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“Secrets of the Parthenon”: Analysis of the Video

In the video “Secrets of the Parthenon,” the narrator is talking about the reconstruction efforts of the symbol of Western Civilization, the Greek temple of Parthenon. The process of reconstruction is not easy since every element of the temple is unique, with individual characteristics and inimitable curved design. The main difficulties the restoration effort is facing are the imitation of the perfect proportions of the temple and recreation of its missing elements.

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The process of reconstruction is like a puzzle because master marble masons have to find all matching pieces and puzzle them together. According to Judkins, “the exterior plan of the Parthenon includes forty-six large Doric columns with twenty flutes” (80). Each column is made up of 11 drums, many of which are disjointed (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). The main problem is that modern masons cannot define which drum belongs to which column, so they need to measure every stone and process every millimeter of marble drum to fit them into the general construction.

Moreover, the use of curves in the building is also problematic. Architects discovered that although the Parthenon looks straight, in reality, each of its columns has “a gently curving profile and leans inward” (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). The engineers came to the conclusion that each of the over 70,000 pieces of the temple is unique and can be placed only in their particular places (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). That is why the process of restoration is taking so much time.

Another interesting fact about the Parthenon temple is that it was built using unusual measurement system. The ancients measured each part of the temple, utilizing the principles of “an ideal human body” (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). The narrator claims that the harmony of the building depends on the ideal mathematical proportions and shapes (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). Ancient architects used parts of the human body to measure the length, width, and height of the building elements. The measurements were called “the Doric foot, the Ionic foot, and […] the common foot” (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). Modern architects, however, use other measuring instruments, which makes the process of reconstruction more complicated too.

One of the most interesting aspects of the video is the information about the use of ancient techniques to achieve precision. Thus, this technique was based “on ancient stone plates found on the Acropolis” (“Secrets of the Parthenon”). The modern restorers put sand in the holes to make the surface of the stone smoother. In such a way, they can stack the drums in a more precise way. However, this method still does not allow connecting the column drums perfectly. The main discovery about the structure of the Parthenon is that the ancients used cedar wood to achieve the ideal connection between different parts of the drum. Modern restorers try to repeat this technique, but they use titanium instead of wood.

Having watched the video, I came to a controversial conclusion. I think that even though it is difficult to restore some parts of the temple, there is no need to make exactly the same elements, imitating every millimeter of the building. I think that modern materials, including marble, sand, stones, clay, and others, differ from the ancient ones significantly, and this difference makes the process of reconstruction controversial too. It will be complicated to reconstruct the Parthenon in a precise manner due to the absence of some ancient materials. At the same time, if more than half of the original material is preserved, it can be used for the restoration process.

Works Cited

Judkins, Luke Howard. “The Parthenon: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Scientia et Humanitas: A Journal of Student Research, vol. 6, 2016, pp. 71-94.

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“Secrets of the Parthenon.” Vimeo, uploaded by Providence Pictures, 2008, Web.

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