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Secrets of the Parthenon

Program Overview

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Parthenon NOVA explores the ambitious, three decade-long restoration of the Parthenon and reveals a number of surprising secrets that help explain how the ancient Athenians constructed this unique architectural icon.

The program:

  • specifies that the Acropolis Restoration Project team's goal in repairing the Parthenon is to consolidate the structure, correct damage inflicted by previous restorations, and identify—and where possible restore—the thousands of fragments from the structure that have been found scattered on the Acropolis.

  • recounts the history of Athens before the Parthenon was built, including Greece's victory over Persia, the rule of Pericles, and the golden age of Greece that heralded the beginning of democracy.

  • shows how the Greeks deliberately incorporated subtle architectural refinements that enhanced the Parthenon's appearance and may have been intended to correct optical illusions.

  • seeks answers to central questions about how the builders were able to construct the Parthenon so quickly, so precisely, and most likely without an overall architectural plan.

  • reveals some of the techniques that modern restorers have reconstructed and borrowed from the ancient builders, including the use of a variety of hand tools not found today and the application of red clay to make a perfect alignment match between an ancient damaged fragment and a fresh marble block.

  • 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 some of the Parthenon'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.

  • identifies the scale drawing technique that ancient Greek architects probably 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.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after program is recorded off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Secrets of the Parthenon
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