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The Ghost of Ancient Greece

[Athens, The Acropolis]

In the postcard above, which bears its subject as its title ("Athens-The Acropolis"),you can see a clear shot of the Acropolis from a direction that is relatively south of the hill. The most prominent and recognizeable feature of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, the large temple to Athena on the right of the postcard, but you can also see the Propylaia (to the far left, near top) as well as the Erechtheion (the temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, which is between the Parthenon and the Propylaia), amidst the rest of the Acropolis complex. 

Arguably, the best place to explore the iconic architectural features of Ancient Greece is Athens; specifically, the quintessence of the style can be found in the Acropolis, a temple compound (which, though polytheistic, was centered around Athena), is home to not only some of the most impressive ruins in the Ancient Greek world, but also in all of Europe.  

There was actually a different set of Greek ruins in the acropolis before these ruins existed; the Persians obliterated the original buildings on the mountaintop in 480 B.C.E., and the general and leader, Pericles, decided to rebuild in an attempt to reassert Grecian pride, power, and ideology (Stokstad 136). The Acropolis is one of the markers of the Ancient Greek golden age because it was under construction during a moment of flourishing creativity and philosophy; that is, the Acropolis was reconstructed during the lifetimes of many famous Ancient Greeks, such as Socrates, Aristophanes, Euripedes, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. 

 

The Propylaea

Notice the simplicity of the facade and the iconic Doric columns. 

The Propylaea, the gatehouse of the ancient Athenian acropolis, was petitioned by Pericles in 437 B.C.E., right in the heart of the Greek high classical period; it was never completed, but it served as a dining hall and museum (Stokstad 142). 

Not only do we associate these ruined buildings with ideas from the same period of time that are still living (and evolving), we affiliate our own culture with these ideas by replicating certain (or sometimes whole) features of their architecture. 

We can think of Greek architectural style as a kind of classical "grandfather;" it influenced Roman architectural style, and the two, together, were rediscovered as a symbolically-focused architectural style starting in the eighteenth century (Crook 1-6), and we westerners still build according to this style. For instance, consider the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the British Museum, St. Peter's Basilica portal, Buckingham Palace, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Our government, specifically, has utilized neo-classical architectural style to such an extent that the style, at least in government contexts, has become almost traditional and expected. Did we do this to make a statement about American "wealth, culture, [or] power" ("Secrets of the Parthenon"), or were we trying to symbolically showcase our appreciation for democratic government "by the people," as opposed to monarchical, dictatorial, or oligarchical ruling models?

 

 

The Ghost of Ancient Greece