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Secrets of the Parthenon

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This one-hour program is divided into five chapters. Choose any chapter below and select QuickTime or Windows Media Player to begin viewing the video. If you experience difficulty viewing, it may be due to high demand. We regret this and suggest you try back at another time.

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Chapter 1
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An Icon of Civilization

This segment:

  • presents the Acropolis Restoration Project team's goal.
  • notes that while the structure appears visually straight, it includes subtle curves that make each piece architecturally unique.
  • reports that current restoration efforts include correcting mistakes made by earlier restorers.

running time 8:05

Chapter 2
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Optical Illusions

This segment:

  • chronicles how the team tried unsuccessfully to use technology to map where pieces should fit together in the two inner walls and ended up doing it by hand and eye.
  • recounts the history of Athens before and during the Parthenon's construction, including Greece's victory over Persia, the rule of Pericles, and the golden age of Greece that heralded the beginning of democracy.

running time 7:38

Chapter 3
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Lost Since Antiquity

This segment:

  • suggests that the ancient Greeks may have deliberately incorporated subtle architectural refinements to create a structure that appeared visually perfect.
  • visits the quarry from which marble was obtained for the restoration.
  • demonstrates how present-day masons use an ancient device called a pantograph to help recreate a missing piece of marble.
  • shows how modern restorers, like their ancient counterparts, use red clay to coat the inside of a new piece of marble being fitted to an original piece, in order to determine where the new stone needs further carving.
  • reveals that chisel marks indicate the workmanship of about 200 different stonemasons.

running time 10:57

Chapter 4
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Perfect Proportions

This segment:

  • explains how ancient Athenians may have found a way to standardize different units of measure used by the Parthenon's large, diverse workforce.
  • reports how ancient Greeks viewed the proportions of the ideal human body as inspiration for architectural dimensions.
  • points out that while scholars have largely discredited the use of the so-called golden ratio in the Parthenon, they have found that some of the structure's proportions correspond to a ratio of 4:9.
  • demonstrates how ancient builders were able to create extremely precise marble surfaces and joints, level to within fractions of a millimeter.
  • shows how the ancients precisely aligned two column drums by placing two halves of a fitted piece of wood within each column prior to joining.

running time 10:57

Chapter 5
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A Sculptural Achievement

This segment:

  • identifies the scale drawing technique that ancient Greek architects apparently used to create the architectural refinement known as entasis—the slightly curving profile of the Parthenon's columns.
  • recounts the turbulent history of the Parthenon after its creation.

running time 11:51

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