The Parthenon of Acropolis in the Greek capital of Athens is by far the most famous ancient Greek monument surviving today. However, the Parthenon in Athens is not the only one! In this article, you will find six of the most famous attempts at replicating the most popular ancient Greek temple. From the Walhalla of Regensburg to Nashville’s Parthenon, get ready to explore 6 spectacular large scale replicas of the Parthenon.
Its architects were Ictinus and Callicrates, and the temple included rich sculptural decoration by the famous sculptor Phidias. Inside the temple was one of Phidias’ most important works, the monumental sculpture of goddess Athena, made of gold and ivory.
Today, the Parthenon is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is visited by a yearly average of more than 2 million tourists. 2,500 years after its construction, it is still praised for its unique architectural analogies and still considered to be the material embodiment of the ancient Athenian democratic ideal.
Replicating The Parthenon
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Even though the history of the Parthenon is one of constant transformations and destructions, the building never ceased to amaze.
In the West (mainly Europe and Northern America), the interest in the Parthenon as a monument skyrocketed after Stuart and Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens (1762). The work offered precise measurements and high-quality drawings of ancient Athenian monuments. This meant that ancient Athens was now available without actually having to travel to Greece.
In the 19th century, movements like Neoclassicism and the Greek Revival in architecture studied and employed the Parthenon in unique ways. Athena’s temple was romanticized beyond measure and declared the most perfect of all buildings. The ideological symbolism of the Parthenon only grew as the Athenian democracy became related to imperialism, nationalism, and the emerging ideals of modern democracy.
In such a landscape, it would be weird if no one had attempted to replicate the Parthenon on a grand scale. By 1900, the aesthetics and ideologies of modernism, for the most part, had dismissed the classical ideal. Nevertheless, the 19th century left behind a rich legacy of classical-inspired art. In this legacy belong the multiple attempts at replicating the Parthenon of Athens.
6. Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia
The Second Bank of the United States was built in 1824 by architect William Strickland and is one of the early products of American Greek Revival architecture.
The building that housed the bank of the United States was made of marble and did not include sculptural decorations like the original Parthenon. Furthermore, the building’s analogies were not perfectly loyal to the original.
Today the building is used as an art gallery housing a collection of paintings and portraits by American artists.
5. Federal Hall National Memorial, New York
The Federal Hall National Memorial in Wall Street is yet another replica of the Parthenon in the U.S. Its architect was not new in building Parthenon. ‘Town and Davis’ was an architecture firm that had designed the now-demolished Third Statehouse of Indiana, which was too modeled after Athena’s temple.
The Federal Hall’s construction ended in 1842, and the building was used as a U.S. Customs House. Today it is a museum honoring the first inauguration.
The similarities with the Parthenon are obvious, although this design had piers on the wide sides instead of colonnades and no sculptural decoration. Interestingly it also features a dome that makes its interior appearance more Pantheon- than Parthenon-like.
4. Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
The famous memorial honoring the 16th president of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln, is another example of an American reproduction of the Parthenon, though not a very loyal one.
The monument was built in 1922 out of white marble and is one of the most popular monuments in the U.S.
While entry to the original Parthenon was from the narrow sides, Lincoln memorial’s main entry is from its long side.
Worth noting is also that the Lincoln memorial does not have Parthenon’s gable roof while the entablature follows that of the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus from Athens. One more difference with the Parthenon of Athens is that while inside the original, one would find a colossal statue of Athena, here one will encounter a colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln.
3. The National Monument Of Scotland, Edinburgh
The ruins of the photo above do not belong to an ancient Greek temple but to yet another modern reproduction of the Parthenon, this time in Edinburgh. This is the National Monument of Scotland, also known as “Edinburgh’s folly” or “disgrace.”
The monument was meant to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. Its main advocate was Thomas Bruce, the 7th Lord of Elgin, who hoped to redeem himself after violently extracting the Parthenon marbles from and Athens and shipping them to Britain, an act that many had seen as “barbaric.”
Of course, other factors favored the selection of a Parthenon facsimile to decorate Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. At the time, there was the widespread belief that Edinburgh was “the Athens of the North.” This idea was supported by the intellectual achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment and the architectural movement of the Greek Revival, which was claiming part of Edinburgh with the creation of a neo-classical city opposite the old medieval one. The Parthenon of Calton hill would be an ideal juxtaposition to the medieval castle of that old city.
Elgin’s plan was approved in 1821. Immediately Charles Cockerell and William Henry Playfair were appointed architects, the new Ictinus and Callicrates. Together they designed a Parthenon with catacombs that could accommodate the tombs of prominent Scottish intellectuals and nobles.
The construction began in 1826 but stopped three years later, in 1829. The Parthenon had proved more costly than expected. 19th century Scotland had officially failed in besting Pericles’ Athens. The result remains on the top of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill; the stylobate, twelve columns, and the architrave.
200 years later, the National Monument is no longer a failure. Today it is a monument to a time when the Scots turned to the classical past for answers to modern questions.
2. Walhalla, Regensburg
In 1807, Prince Ludwig of Bavaria had the idea of creating a memorial to commemorate the deeds of his German ancestors. The aim of the monument was simple; to raise the national sentiment of the German people who had suffered a humiliating defeat under Napoleon’s forces, to showcase the common heritage of all Germans, and finally to give Ludwig the power to claim that he was the natural protector of this heritage. At a time when German unification was gaining momentum, Ludwig was looking for opportunities.
When Ludwig became the king of Bavaria in 1825, he had already selected the busts that would go into his Pantheon that was named Walhalla, after Norse Mythology’s paradise for warriors.
The architect chosen was Leo Von Klenze, an important figure in the history of Neoclassicism. As a devoted student of Greek architecture, Klenze found it fitting to model the monument after the Parthenon. Behind this conception lay the idea that Germans and ancient Greeks shared a common heritage. Also, that the Bavarian Kingdom was Athens’ true successor.
The Walhalla, finished in 1842, is breath-taking. It is made of white marble and sits on top of a massive substructure overseeing the Danube river. Walhalla’s southern pediment features the 1815 creation of the German Confederation. The northern pediment depicts the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest of 9 AD.
Moving inside, one can find 65 plaques and 130 busts of prominent German personalities.
1. Nashville’s Parthenon, Tennessee
In 1897, Nashville hosted the Centennial Exposition, a six-month event celebrating Tennessee’s 100th birthday. Part of the event was the construction of a full-scale replica of the Parthenon. The building was meant to be a temporary structure for the Exposition. However, by the time the event reached its end, the locals had grown fond of their Parthenon.
Nashville at the time was called the Athens of the South due to the city’s focus on higher education. Consequently, erecting a full-scale Parthenon replica appeared like a fitting addition to Nashville’s landscape.
After the Exposition, Nashville’s Parthenon was not dismantled as originally planned. The locals had grown fond of their Parthenon. However, as it was not meant to be a permanent structure, by 1920, the building had suffered significant damage. Consequently, it was rebuilt with concrete, gravel, crushed ceramic tile, and quartz.
In 1990, the concrete Parthenon welcomed a colossal statue of goddess Athena sculpted by the Nashville artist Alan LeQuire. In 2002 volunteers applied golden leaves to the statue.
Interesting is that Nashville’s Parthenon is a loyal replica of the classical Parthenon. Not only are the original’s famous analogies perfectly reproduced. The frieze is made out of colorful plaster casts giving a glimpse into the way the original would have looked like.
Today the Parthenon’s lower level houses an art gallery. Also, during summertime, the temple is used as a graphic setting for theatre shows revolving around ancient Greece.
Bonus: Acropolis Museum, Athens
It is certainly a bit far-fetched to call the Acropolis museum a replica of the Parthenon. However, it may be interesting to look at how the new Acropolis Museum reproduced and displayed the material culture of Athena’s temple.
First of all, the upper floor of the museum has the same orientation and analogies as the original building.
On the upper floor, the visitor will find a modern large room with original sculptures, casts, and interior architecture modeled after the Parthenon.
Of course, the Acropolis museum is not attempting to replicate the Parthenon as Nashville or Walhalla did. Instead, it is attempting to contextualize its collections.
A Digital Era Of Parthenon Replicas
In the 19th century, it made sense for people to spent lavish amounts on buildings like Walhalla or Nashville’s Parthenon.
However, 200 years later, the ideologies that made these possible are no longer present in their past form. The Scottish, German, and American cultural identities no longer require direct support from the classical tradition of Athens.
Furthermore, architecture is no longer concerned with antiquity as it was 200 or even 20 years ago. It would be truly unusual for someone to make a replica of the Parthenon today unless that was for a theme park or… Las Vegas, which surprisingly doesn’t have a Parthenon already.
Today there is only one place where replicas of the Parthenon are still being made and experienced; the digital realm. From VR applications to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, more and more people are attempting to recreate the feeling of being in the holy temple of Athena.
It is impossible to know how the digital Parthenon will look in a few years, decades, or even centuries. This digital world is only a few years old but has already provided a taste of what it can do. One thing is certain; as long as people are interested in traveling to ancient Greece, new reproductions of the Parthenon will keep emerging.