An immense, columned temple built almost entirely of marble, Athens's ancient Parthenon is the consummate example of classical Greek architecture. Its legendary balance was achieved through a number of devices employed to counteract certain peculiarities of human vision. Lines that appear straight in the Parthenon are found on measurement to be curved. Distances and widths that appear equal are in fact expertly varied. Columns taper and tilt inward, lending a certain lightness to the massive stone structure.
Built on Athens's historic acropolis in the fifth century 'b.c., the Parthenon was partly a tribute to the goddess Athena, patron of Athens and protector of all Greek cities,to thank her for helping Athens and its allies defeat the Persians. However, it was also a monument to the power of Athens itself; the Parthenon combines the Doric architecture of the Greek mainland with the Ionic style of outlying areas to symbolize a strong, Pan-Hellenic league with Athens at its political and cultural forefront.
The ideals of democracy and intellectual and artistic freedom had reached a zenith in ancient Athens. Intertwined with these were rivalry, power brokering, and patronage.
Construction of the Parthenon was championed by Pericles, Athens's most popular elected politician. Pericles's good friend and master sculptor, Pheidias, built the gigantic statue of Athena that stands inside. For alleged embezzlement of resources, and perhaps as a shot at Pericles's power, Pheidias was later run out of town.