The Parthenon comes immediately into view after the visitor enters the Acropolis through the Propylaea. Also dedicated to Athena, this large temple built entirely of marble is considered the greatest masterpiece of Greek architecture for its harmonious proportions, its architectural refinements, and the elegant sculptures that decorated it. The temple was designed by Greek architects Ictinus and Callicrates and was constructed from 447 to 438 BC. It measures 31 by 70 m (102 by 230 ft).
The Parthenon was built in the simple and powerful Doric order, with 8 columns along each end and 17 columns along each side. Through careful adjustments to the design and location of the Parthenon’s columns and floor platform, the architects counteracted optical illusions that could have distorted the building’s appearance from a distance. Without such adjustments, the platform might seem to sag in the middle, for example, and the columns might appear to have a slight curve in profile. A central structure with two chambers once housed a statue of Athena made of ivory and gold that was perhaps 10 m (33 ft) tall.
Phidias, considered by many to have been the finest Greek sculptor, supervised the design and execution of the sculpture on the Parthenon, which was completed in 432 BC. Sculpture adorned the pediments (triangular elements) below the roof at each end, the metopes (square panels) beneath the pediments and on all four sides of the Parthenon, and the frieze around the interior chamber. Sculpture in the west pediment depicted Athena’s contest with the god Poseidon for rule over Athens; sculptures showing Athena’s birth, flanked by gods and goddesses, decorated the east pediment. Sculptures carved on the metopes depicted legendary battles fought by the Greeks. A procession in honor of Athena ran along the frieze. Little of the original Parthenon sculpture remains in place. Many of the surviving sculptures can be seen at the British Museum in London, England. An Acropolis Museum in Athens also houses Parthenon sculpture and objects from the site.