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The Parthenon and the Pantheon

The Parthenon in Athens and the Pantheon in Rome are two of the greatest surviving monuments of ancient civilizations. Though they came from very different cultures, the two buildings have a great deal in common. Both monuments were symbols of the political goals of the rulers who built them. Each building is also considered the ultimate achievement of a period in architectural history. But, the two monuments also demonstrate differences between Greek and Roman ideas about architecture and the state.

The two monuments have similar recent histories. Both are so well preserved because they were adapted by later cultures. The Parthenon was the only temple ever to be used by four different religions (ancient Greek, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Islam). The survival of the Pantheon was due to its use by the Catholic Church's as a church, a function that continues today.

The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Athena the Maiden), is the largest building on the Athenian Acropolis. "Acropolis" was the name given to the highest point of the city. This was always the most easily defended spot, and the main temples, treasuries, and major civic buildings were placed there. The Athenian Acropolis still has large parts of several monumental structures from the building program initiated in the fifth century BC by the statesman Pericles.

There had been a temple on the same spot, but it was torn down in 488 BC to build a new temple. In 480 BC, in the war with the Persians, Athens was sacked and the beginnings of the new temple were destroyed. The Parthenon was built in its place, between 448 and 432 BC, as part of an ambitious attempt to establish a monument that was "both national and Panhellenic" (Martin 292). Following the terrible war, Pericles wanted a symbol of the greatness of Athens, "the chief victim and victor" in the war with the Persians (Janson 131). But, Pericles also believed that Greece could b...

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