The Parthenon: An Epic Monument Or a Mystery in Measurements?
The Parthenon, proudly standing on the Athenian Acropolis , is considered by many historians and archaeologists alike as the undisputed symbol of Athenian democracy and the cradle of Western civilization.
The monument is also considered one of the finest buildings of all time by a large number of architects worldwide. It attracts millions of tourists each year and was designed by the most famous sculptor of antiquity, Phidias, while two of the most influential architects ever, Ictinus and Callicrates, supervised the practical construction work of the temple.
The Acropolis, with the Parthenon. ( moofushi /Adobe Stock)
The Mysteries of the Ancient Temple
Contemporary scientists have admitted—despite the Parthenon being the most imitated building in history—that even with modern technology and contemporary architectural techniques, it’s virtually impossible to rebuild the exact same building in all its detail.
But why is the Parthenon so special ? What makes it so different from all the others? What kind of details and secrets did the peoples of antiquity know that have been lost to time? Why can’t we construct an identical building to the original Parthenon even though technology, machinery, and architecture have progressed so much since then? There are too many riddles to the construction of the Parthenon, only a few of which can even remotely begin to be unraveled.
To begin with, the Parthenon might have needed decades to be restored in modern times, but the Athenian citizens mysteriously built it in a decade, between 447 and 438 BC.
The temple was built under Pericles’s rule. Marble bust of Pericles, Roman copy after a Greek original from ca. 430 BC. ( Public Domain )
The iconic monument is a peripteral octastyle Doric temple with Ionic architectural features, surrounded by a colonnade of eight columns across and 17 along, counting the corner columns twice.
- Millions of silver coins may have been stored in Parthenon attic
- Incredible Construction: Greek Acropolis Built by Ancient Engineers to Resist Earthquakes
- The Mentor Shipwreck and the Disastrous Journey of the Parthenon Marbles to Britain
The main entrance of the temple faces east while the interior length is 100 Attic feet, thus 30.80 meters (101 feet). And though these numbers might seem random to most, the fact is many historians believe significant proportions are expressed in these numbers.
Low angle perspective of columns of the Parthenon at sunset, Acropolis, Athens. ( Alex Green /Adobe Stock)
Messages in Measurements
An Attic foot is equivalent to 0.30803 meters, or 1/2F (φ), where F (φ) = 1.61803, also known as the Golden Ratio . The Golden Number F, the number 1.618, is often found in nature, in human facial features, in the measurements of the human body, in flowers and other plants, in art, in most living organisms on earth, in shells, and in beehives, among many other things, but most important, it’s often associated with the structure of the universe and planetary orbit in our solar system.
Furthermore, in aesthetic science the Golden Ratio is considered the most accurate standard for the expression of perfection. So, could all this just be a mere coincidence? Not likely, since inside the Parthenon we find something more impressive—the Fibonacci Sequence , which in mathematics describes the phenomenon of a number being equal to the sum of the previous two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, etc. Even more strange, the ratio of the successive pairs tends to the so-called Golden Ratio, or Number F (φ).
The Golden Ratio. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Additionally, the number for Pi (π), 3.1416 can also be found inside the temple, which appears in the mathematical relation 2F2/10, but more impressively, we see the number e = 2.72, which is the most important mathematical constant and is the base of the natural logarithm.
What makes things more complicated is that the three numbers included in the Parthenon are also included in all of nature and are present in all creation, and nothing can function without them.
As one would expect, the questions deriving from the aforementioned facts are many. Did the creators of the Parthenon know these numbers and their importance? And if so, how did they manage to include them in such detail and accuracy in a building which we can’t replicate today even with all our technology and know-how?
How could the ancient Greeks, or more precisely, Ictinus, Callicrates, and Phidias, be aware of the Golden Ratio when Midhat J. Gazalé and so many other scholars assure us that it was not until Euclid came along that the Golden Ratio's mathematical properties were studied?
Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends. ( Public Domain )
How did they know of the Fibonacci Sequence when it was first officially recorded in 1202, almost 1,700 years after the Parthenon was constructed? And most importantly, how could the Parthenon's façade , as well as many of its particular elements, be circumscribed by golden rectangles when the computer technology we take for granted today didn’t exist back then to create such forms?
- Pythagoras and His Life Beyond the Pythagorean Theorem
- The Golden Ratio – a sacred number that links the past to the present
- Pankration: A Deadly Martial Art Form from Ancient Greece
To all these questions many more can be added as one searches to discover the specific details of the functions and mysteries of the sacred temple; such as, how was the building lit when there were no windows and, even more oddly, no traces of soot have been found, which excludes the use of torches?
Signals in the Sunlight
Another mystery that many experts in various fields have unsuccessfully tried to answer is why, during the day when there is sunlight, do the drop shadows created around the temple always appear to point to other specific destination points in Greece? Which exact points they show and why this happens, or if there’s any special meaning behind this occurrence, has been investigated by scientists for ages, but opinions vary greatly, preventing us from reaching a solution.
Despite all the scientific, paranormal and mythical mysteries surrounding its legend, the Parthenon remains the cradle of Western civilization—and undoubtedly one of the most significant monuments of humankind as a whole.
And it continues to attract millions of curious visitors every year. The only sure thing is that we can only learn and benefit from the iconic monument, its unlocked codes and artistic features, which hopefully will be deciphered in the near future.
The Parthenon is a hugely impressive monument. ( TTstudio /Adobe Stock)
Bonus Facts About the Parthenon
Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens, Leo von Klenze, 1846. ( Public Domain )
Top Image: The majestic and mysterious Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Source: sea and sun /Adobe Stock
By Theodoros II
Updated on January 13, 2021.
Before 26 september 1687 the Parthenon still had a roof, and was largely intact. Greece was a part of the ottoman Empire, and the Parthenon was turned into a mosque. Muslims tend to to that everywhere, remember Constantinopel ? There were wars in those days, because the muslims wanted to have mosques in Vienna as well, but were slaughtered in 1683. From then the ottoman Empire was shrinking, and they were loosing. When Athens was attacked by the Venetians, the muslims stored their ammuninion in the Pentagon, assuming the Christians would not want to damage this beautiful building. Well, on 26 september 1687 there was a direct hit, and a dramatic explosion turning the Parthenon into a ruin. For me it is clear who is to blaim. Even up until today, mosques are used to stor weapons.
but a dreamers has many nights :) Amen.
Will be going for a holiday to Greece at the end of the month. Had already planned on going to see the Parthenon and reading this article has inspired me even more to do so! Would like to read more about it!
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde
Yes yes i do recall hearing about the pyramids with that ratio.
Temple of Amun, Egypt. Here's a 'jump to' link to a youtube video :