Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Parthenon also has interesting geometric properties. If you measure the interstices between the columns and multiply by the total number of columns plus the width of the triglyphs, you'll see what I mean. Go ahead, try it for yourself. I can wait.
Nearby and constructed somewhat later is the Temple of Poseidon. As runner-up, he was entitled to a consolation prize. It's more haphazard looking than the Parthenon, and smaller, but it has caryatids, and who doesn't like a good caryatid?
The caryatids are reconstructions as are now parts of the Parthenon. There is a massive effort underway to restore the Parthenon to its original glory, repairing the damage when Venetians shelled the place while the Turks happened to be storing some gunpowder there. Honestly, it's hard to have patience with the way the Turks treated Athens. Why would anybody store gunpowder on the Acropolis? They should have known that was the first place the Venetians would look!
At any rate, there is some controversy over whether the Parthenon should be reconstructed this way or just left "as is." After all, if it's reconstructed, parts of it will be modern, and then when tourist guides say it was built in the Golden Age of Greece, they'll have to cough into their fists and add shame-facedly, "Well, mostly it was."
I'm undecided, but I lean in favor of reconstruction. For one thing, the engineers are doing a truly painstaking job, cutting fresh marble that fits into the existing remains like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Besides, if they never reconstruct, one day, what will be left? Not to reconstruct seems to leave all the cards in the hands of people like the Venetians and the Turks. "Blowing up the Parthenon, well, that's a shame, but on no condition should you rebuild it." Is that the proper attitude?
Even in the Golden Age there must have been cavillers. "The Acropolis used to have a bit of class before they went and threw up that Temple of Posiedon," I can imagine them saying. "That place is 'tau-alpha-kappa-iota,' tacky. And those caryatids. Ugh."
The truth is, though we hide it from ourselves by erecting a Wall of China or a Pyramid of Giza now and then, everything we do is strictly ad hoc and provisional, just waiting for the next Venetian mortar shell or earthquake to undo.
Enjoy it while you can.