8 months ago (Oct. 2013) I was gazing at the wondrous spectacle known as the Parthenon sitting atop the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece. I roamed the sites and toured the amazing museum. I tried to appreciate what I was seeing, but my lack of Greek history and culture limited my ability to comprehend it all--that is, until I read The Parthenon Enigma by Joan Breton Connelly.

Anybody that's ever seen the Parthenon should read this book. It details the history of the building (and others), delving into the half mythological, half factual explanations of the sculptured works that adorned it. The "enigma" part basically asks and answers "Why?".It's a fascinating story.

Like us (in general), the ancient Greeks were very religious, worshipping many gods. Their roots are steeped in mythology. The goddess Athena (a female!) was the dominant figure. A gigantic statue  stood atop the Acropolis. The Parthenon was built to honor and worship her. She and the building were to serve as potent symbols of Greece's wealth and power and supremacy. The vivid and abundant sculptured adornments served to tell what it meant to be an Athenian. They tell of their genealogy, origins and rituals, and values. Little wonder they continue to be a proud people.

Oh those silly Greeks, we Americans think--worshipping all those mythological gods and goddesses. However, in many respects, the United States shares a parallel history with Greece. Yes, we're a democracy (republic), but belief in our "gods" (including Jesus) continues to dominate our culture and politics. Ours being a "Christian nation" is oft repeated. The U.S. has a plethora of Parthenon-like symbols, including churches and cathedrals.  That's alright, we have reason to be proud.

I'm glad I read the book after I had been to Athens. Now I need to return. By the way, 60% of the sculptured artwork is in the British Museum (which I, too, have seen). The subject of its return to the homeland is still being debated. 94% of British residents think it should be! 

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Comment by Randall Smith on July 7, 2014 at 7:11am

The book mentioned the Nashville exhibit, including what is thought to be a marvelous replica of the Athena statue. I plan to visit next year on my way to Florida.

Like I stated, the book is recommended for those that have been to the Parthenon. Otherwise, it's difficult to visualize. The mythological exerpts are interesting, however, -- if you're in to that.

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 6, 2014 at 11:14pm

I think so, too. I hope you do go back and enjoy the beauty of the building and its story, after reading The Parthenon Enigma. Be sure and keep us informed. 

Comment by The Flying Atheist on July 6, 2014 at 10:42pm

Sounds like a very interesting book.

BTW, if you want a repeat visit to the Parthenon but can't make it back to Greece, there is a replica in Nashville, Tennessee which pretty impressive.  And there's an art gallery in the "basement."  (I bet the original Parthenon doesn't even have a basement!)



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