This was the first building in the new Periclean building program, constructed between 447 and 438. At 17 by 8 columns along its long and short sides, the Parthenon is rightly regarded as one of the masterpieces of Western architecture. The building is especially notable for many architectural refinements.
The curvature of the stylobate gives the building a lighter feel. The entasis of the columns also creates the subtle impression of a plastic, flexible building. Yet, in many ways, the building is an anomaly. Both porches were exceptionally shallow. One approached the building from the west, which is, in fact, its back side, forcing the pilgrim to walk the entire length of the building to reach its main entrance, at the eastern end. The layout of the interior is odd. The building was both a shrine to the cult of Athena and a massive treasure chamber, filled with the gold, silver, and ivory dedications made by pious individuals. These two rooms did not communicate.
The crowning glory of the building is its decoration, consisting of pedimental sculpture, metopes, and an Ionic frieze. The metopes, running around the outside of the building, showed scenes of Greeks fighting traditional enemies, such as drunken Lapiths, Amazons, and Trojans. These scenes represented both the victory of order over chaos and the Greek victory over the Persians. The west pediment showed the victory of Athena over Poseidon for control of Athens. The east pediment probably depicted the birth of Athena. The frieze, running around the top of the interior colonnade, depicts a procession of some sort. Most scholars interpret it as the Panathenaic procession.
[ Courtesy: Jeremy McInerney, Ph.D.]