Ancient History & Civilisation



P. Tournikiotis (ed.), The Parthenon and its Impact in Modern Times (Athens, 1994) is a lavishly illustrated collection of essays on the history and influence of the monument from the classical world to the present day. Excellent essays on the same theme can be found in J. Neils (ed.) The Parthenon: from antiquity to the present (Cambridge, 2005). This territory is also covered in P. Green, The Parthenon (New York, 1973) – out-of-print, but well worth getting hold of. The wider context of the Acropolis as a whole is the subject of J. Hurwit, The Athenian Acropolis: history, mythology, and archaeology from the neolithic era to the present (Cambridge, 1999).

An excellent introduction to many aspects of the classical Greek history that forms the background to the building of the Parthenon is R. Osborne (ed.), Classical Greece: 500–323 BC (Oxford, 2000); so too is P. Cartledge (ed.) The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 1998). For the art and architecture of the period, try R. Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford, 1998) and M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art: from Greece to Rome (Oxford, 2001). M. Beard and J. Henderson,Classics: a very short introduction (Oxford, 1995) is exactly what it claims to be – a beginner’s guide to the study of classical culture, its archaeology, literature and history.


Freud’s reaction to the Parthenon is recorded in his ‘A displacement of memory on the Acropolis’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 22 (London, 1964). Conflicting modern reactions to the Parthenon and what it symbolises (including – carefully anonymised – the story of William Golding) are explored by P. Green, ‘The shadow of the Parthenon’, in his collection, The Shadow of the Parthenon: studies in ancient history and literature (London, 1972). J. P. Mahaffy’sRambles in Greece (3rd edn., London, 1887) is a wonderful glimpse of Anglo-Irish engagement with Greece and its monuments in the late nineteenth century. His pupil Oscar Wilde’s first reaction to the Parthenon is buried in Julia C. Fletcher (writing as George Fleming),Mirage (Boston, 1878). Walker Percy’s boredom is described in his Lost in the Cosmos: the last self-help book (London, 1984), while Evelyn Waugh came up with ‘Stilton’ in Labels: a Mediterranean journal (London, 1930). The Nashville Parthenon is the subject of W. R. Creighton and L. R. Johnson, The Parthenon in Nashville: pearl of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (Tennessee, 1989). Byron’s major attacks on Elgin are in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Canto II) and The Curse of Minerva. His stay in Athens is described by B. Eisler,Byron: child of passion, fool of fame (London, 1999). The broader context of these reactions to Greece are explored by D. Roessel, In Byron’s Shadow: modern Greece in the English and American imagination (Oxford, 2002). For Elgin on the Acropolis, see below, Chapter 4. Reactions to the Elgin Marbles in London are well documented in W. St Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles: the controversial history of the Parthenon sculptures (3rd edn., Oxford, 1998) and in B. F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles (2nd edn., London, 1997). The trade in plaster casts is the subject of I. Jenkins’s article, ‘Acquisition and supply of casts of the Parthenon sculptures by the British Museum, 1835–1939’, in the Annual of the British School at Athens 85 (1990). The building of model Parthenons by inmates of the Greek prison camp at Makronisos is discussed by Y. Hamilakis, The Nation and its Ruins: antiquity, archaeology, and national imagination in Greece (Oxford, 2007).


Translations of the relevant sections of Pausanias (Guide to Greece, Book 1), Plutarch (Life of Pericles) and Thucydides (History; the ‘Funeral Speech’ starts at Book 2, chapter 34) are available in the Penguin Classics series. Pausanias’ Guide is discussed from various angles, ancient and modern, in S. E. Alcock, J. F. Cherry and J. Elsner (eds), Pausanias: travel and memory in Roman Greece (New York, 2001). Part of the building accounts are translated in C. W. Fornara, Translated Documents of Greece and Rome: archaic times to the end of the Peloponnesian War (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1983) no 120; they are discussed by A. Burford, ‘The builders of the Parthenon’, in G. T. W. Hooker (ed.), Parthenos and Parthenon (supplement to Greece and Rome 10, 1963).

A trenchant discussion of the pros and cons of the fifth-century BC Athenian empire is offered by M. I. Finley, ‘The Athenian empire: a balance sheet’, in his Economy and Society in Ancient Greece (London, 1981). The gold and ivory statue of Athena is minutely dissected by K. D. S. Lapatin, Chryselephantine Statuary in the Ancient Mediterranean World (Oxford, 2001). The processes of quarrying and transportation are enlivened by M. Korres, From Pentelicon to the Parthenon (Athens, 1995). For the painting of the Parthenon, see below, Chapter 6; for the frieze, Chapter 5. The idea of a Greek temple is discussed by L. Bruit Zaidmann and P. Schmitt Pantel in Religion in the Ancient Greek City (Cambridge, 1992). L. Kallet considers issues of finance and bookkeeping in ‘Accounting for culture in fifth-century Athens’, in D. Boedeker and K. Raaflaub (eds), Democracy. Empire, and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge, Mass., 1998).


Selected passages from Michael Choniates, Cyriac of Ancona, Evliya Celebi and Anna Åkerhjelm are translated (sometimes rather freely) in K. Andrews, Athens Alive (Athens, 1979). Michael is discussed by K. M. Setton, ‘Athens in the later twelfth century’, in his Athens in the Middle Ages (London, 1975) and by A. Kaldellis, The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens (Cambridge, 2009) who has a more positive view of the culture of medieval Athens than I do. The full text of his work is available only in Greek (ed. S. Lambros, 1879–80). Niccolò is briefly discussed (with the original Latin text) in J. M. Paton, Medieval and Renaissance Visitors to Greek Lands (Princeton, 1951). C. Mitchell scrutinises Cyriac in ‘Ciriaco d’Ancona: fifteenth-century drawings and descriptions of the Parthenon’, in V. J. Bruno, The Parthenon (New York, 1974) and Marina Belozerskaya explores his career more generally in To Wake the Dead: a Renaissance merchant and the birth of archaeology (New York, 2009). Evliya’s sections on Athens have never been fully translated into English, though there are two modern Greek versions, by K. I. Biris (1959) and N. Cheiladakis (1991). The account of J. Spon and G. Wheler was published in English by Wheler as A Journey into Greece in the Company of Dr Spon of Lyons (London, 1682). ‘Carrey’s’ drawings are published and discussed in T. Bowie and D. Thimme, The Carrey Drawings of the Parthenon Sculptures (Bloomington, Ind., 1971). An eye-witness account of the bombardment of 1687, by Cristoforo Ivanovich, is translated in Bruno, The Parthenon.


The main eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travellers’ accounts referred to in this chapter are: R. Chandler, Travels in Greece (Oxford, 1776); E. Dodwell, A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece (London, 1819); J. Stuart and N. Revett, Antiquities of AthensII (London, 1787 (1789)); E. D. Clarke, Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia and Africa (2nd edn., London, 1810–23); J. C. Hobhouse, A Journey through Albania and Other Provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia to Constantinople (London, 1813). These are discussed in D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal (Cambridge, 1984); F.-M. Tsigakou, The Rediscovery of Greece: travellers and painters of the romantic era (New York, 1981); H. Angelomatis-Tsougarakis, The Eve of the Greek revival: British travellers’ perceptions of early nineteenth-century Greece (London, 1990).

The actions of Elgin and his agents on the Acropolis are analysed in detail by St Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, and D. Williams in ‘ “Of Publick utility and publick property”: Lord Elgin and the Parthenon Sculptures’, in A. Tsingarida (ed.), Appropriating Antiquity (Brussels, 2002); there is a briefer account in Cook, The Elgin Marbles. A franker than usual account of the War of Independence is offered by D. Brewer, The Flame of Freedom: the Greek War of Independence 1821–1833 (London, 2001). R. Carter explains Schinkel’s proposals for Otto’s palace in ‘Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s project for a royal palace on the Acropolis’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 38 (1979). The triumph of archaeology and the Acropolis pageant of 1834 are discussed in E. Bastea, The Creation of Modern Athens: planning the myth (Cambridge, 1999); the archaeological clearance campaigns in R. A. McNeal, ‘Archaeology and the destruction of the later Athenian Acropolis’, in Antiquity 65 (1991). J. J. Coulton, Greek Architects at Work: problems of structure and design (London, 1977) offers a sane judgement on the so-called ‘optical refinements’ and other aspects of the Parthenon’s architecture. The Neronian inscription is the subject of K. K. Carroll, The Parthenon Inscription (Durham, NC, 1982). N. Balanos described his own programme of restoration in Les monuments de l’Acropole: relèvement et conservation (Paris, 1938). The current restorations are discussed in R. Economakis (ed.), Acropolis Restoration: the CCAM intervention (London, 1994).


The Sound and Light show is expertly decoded by E. Marlowe, ‘Cold War illuminations of the classical past: “the Sound and Light Show” on the Athenian Acropolis’, Art History 24 (2001). My own approach to Athenian democracy is not unlike R. Osborne’s in ‘Athenian democracy: something to celebrate?’, in Dialogos 1 (1994); rather more celebratory is J. Dunn (ed.), Democracy: the unfinished journey 508 BC – AD 1993 (New York, 1992). The inventories of the Parthenon are translated and discussed by D. Harris,The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion (Oxford, 1995).

The frieze has prompted an enormous amount of writing. An excellent introduction is I. Jenkins, The Parthenon Frieze (London, 1994); also a useful overview is J. Neils, The Parthenon Frieze (Cambridge, 2001). Different interpretations are offered by: J. B. Connelly, ‘Parthenon and Parthenoi: a mythological interpretation of the Parthenon frieze’, in the American Journal of Archaeology 100 (1996) (human sacrifice); J. Boardman and D. Finn, The Parthenon and its Sculptures (Austin, Tex., 1985) (memorial to Marathon); R. Osborne, ‘The viewing and obscuring of the Parthenon frieze’, in the Journal of Hellenic Studies 107 (1987); A. Stewart, Art, Desire and the Body in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 1997); D. Castriota, Myth, Ethos and Actuality: official art in fifth-century BC Athens(Madison, Wis., 1992). The Panathenaic festival at which the goddess was given a new peplos is explored in J. Neils (ed.), Worshipping Athena: Panathenaia and Parthenon (Madison, Wis., 1996). An authoritative guide to the pediments is O. Palagia, The Pediments of the Parthenon (2nd edn., Leiden, 1998). E. B. Harrison tries to pin down the career and style of Pheidias in a chapter in O. Palagia and J. J. Pollitt (eds), Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture (Cambridge, 1996).

The ancient idea of a god is discussed in Bruit Zaidmann and Schmitt Pantel, Religion in the Ancient Greek City. The role of statues in envisaging ancient deities is central to R. Gordon’s article, ‘The real and the imaginary: production and religion in the Graeco-Roman world’, Art History 2 (1979) (reprinted in his Image and Value in the Graeco-Roman World (Aldershot, 1996)) and D. Tarn Steiner, Images in Mind: statues in archaic and classical Greek literature and thought (Princeton, 2001).


The debates of 1816 (and the cleaning of the 1930s) are discussed in St Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, with a robust response by J. Boardman, ‘The Elgin Marbles: matters of fact and opinion’ in the International Journal of Cultural Property 9 (2000); and in C. Hitchens, The Elgin Marbles: should they be returned to Greece? (2nd edn., London, 1998 – reissued in 2008 as The Parthenon Marbles: the case for reunification). The changing display of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum is one of the major themes of I. Jenkins,Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800–1939 (London, 1992). The surface of the marbles and the question of paint is discussed by I. Jenkins and A. D. Middleton, ‘Paint on the Parthenon sculptures’, Annual of the British School at Athens 83 (1988); this is developed in Jenkins’s account of the ‘Duveen cleaning’, Cleaning and Controversy: the Parthenon sculptures 1811–1939 (British Museum Occasional Papers 146, 2001). Other contributions to this debate include W. St Clair, ‘The Elgin Marbles: questions of stewardship and accountability’, in the International Journal of Cultural Property 8 (1999), and various lectures given at the 1999 conference now published on the British Museum’s website ( Y. Hamilakis, ‘Stories from exile: fragments from the cultural biography of the Parthenon (or “Elgin”) marbles’, in World Archaeology 31 (1999) stands above the fray to analyse the cultural significance of arguments about the Elgin Marbles.


The history of the New Acropolis Museum project is discussed in detail by Argyro Loukaki in Living Ruins, Value Conflicts (Aldershot, 2008), which also includes fascinating material on the development of the Acropolis as an archaeological site in the twentieth century. An illustrated account of the Tschumi design can be found in The New Acropolis Museum, edited by Bernard Tschumi Architects (New York, 2009); with critiques by Martin Filler, ‘Grading the New Acropolis’, in the New York Review of Books, 24 September, 2009, who quotes from Samaras’s speech, and by Simon Jenkins (who offers some of the most vivid slurs on the museum’s external appearance) in the Guardian, 22 October 2009 (available online at Christopher Hitchens’s tremendous blast can be found in Vanity Fair for July 2009 (available online at The different designs for the museum entered in the competition (with judges’ comments and illustrations) can also most easily be accessed online, at Much of the material on the most recent Parthenon controversies is necessarily drawn from Greek and British newspaper reports, campaigning articles and websites.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!