it possible for the first time to achieve knowledge of local architecture and sculpture earlier than the ancient temple. The classification of the fragments on the basis of their architectural scale or their stylistic features resulted in drawing up groups, each of which should belong in a different building or artistic whole. Finding the locations of all these buildings justifiably perplexed people. The first thing that comes to mind is that with the overall reformation of the Acropolis during the 5th century a lot of evidence for the original form and especially the position of ancient buildings must have been wiped out. It would have thus been plausible to choose conventional names for the buildings for which stray finds were the only evidence: “building A”, “building B”, “building C” and so on. One of them, “H” (pic. 15) attracted a lot of attention from the beginning because of its large size. That unique size, after all, made it clear that which architectural remains should belong together: fragments of very large sandstone sculptures (the “three-bodied daemon”, “Hercules”, “Hercules and Triton”, large snakes etc), fragments of capitals with very depressed echinus and estimated dimensions of about 1.80x1.80m, fragments of column-drums of comparable size and three big epistyles, incorporated into the external side of the Southern wall. Earlier, Dorpfeld had attributed these epistyles, which were always visible, to the ancient temple without distinction, although they were shorter and taller. That difference in height had only been noticed by Penrose in the past.
However, apart from these, there is another more general difference: for “building H” the harder Actites (ακτίτης) was used, while for the ancient temple medium hard sandstone. Wiegland’s study of that material was published in 1904. In the meantime, as already mentioned, Dörpfeld had already rejected his theory as to the post-Persian dating of the Pre-Parthenon and supported, followed by others, Leake’s and Ross’ old classic theory. In that manner the existence of even older temples on the same position would have to be, again for reasons of historical continuity, very probable.
However, while Wiegland was looking for the position of “building H”, he did seriously regard the area occupied by the Parthenon, and, in the absence of other evidence, claimed that that temple must have existed as an independent building, exactly on the location of the old temple’s alcove: that is, that it had been an older phase of the ancient temple, which, to great degree, was preserved in its final form. That final form was achieved, claims Wiegland, with a simple addition of a colonnade to the earlier temple (“building H”) and with some modification of the latter, for which the sandstone pediments were removed and its height was increased.
Wiegand used this theory also to interpret the existing qualitative difference between the colonnade and the alcove’s foundation. The former consists of large pieces of rock from Kareas and the latter of smaller pieces of the Acropolis. With respect to this matter, however, Dorpfeld had once noted that the difference in material and way of construction between the two foundations could even be due to technical reasons.
The representation of the “building H” as a distyle-in-antis, about 34m long, led Wiegand to the view that that temple should be the Hekatompedon ("Hundred-footer")that signs referred to. That representation was unfortunate mainly because its pediments were not spacious enough for the biggest of the limestone sculptures, i.e. the lions.
Wiegand’s theory was attacked in 1922 by E. Buschor, who claimed that the material attributed to the “building H” does not come from the predecessor of the ancient temple but from another temple, which must have been an earlier precursor to the Parthenon. That temple he called ‘Urpathenon’, meaning “primal Parthenon”. Later on (1929-33), the same researcher, based on materials from monumental tillings, suggested the existence of an even older temple on the same position. That theory did not meet with general acceptance. The theory that attributed the material of “building H” to two buildings (H1 and H2) was later supported by Schräder, who accepted H1 as a distyle-in-antis Dorian temple, in the site of the ancient temple (pic. 16) and H2 as a tristyle-in-antis Dorian temple, on the site of the Parthenon (pic. 17). To this suggestion he was led by the differences among the capitals, the triglyphs and the other parts of the “building H” and from the quantity and the size of the sandstone pediment sculptures, mainly the lions. Special place in H. Shcrader’s study was occupied by some sculptures attributed to different corner ornaments (most of which, however, do not really belong to the corner ornaments, see below).
Matters took a new turn in 1935, when W.H. Schuchhardt presented a study of the “building H’s” epaetis. He collected and studied hundreds of fragments. By joining together fragments or by examining combinations that allowed the minimum of gaps and making use of all possible criteria (the direction of the ornaments, the way of motion, the metres etc, even the layers of the marble, which allow for the possibility of two fragments belonging to the same marble), came to a minimum length for the one side of the pediment, which was higher than what would have fitted a tristyle-in-antis temple (as Schräder had suggested). Therefore, the pediment had to be represented as bigger. However, without at the same time endorsing Buschor’s theory, he only modified Wiegang’s theory, claiming that the “building H” –being the predecessor of the ancient temple’s position– also had to be a Colonnade temple from the start (pic. 18). The well known and much discussed foundations of the temple and of the colonnade of the ancient temple should belong, including the staircase, to the “building H”.
Still, the surviving epistyles of the “building H” enwalled into the Southern wall of the Acropolis, are somewhat shorter that the epistyles of the ancient temple enwalled into the Northern wall, and it was for this reason that Schuchhardt, in trying to make the general dimensions of the two temples match, assumed that other, not surviving epistyles of “building H” must have been a lot longer. That view was rejected by Dinsmoor: the suggested equation of the two temples’ widths “exceeds the… stone’s elasticity” (sarcastically meaning the elasticity of scientific calculations). It was he who also ascertained traces of a serrated machine on the seats of the stones of the alcove foundation and of the colonnade of the newer temple, a tool of which no traces were found on the cornices of the “building H”, because during that early time the cogged tool must not have been invented yet. In this manner Dinsmoor came to agree with Buschor’s and Schrader’s views of a “primary Parthenon” (Urparthenon). Strangely, though, he came to a daringly… undaring representation of the temple, wishing to achieve a height of 100 feet exactly. The result is tristyle-in-antis fronts and pediments of smaller capacity than the ones suggested by Schuchhardt. Dinsmoor’s theory did not meet with general acceptance.
Of the studies that followed, the most important ones in terms of the material’s substantiation and of their contribution to a lot of theoretical issues are those of I. Beyer (1975-6). Beyer, continuing Schuchhardt’s research, arrived at the recognition of the reliefs of the eastern pediment, based on criteria of style, material and size.
The move of the “building H” as Urparthenon to the site of the Parthenon –by Buschor, Schrader, Dinsmoor– provided a better explanation of the fact that almost all the architectural limbs and almost all the temple’s sculptures were found only South of the Parthenon, and not of the Erechtheum. Another phenomenon that is better explained in this way is the violent abuse of the sculptures in the pediments of both temples, to the point of crashing them into small pieces. If the temple being looked for was in the same position as the ancient temple, its demolition should have been dated from approximately 530 BC (since the newer temple was ready in 520 BC or not much later), at a time in which such abuse of old sculptures was inconceivable. If, however, the temple being looked for was in the position where later the Pre-Parthenon was built, its demolition could have taken place in installments, as the work progressed between 490-480 BC or perhaps 500-490 BC (most probably, however, the work was stopped in 485 BC). Such a dating makes it more probable that until 480 BC the sculptures remained in positions where destruction by the Persians was possible, in the same violent manner that the sculptures of the ancient temple were destroyed, or some monuments provocative to the Persians, such as the offering to the hero Callimachos (Καλλίμαχος) who had fought at Marathon (Picture 20).
Finally, the as above topographic distinction, as well as the dating of the temple’s unmaking from the 2nd decade of the 5th century BC, make very plausible the time that elapsed until the reuse of its metopes for the tilling of the Mycenaean wall adjacent to the Propylaea, and of the epistyles, vertebrae and other stones for the construction of the lower part of the Southern Acropolis wall. The tilling of the Southern wall dates from 466 BC (Kimonion wall). However, the possibility that its lower part is even more ancient cannot be ruled out.
Recent investigatory drillings of the Parthenon’s foundation, for the sake of static studies, proved that the foundation is generally concrete; however they did not allow the extraction of accurate conclusions as to the form of the stones’ knitting and to the likely structural phases of the interior of the stereobate. Other research, however, led us to positive evidence as follows:
- In the Western side of the stereobate of the Pre-Parthenon, the stones of the 19th layer are skewed towards the –unfortunately– non-visible interior of the construction. Their declination from the axis of the temple is -3,5 degrees to the left. That same declination also appears in the (already commented on by Buschor) skewed rock carving, approximately in the midst of the Western side. Therefore, it is very likely that exactly behind the external stones of the Western side of the stereobate there is another latent construction whose orientation declines from the Parthenon’s axes by -3,5 degrees to the left.
- In the Southern side of the stereobate and for about 20m from the SW corner, the stones of the 18th layer are skewed towards the interior of the construction. Their declination from the axis of the temple is also -3,5 degrees to the left. The explanation is the same as in the previous case. It is possible though to assume that the skewed stones in question follow the hypothetical internal construction along the whole of its length, but only along its part that comes closest to the Southern side of the stereobate.
- The smaller shrine below the Parthenon’s Northern wing, consisting of a chapel and an altar (see Ch. 8), had a special orientation. The axis of the in situ pedestal of the statue displays a declination of -3,5 degrees to the left of the axis of the Classical temple.
- The fact that so many different elements show the same declination –small temple in the North, carving and peculiar structure of part of the stereobate in the West and again a peculiar structure of the stereobate in the South– makes it possible that the declining elements are in parallel to the sides of an internal building, whose orientation differs from that of the stereobate by -3,5 degrees. That unseen building, if it actually exists, must be the foundation or part of the foundations of a big temple that precedes Parthenon I.
- The Western side of that building does not seem to be positioned accidentally:
it lies almost in line with the Western front of the ancient temple.
- The position of the small temple is not accidental. Its front is on the same line as the Eastern front of the ancient temple. Along the same line was also the front of a building to the North of the ancient temple, which was the predecessor of the Eastern part of the Erechtheum (pic. 23).
The above do not constitute proofs. They are mere indications, but such that cannot be overlooked, which declare the most probable position and the area size of the temple with the large sandstone pediments. The length of its staircase must have reached 46m approximately.
The drawing representation of that temple is possible thanks to the number and the variety of its material remains. What follows, however, is only a necessary first approach, based especially on these fragments, which more than anything else favour a simple calculation without great margins for error.
The drawing and comparison of the cross-section of the echinos of the best-surviving capitals fragments in natural scale proved the existence of individual differences in terms of the exact shape of the curve of the echinos the shape and size of the belts and even in terms of the precise diameter of the under neck. Based on these individual differences, it is shown that the surviving fragments come from at least 15 different capitals. It is thus beyond doubt that the temple was Peripteros and of course with six-columned. From the possible length of its staircase and from the length of its smaller metopes it is estimated that the possible number of columns on its longest sides was 13.
A very important means for the study of the “building H” is the middle of the epistyles that were used in the Southern wall. Its left end is a simple level, suitable for joining with three successive stones, 49cm, 49cm and 59cm in height. As it is not yet certain that the graded end is a genuine feature of the stone, it is also uncertain that the epistyle comes from a prostases. But even if it were possible to prove the authenticity end, there would still be need to investigate the type of the prostases: prostyle or in antis? An investigation of this type has already been done by I. Beyer, but remains unpublished.
The triglyphs were of two kinds:
- One-piece slabshaped triglyphs, paved, which in some manner constituted some kind of tilling at the upper part of the entablature, which was built with regular blocks.
- Triglyphs carved directly upon the wall’s surface and therefore consisting of successive stones each.
The temple’s metopes were of various kinds:
- Plain unornamented plates made of marble from Hymettos.
- Plain plates of marble from Hymettos with coloured engraved Doric sheets exactly underneath the head. Plates of this type survive reused in the tilling of the Mycenaean wall outside the Propylaea. In two of these plates is carved the famous sign IGII24.
- Metopes with marble sculptures, attached upon a plain level surface that consisted of successive sandstone bricks. These sculptures are no other than the famous sculpted representations of wild animals (leopards and lions upon marble from Hymettos) in Room I of the Acropolis Museum.
- Full-sculpted metopes made of marble from Hymettos. The familiar four horses on the front of a metope (Acropolis Museum 577) are nothing but part of such a metope. Its theme, a chariot drawn by four horses upon the front of a metope, as also in the very famous similar metope of temple C of Selinous, probably belongs to the thematic cycle of the Battle against the Giants.
So, the Battle against the Giants was also one of the themes on the “primary Parthenon” (“building H”), as it later was on the Classical Parthenon itself.
The temple’s pediments concentrated large compositions of lions in the middle, narrative representations of mythical or religious themes above, below and at their two ends. Knowledge of these pediments is mainly due to the excellent works of Schuchhardt and I. Beyer.
The sima of the temple was carved on marble from Hymettos and ran on all sides. In the Eastern and Western sides, which were corniced, the sima (σίμη) had greater height and additional engraved decoration: a strip with the decorative geometric theme of the “fishbone” in the Eastern side and a strip with checkered theme in the Western side. At the ends of the pediment, these strips concluded in large upright spirals. Upright spirals at the edges of an element of crowing are not a rare theme. It is encountered in a lot of monuments from various places and times. The closest parallels to the spirals of this temple are these of the archaic temple of ancient Istria. These spirals are a kind of antefixes with purely decorative value, without any symbolic meaning and thus do not substitute regular pictorial antefixes.
For the problem of the representation of antefixes that once decorated the pediments of the temple a lot of solutions have been suggested: the most famous of these made use of the sculpted leopards, lions (which probably belong to metopes though) even of fragments from a gorgon, a trace of which (toes) survives in a fragment of the cornice (Schräder). The present research showed that around the mid 6th century the early antefixes discussed above were replaced.
Fortunately, however, for the newer corner-ornaments there is safer evidence: their bases. Of these, various fragments survive, that come from the left of the Eastern pediment and from the central corner-ornaments of both pediments. These pediments were also carved on marble from Hymettos, exactly like the sima itself. The later dating of these bases can be recognized from the traces of the cogged tools that were used for carving.
9. Recapitulation (Pictures 22 και 23)
The phases of the shrine of Athena can be summed up as follows:
Α. Unknown original form of the central temple in the Northern side of the central road, with altar towards the Eastern side and a small temple in the West. The temple stretches up to the other side of the road.
Β. (8th-7th century BC) Refurbishment of the temple. The temple is rather without colonnade made it by bricks with wooden columns and, towards the end of the period, features rich tilling. It houses the wooden statue of Athena. Another temple is re-erected in the Southern part of the temple, in the position of today’s Parthenon. From that point onwards, the two temples will coexist serving the two main hypostases of Athena. These hypostases are substantiated by the relevant iconography: the peaceful Athena Poleas is shown enthroned; the martial Athena is shown upright and fully armed.
C. (566 BC) Reorganization of the ritual of Panathenean (Παναθήναια) and quick rebuilding of the Southern temple (“building H” or “primary Parthenon”): six-columned peripteros with sandstone architecture and sandstone pediments. Some of its pediments and the perimeter of its tilling are made of marble from Hymettos. North of the temple a small shrine is developed (of the Ergane Athena?) with shrine and small temple or, rather, a small building (small temple without columns), similar to that of Athena Nike.
D. Under the Peisistratids: Rebuilding of the ancient temple: six pillars, colonnade, made of limestone and with marble pediments. North of the temple lie some small temples and shrines: Erechtheum, Pandroseion, Kekropion etc. In these temples there are already some small Doric buildings, small temples or/and buildings.
E. (End of 6th-beginnings of 5th century BC, programme of the newly founded republic to replace the relevant programme for the Olympeion) Work for the erection of a new, much larger temple (Parthenon I) in the place of the primary Parthenon. A great deal of space to the South is needed, over the declination of the rock and therefore the construction is needed of a bulky infrastructure (stereobate). The existing building is demolished, perhaps not in whole (the temporary preservation of part of it was still possible). Some of its metopes are used as tilling plates for the Mycenaean wall during the reformation of the Western entrance of the Acropolis. The preservation of the chapel is possible under conditions, and perhaps it is then that construction of the base of the Southern wall (see below). The whole programme is interrupted by the iminent Persian danger.
F. (490-495 BC, after the victory in Marathon) The plan is reviewed (Parthenon II, or marble pre-Parthenon), instead of sandstone marble is used, however the dimensions are somewhat restricted, which facilitates the further preservation of the shrine that looks to the North. The same programme includes the construction of a marble porch (Propylon) in the Western entrance of the Acropolis. In 485 BC, when works come to halt for the sake of defense programmes, the columns of the temple have been set up to the 2nd or 3rd drum and the cyma-bearing wall base (κυματιοφόρος τοιχοβάτης) is in place, while an equal or even greater quantity of marbles remains unused around the work and inside the quarries. Of the Propylon only the staircases and the poles of the walls have been constructed.
During all the above, the Southern side of the Acropolis existed with its old, Mycenaean-era form, main characteristic of which was the steep declination of the rock to the South, with the Mycenaean wall, in the meantime, half-destroyed, at a level much lower (up to 20m!) than the central slope of the rock.
G. (480 BC) Destruction of the Acropolis shrines and especially of the ancient temple. The semi-complete Pre-Parthenon is destroyed (and with it the possibly still preserved small parts of the original Parthenon). The semi-complete marble Propylon of the Acropolis is also destroyed.
H. After the Persian Wars Rough repair of part of the ancient temple. New construction or repair of a preexisting residence in the North of the temple (in the position of the Eastern section of the Erechtheum). In this residence is housed the ancient statue. Construction of part of the Northern wall. Erection of the Southern and Eastern wall (466 BC). It is not certain whether the base of this wall, with the reused material of the “building H”, is also Kimonean or older, that is from the end of the 6th-beginning of the 5th century and therefore if it is concurrent with the beginning of the dissolution of the “building H” and the use of its metopes for the tilling of the Mycenaean wall by the entrance of the Acropolis (this is still an issue to be investigated, see below). The destroyed semi-complete Propylon of the Acropolis was one of the first buildings that were repaired. The new construct, although a lot more economical than the original one, also remained incomplete.
I. (Pericles’ time) General revision of the total Acropolis plan and parallel programmes for the renewal from scratch or the abolishment of some buildings, including the already repaired ones. From the ancient temple only the Western part of its alcove is retained, i.e. the opisthodomos. The erection of the Erechtheum and of the Propylaea begins after the completion of the construction work on the Parthenon. In the foundations of the Erechtheum is used marble from the semi-complete Propylon, and stones from the stylobate of the ancient temple are used in the Western side of the platform of the Parthenon. The Parthenon itself (Parthenon III) has been designed to be a lot wider than the previous one, while it is no longer possible to increase its foundations to the South. Its increase to the North is thus combined with a suitable preservation of the small shrine within the Northern wing. This solution also dictates the exact position of the walls and columns of the temple, with the result that a part of the stereobate in the Southern side (about 1.60m wide) remains unused.
The shaping of the grounds in the South and East of the Parthenon, as well as the related works of completion of the upper section of the wall were never fully completed. This, however, is not the reason for the… absence of an altar in the East of the Parthenon.
The absence of an altar in the East of the Parthenon and the non existence, or non preservation, of testimonies to names of priestesses of the Parthenon are the reasons for a theory according to which the Parthenon must not have possessed actual religious but only political content. This theory is somewhat attractive because of its seemingly “modern” spirit (in reality it belongs to A Michaelis!), but at the end of the day there is no ground for it.
The number of altars, not only in the Athenian but almost in all Greek shrines, was independent from the number of temples. In Delos, there were a lot of temples of Apollo and only one altar to the god, and in Samos the great altar served more than one temples. For the same deity one altar would suffice, irrespective of whether the existence of more statues or other reasons resulted in the existence of more temples. On the other hand, some rather specialized hypostases of the same deity –Athena Nike, Hygeia, Ergane– would have special altars if they had special temples.
In support of the religious content of the Parthenon speaks the long succession of temples in the same position. So does the singularity of its ground plan. The great Western compartment was not made for the surface reason of housing the fund of the Delian League: the pre-Parthenon had an identical Western compartment a long time before the existence of the League. But such compartments also existed in the other temples of Athena on the Acropolis: Erechtheum, ancient temple, but never in other temples outside the Acropolis (in the temple of Apollo in Corinth the inability to represent a central door at the partition of the temple does not prove that the Western compartment had its entrance in the West! Eccentric or lateral doors are not uncommon in Greek temples, especially in those of Apollo: Vassai, Claros, Didyma, Selinous.
Quite plausibly thus, the Western compartment of the temples on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, was a very important part of them, demanded by the particular traditions of the shrine and mainly by the retention of worships older than that of the Olympus gods.
But then, what remains of the famous political content of the Parthenon?
What remains is all that has been said about it (creation of work opportunities, promotion of political and cultural values, display of power etc)! In what was said previously no denial of the political content of the Parthenon was attempted, but rather a counter-argument to the contention that religious content was absent. The coexistence of religious and political content is not a matter unique to the Parthenon. What else is the content of works such as the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Hagia Sophia or Saint Peter, to mention the most well known ones first; or the Doric temple of Segesta, the Siena Cathedral or the Speyr Cathedral? What are these, other than a multifaceted combination of religious and political content, which is catered for by very highly artistic means? The list is of course very long, in reality including every worthy to be mentioned religious work in the world. The Parthenon’s case is simply more (or much more) distinguished because of its exceptional place in the history of civilization.
Let the review of the topographical issues of the central shrine of the Acropolis close with a note for the now-existing possibilities for enriching older knowledge.
The general impression that the archaeological excavation of the Acropolis was exhausting is not exactly accurate. Large parts of the grounds of the Acropolis remain undug. These parts mainly stretch along the Southern and Eastern wall and it is exactly these, upon which the upper (and much wider on the inside) part of these walls is seated, that remained undug, because every time the excavation areas had very great lengths and thus carrying out works to support the unstable part of the wall was no easy matter. Now, however, behind the wall there again is landfill. Therefore an excavation via a well (with wooden points of support in its interior) would be possible to reach to the rock, exactly through the wall, without any danger. The chief objective of such excavation would be to date the lower part of the wall (see above and E. and G.), while another almost certain outcome is the massive collection of other important fragments of the sculptures already present in the museum. But the most important of all would be to remove from the outside, classify inside a big museum storehouse and to conserve thousands of stones and fragments of the ancient temple, of the “building H”, of the Pre-Parthenon and of the other buildings, so that their daily decay is stopped and deservedly serious studies of them can be made.