Yesterday, I blogged about a postcard picturing a reproduction of The Parthenon that sits in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. Today, we have the real thing, courtesy of a card sent by my little sister when she visited Greece last year. The real Parthenon, of course, is an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered as their patron. Construction on the hill known as the Acropolis in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC, although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece and is considered the zenith of the Doric order.
After the Ottoman conquest of Greece, the Parthenon was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. On 26 September 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. In 1806, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed some of the surviving sculptures with the alleged permission of the Ottoman Empire. These sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles, were sold to the British Museum in London in 1821 where they continue to be displayed. The Greek government has been petitioning for their return to Greece since 1983.
In 1975, the Greek government began a concerted effort to restore the Parthenon and other Acropolis structures. The Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments was established to this end in 1983 and has documented every artifact remaining on the site. Restoration is currently undergoing but the aim is not to restore it to a pre-1687 stat but rather to mitigate the explosion damage as much as possible, restoring the structural integrity of the edifice (important in such an earthquake-prone region) and to fill in chipped sections of the column drums and lintels.