The “front” of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, as it currently appears. It is through these doors that the Athenian treasury was accessed. The opposite side of the building was where the colossal statue of Athena was accessed. There’s not much left of the pediment.
Okay, there really is no contest between the real Parthenon and its imitation in the United States. Nonetheless, it’s fun to compare them.
I never wrote an entry about my trip to visit my cousin in Nashville in September, 2012. I was there for a few days, and I had gone down there specifically to study the Parthenon, and to see the huge statue of Athena Parthenos, built by Alan LeQuire in the spirit of Phidias, the sculptor of the original statue. More on that later.
The front of the Nashville Parthenon, which compares to the entrance in the Parthenon to the statue side. (Compare to the next picture of the Parthenon.) However, the entrance to the building is downstairs and into the art gallery. The Athenian Parthenon had no “cellar.”
This trip was a warm-up to my trip to Greece at the beginning of the year. She had just gotten married in 2012 to another ex-Pittsburgher who loved the Steelers. I had never been to Tennessee, and I was looking forward to seeing this Parthenon that captured the look of the original when it was first built.
I had seen the Parthenon in Athens when I was on Semester at Sea and had photos of it from my first trip. The Parthenon is on top of the Acropolis, which towers high over the city of Athens. In contrast, the Nashville Parthenon is on a slight “hill” (more like a mound) in Centennial Park.
The entrance to where the cult statue of Athena once stood. Notice in the left and right corners of the pediment that still have the horses heads.
The art gallery is only the size of the building, and part of it is dedicated to the history of the Nashville Centennial, when a wood and plaster Parthenon was built to celebrate Nashville’s moniker as the “Athens of the South” because of the number of universities in the city. It’s the only building left from the Centennial still standing or, rather, a replica of the original in stone which replaced the first Parthenon at the end of the 19th century.
I heard people complaining about Athens, that there wasn’t much left of the ruins and that “there was nothing to see.” These ignoramuses did not seem to understand that Athens is a living city; it has been inhabited since ancient times. Every succeeding city was built upon the ruins of the previous. I told one woman that she needed to visit Nashville to see what the Parthenon originally looked like. Of course this really isn’t true, as the sculptures decorating the Nashville building are not painted different colors, which we know the Greeks did with their marble statues. Also, the Nashville Parthenon was not built of marble.
The corner of the Nashville Parthenon on the statue side. Notice the ornamentation.
The opposite corner on the statue side of the Parthenon. You can still see some of the beautiful ornamentation that is imitated in Nashville.
The battle between Athena and Poseidon for Athens. This pediment was above the entrance to the treasury.
The birth of Athena from Zeus’ brow. This was above the entrance to the statue.
Unlike the Parthenon, the Nashville Parthenon never had a cult statue–until 1982. It was at that time LeQuire had been commissioned to create a statue of Athena in the spirit of the original work of Phidias. The statue was completed in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2002 that the statue was gilded in gold and painted, bringing it closer to the original statue’s look.
The LeQuire statue in the Nashville Parthenon. Impressive, isn’t it?
The statue is truly remarkable. The six foot statue of victory that Athena held in her right hand had no pillar under it, which is what the surviving copies of the statue show. LeQuire closely studied Greek art and knew that the Greeks knew about counterbalancing weight, so he believes that the statue did not have a support pillar–at least originally. It is possible that, after several centuries, gravity finally took its toll and the arm began to fall, which would have called for a support–such as a pillar–being added.
My cousin, who had lived in Tennessee for years, had never visited the building. She was completely mesmerized by the eyes of the statue, which seemed to sparkle. She intended to bring her parents to see it.