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  • 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 ParthenonAthens' 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 goldor 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.

As dawn breaks over Athens, Pheidias is already late for work.

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B2 temple statue gold athena symmetry arrives

A day in the life of an ancient Greek architect - Mark Robinson

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/12
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