Athens, Greece



The Older Parthenon or Pre‐Parthenon, as it is frequently referred to, constitutes the first endeavour to build a sanctuary for Athena Parthenos on the site of the present Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. It was begun shortly after the battle of Marathon (c. 490–88 BC) upon a massive limestone foundation that extended and leveled the southern part of the Acropolis summit. This building replaced a hekatompedon (meaning "hundred‐footer") and would have stood beside the archaic temple dedicated to Athena Polias.

The Old Parthenon was still under construction when the Persians sacked the city in the Destruction of Athens in 480 BC, and razed the acropolis during the Second Persian invasion of Greece. The existence of the proto‐Parthenon and its destruction was known from Herodotus and the drums of its columns were plainly visible built into the curtain wall north of the Erechtheum. Further material evidence of this structure was revealed with the excavations of Panagiotis Kavvadias of 1885–1890. The findings of this dig allowed Wilhelm Dörpfeld, then director of the German Archaeological Institute, to assert that there existed a distinct substructure to the original Parthenon, called Parthenon I by Dörpfeld, not immediately below the present edifice as had been previously assumed. Dörpfeld’s observation was that the three steps of the first Parthenon consist of two steps of poros limestone, the same as the foundations, and a top step of Karrha limestone that was covered by the lowest step of the Periclean Parthenon. This platform was smaller and slightly to the north of the final Parthenon, indicating that it was built for a wholly different building, now wholly covered over. This picture was somewhat complicated by the publication of the final report on the 1885–90 excavations indicating that the substructure was contemporary with the Kimonian walls, and implying a later date for the first temple.

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