Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles As dawn breaks over Athens, Pheidias is already late for work. The year is 432 BCE, and he's the architekton, or chief builder, for the Parthenon— Athens' newest and largest temple. When completed, his masterpiece will be an enormous shrine to the goddess Athena, and a testament to the glory of the Athenians. But when he arrives onsite he finds five epistatai, or city officials, waiting to confront him. They accuse Pheidias of embezzling gold designated for the temple's sacred central statue. He has until sundown to provide all the temple's expenses and account for every flake of gold— or face the judgement of the courts. Though he's insulted by these false charges, Pheidias isn't surprised. Pericles, the politician who commissioned the Parthenon, has many enemies in city government, and this project is somewhat controversial. The public is expecting a classic temple in the Doric style: simple columns supporting a horizontal entablature, crowned with a triangular roof. But Pheidias' plans are far more radical by Athenian standards. His designs combine Doric columns with a sweeping Ionic frieze, hosting a vast panorama of the city's Great Panathenaic festival. Not only will this sculpture show humans and gods side by side— something never before seen in a temple's décor— it will also cost much more than the traditional approach. Praying to the Gods that his colleagues have been keeping track of their spending, Pheidias sets off to prove his innocence. First, he checks in with his architects Iktinos and Callicrates. Rather than using a blueprint, they pore over the syngraphai, or general plan, and paradeigma, a 3D model. Without an exact blueprint, the team often has to resolve issues in real time, guided only by careful calculation and their instinct for symmetry. Maintaining this symmetry has proven especially difficult. The Parthenon is built on a curve with the columns leaning slightly inwards. To project strength, and potentially keep the columns looking straight from a distance, the architects incorporated entasis, or slight bulging, in each column. For the temple's other elements, the team calculates symmetry by employing relatively consistent proportions across the design. But their shifting plans require constant recalculations. After helping solve one such computation, Pheidias collects his colleagues' gold records and heads off to receive a special delivery. Immense marble blocks for the Parthenon's pediment have just arrived from quarries at Mount Pentelikon. The usual ramps would collapse under the weight of these 2 to 3 ton stone blocks, so Pheidias orders the construction of new pulleys. After recording the additional expense and supervising the construction all afternoon, he finally arrives at the sculpture workshop. His sculptors are carving 92 mythical scenes, or metopes, to decorate the temple. Every carving depicts fighting from different epic battles— each a mythical representation of Greece's victory over Persia about 40 years earlier. No temple has ever used so many metopes before, and each scene adds to the temple's ballooning expenses. Finally, Pheidias turns to his primary responsibility, and the focal point of the entire temple. Covered in thick layers of gold, minutely decorated, and towering above her worshippers, this will be a statue of the city's patron and protector: Athena Parthenos. When the temple is complete, throngs will gather on its perimeter— offering prayers, performing sacrifices, and pouring libations for the goddess of wisdom. Pheidias spends the rest of the day designing finishing touches for the statue, and as the light fades, the epistatai arrive to confront him. After looming over his records, they look up triumphantly. Pheidias may have accounted for the temple's general spending, but his records show no mention of the statue's gold. At that moment, Pericles himself arrives to save his chief builder. The temple's sponsor tells them that all the gold on the statue can be removed and weighed individually to prove Pheidias' innocence. Assigning laborers to the task— and charging the officials to watch them late into the night— Pheidias and his patron leave their adversaries to the mercy of mighty Athena.