When I visited Nashville, Tennessee in January the last thing I expected to be doing was walking up the steps of the Parthenon, temple of the Greek goddess Athena.
On a tour the day before the International Tour Management Institute symposium started, we had driven past Nashville’s replica of this iconic building in Centennial Park. I knew I had to come back on my own and investigate. So on the last day I skipped the seminars and farewell luncheon and trudged up to the park in the bitter cold. There was actually a heatwave that day… a high of 35 degrees F (1.66 degrees C)… twenty degrees warmer than the previous few days!
Many years ago I saw the original on the Acropolis in all it’s glory. A broken but still majestic symbol of all that was great in the ancient Greek culture, it was surrounded by scaffolding while undergoing a renovation to restore it to its pre-1687 condition (the year it was blown up by Turkish munitions).
Nashville’s Parthenon was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Before it gained the title of Music City, Nashville liked to call itself the Athens of the South due to the number of educational institutions in the area. So they thought it appropriate to create their own full-scale version of Athens’ greatest monument.
When I first looked at this photo I thought I was seeing mosaic tiles but it is the wire netting protecting the sculptures.
A full history of how this came about is posted here, so I won’t go into the details.
It was a pretty amazing feeling walking up to the temple and realizing this was how the original Parthenon must have looked when it was erected in 438 BC. Originally built of plaster, wood and brick, this copy was not intended to survive after the Exposition. But it was so popular that the decision was made to rebuild it, this time in concrete to preserve it for the ages.
I’m glad they did as it was thrill for me to see it, despite the fact that my hands were numb from the cold.
Click on a photo to start the slide show:
The first level of the Parthenon houses an art museum with a permanent collection and changing exhibits. No photography was allowed downstairs.
The upper level, the interior of the temple, is a whole other world. This is where the statue of the Goddess Athena stands, just like she would have in the original Parthenon over two thousand years ago. Beat that one, Greece!
Created by Alan LeQuire in 1990, she towers over visitors at 42 feet tall. It is impressive now but imagine what people must have thought pre-special effects movies and Disneyland.
Plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles in the east room were cast directly from the original sculptures.
I have to admit, visiting the Parthenon was worth the whole trip to me.
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