|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE CITY OF ATHENS
 WHEN the Persians entered Athens they destroyed her temples.
Some of these temples had been hastily repaired, others had
been hastily built, when the Athenians returned to their own
But now that peace had been made with the Persians, Athens
determined to show her gratitude to the gods by building in
the city, temples, "exceeding magnifical," more beautiful
indeed than any that had yet been built.
The most famous of these temples was the Parthenon or Temple
of the Virgin, build on the Acropolis, and sacred to the
virgin goddess Athene.
This marvellous temple was planned by a great architect named
Ictinus, and adorned by a yet greater sculptor called
The architecture of the Parthenon was Doric, which was the
oldest, the strongest as well as the most simple, of the
four kinds of Grecian buildings. There were two rooms in
the Parthenon with no entrance from one to the other.
The figure of the goddess, fashioned by the magic hands of
the sculptor Pheidias, was a colossal one. Calm, majestic,
with a smile upon her face, she stood in her wondrous
temple, clad in a robe of gold.
The figure of the goddess was a colossal one
On her head she wore a helmet, in her right hand she held
fast a little golden figure of the goddess of victory, while
her left lay upon her shield. At her feet a snake lay
Neither of marble nor of bronze was the statue, but of
and pure gold, ivory being used for the flesh, gold for the
robe and armour, which was studded with precious stones.
Nowhere was there so marvellous a statue as this of the
goddess Athene wrought by Pheidias, save perchance the Zeus
at Olympia, which was also moulded by the famous sculptor.
The statue of Zeus had a strange power over those who gazed
"Let a man sick and weary in his soul, who has passed
through many distresses and sorrows, whose pillow is
unvisited by kindly sleep, stand in front of this image; he
will, I deem, forget all the terrors and troubles of human
Close to the Parthenon was an older temple, built not in the
Doric but in the Ionic style of architecture. It, too, was
sacred to Athene and also to Poseidon.
This temple, which was called the Erechtheum, was held in
awe and reverence by the Athenians, for in it was kept an
ancient wooden image of the goddess. So ancient was this
"most holy idol" of the people that it looked more like a
rough block of wood than a carved figure. The holy olive
tree, too, was there, which the Persians had cut down, but
which they had been unable to kill, as well as the living
snake, the symbol of the presence of the goddess.
The Erechtheum was to the Athenians a shrine, in which lay
hidden the story of their past, the Parthenon was to them a
sign of the power and the splendour of the age of Pericles.
On the western side of the Acropolis rose a magnificent
marble wall called the Propylaea. The marble had been
pierced at intervals to make five great gateways, the centre
one being for chariots, those on either side leading by
steps to the Parthenon. Through these gateways the
Athenians marched in solemn procession on their feast days.
A great theatre, sacred to the god Dionysus, was finished in
the age of Pericles, and an Odeon or great hall of music was
added to it, where contests of song and music were held.
 The roof of the Odeon was pointed like a tent, and was made
of the masts of ships that had been captured from the
This pointed roof was said by the wits of Athens to be like
the helmet of Pericles, whose head was curiously formed, and
who often wore a helmet to conceal its strange shape.
"Here comes Pericles," says a comic poet of those days,
"with the Odeon set on his crown."
Another great statue of Athene, called Athene Promachos, or
Athena Foremost in Battle, stood just within the Propylaea.
It was wrought in bronze and showed Athene in armour,
holding shield and spear outstretched. This statue, also by
Pheidias, was fifty feet high and stood on a pedestal that
raised it twenty feet higher, so that it towered above the
roofs of the temples. The golden plume on the helmet of the
goddess was seen by sailors far out at sea.
With these and many other great works of art, Pericles
adorned the city of his love. The Acropolis he said should
be no longer a fortress, but a sanctuary.
Some of the Athenians, among them Thucydides, grumbled
because Pericles spent the public money on these beautiful
Pericles heard that the citizens were discontented, and in
the open assembly he rose and bade them tell him if they
thought he used more money that he ought, to adorn the city.
"Too much a great deal," was the speedy retort.
"Then," said Pericles, "since it is so, let the cost not go
to your account but to mine, and let the inscriptions upon
the buildings stand in my name,"
But the people, surprised at his generosity, and perhaps
wishing to share in the glory of his work, were ashamed that
they had complained. They bade him spend as much of the
public money as he deemed right and "spare no cost until all
In 479 B.C. the Persians had reduced Athens to ruins.
years later she had been built anew and adorned with temples
and statues that made her the wonder of the world.
Marble was found in Attica, gold and ivory were bought with
money out of the treasury, but without the magic hand of
Pheidias, marble, gold, and ivory had been bought in
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