September 26: kaboom!

2012/09/26 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1687 the Parthenon blew up.

Actually, it was stuff inside the Parthenon that blew up.  In 1456 the invading Ottoman Empire reconfigured the buildings of the Acropolis, turning the great temple dedicated to Athena, which was de-paganized in 435 under Theodosius II, then turned into a Christian church in the sixth century,   into a mosque.  By the seventeenth century plans were made to re-take portions of the Empire that had fallen away.  A mercenary army was gathered; they stored their munitions inside of the Parthenon.  You see where this is going, don’t you?

Now basically a fortification–as it had been used originally by the Mycenaean starting in the Bronze Age–the Acropolis fell under bombardment by the Venetian navy in mid-September.  After eight days of shelling, a shell landed square in the Parthenon.  The side was blown out; a fire burned for two days, causing further damage to the structure and obliterating the third-century roof that replaced the original lost in another fire.

Still, it was not the end of the Turks in Athens.  The Venetians were expelled and another small mosque built in the temple’s ruins.  That was the situation discovered by Stuart and Revett when they traveled to Athens in the mid-eighteenth century, conducting the studies that would lead to the Antiquities of Athens.  They found the Parthenon looking like this.  Then Lord Elgin showed up and further desecrated the site by stealing a quantity of sculpture that are now in the British Museum.  After the Greeks achieved political independence in the 1830s the majority of later rubbish was cleared out and the site turned into an archaeological site.  REconstruction has been ongoing since the 1970s.

Image: kaplooey, or, “Destruction of the Parthenon,” by F. Fanelli, 1707 (from this source)

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