Pericles Building Program Essay

Classical Antiquity

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Coverage: 1982-2015 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 34, No. 1)

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ISSN: 02786656

EISSN: 10678344

Subjects: Classical Studies, Humanities

Collections: Arts & Sciences V Collection

The Periclean building program

Pericles proposed a building program soon after the Greco-Persian wars, which had left much of Athens in ruins. The program's chief aim was to restore various Athenian temples as a reminder of the hubris of the Persians. Furthermore, it offered the Athenians the chance to display their imperial might through their architectural and cultural achievements.

The Periclean building program was popular with the demos for whom it provided regular work. Problems were caused by wealthy aristocrats who did not appreciate the filtering of money from the League's treasury to the working class. Despite this, they could not muster enough political power to halt the program which finished around 432 BC.

In 437/6 BC work was begun on reorienting and reconstructing the Propylaea (the Peisistratid gateway to the Acropolis). The powerful Athenians no longer required a formidable defensive system, and so the new Propylaea was designed to impress rather than intimidate.

In 447/6 BC, work was begun on building a new Parthenon. Although built on the foundations of the earlier, unfinished building, the new Parthenon was designed to house an enormous chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena, designed by the sculptor Phidias. Thus, changes were made to the plans of the original Parthenon in order to accommodate this. The finished product was a glorious building incorporating a large pool of water in front of the statue to reflect its image. The building was decorated intricately with sculptured reliefs, each expressing in a variety of ways the triumph of the civilised Greeks over the Barbarous East, and the glory of Athena's city.

The main building work focused on the Acropolis. The Odeon of Pericles was a major part of this work which included the erection of a new temple to Athena and a new gateway to the Acropolis. The building was funded chiefly by money from the League treasury.


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