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How the Parthenon was blown up, in pictures

On the night of September 26th to 27th, 1687, the mortars of the Venetian army shot the fateful bombs that blew up the Parthenon. 328 years ago today, the temple of Athena, which had withstood twenty centuries of earthquakes and warfare, was destroyed.

Luckily, visitors from other European countries had visited the city recording the Parthenon before it was destroyed. Some of their pictures such as those of Jacob Spon και Jacques Carrey are valuable sources of information for archaeologists to this day.

The destruction of the Parthenon made a great impression at the time and is included in several descriptions of Athens and its monuments, such as the book by Francesco Fanelli[1]. Although he never visited Athens himself, the author based his work on authentic testimonies by eye-witnesses and drawings by engineers of the Venetian army, resulting in an accurate and thorough description of the events. The text is accompanied by engravings which show with details, not only the city’s monuments, but also the position of the opposing parties of the conflict.

Fanelli, Atene Descritta (1)

The most important element of the book’s pictures are the positions of the mortars that shot against the Acropolis, accompanied by the trajectories of the bombs themselves, which are shown falling through the temple’s roof.

Fanelli Atene Descritta (6) Fanelli Atene Descritta (4)

Until recently, I only knew of this source by reading other books. Now however, a temporary exhibition of the National Archaeological Museum, titled “A dream among splendid ruins” offers everyone the chance to see these precious pictures, which are based on drawings by eye-witnesses of the event. Besides this and other books about Athens, the exhibition also contains engravings, drawings and original artifacts, in order to show how the city, especially its ancient monuments, were perceived by its visitors from the 17th to the 19th century.

Fanelli, Atene Descritta (2)

Note: I have already written about how the Parthenon was destroyed. Here I will only pause for a reminder: although the engravings of Fanelli and the watercolor by G. M. Verneda are considered as the most reliable sources and are cited by most authors on the subject, many people still believe that the Parthenon was destroyed by cannon fire from Philopappou hill. To this day I have not been able to find the original source of this urban legend.

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[1] Fanelli, Francesco, Atene Attica Descritta da suoi Principii sino all’acquisto fatto dall’Armi Venete nel 1687, Venice, Antonio Bortoli, 1707.

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One comment on “How the Parthenon was blown up, in pictures

  1. Pingback: The Parthenon was NOT destroyed by cannon fire | Aristotle, Greek tourist guide

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