Tuesday, 8 November 2011

2 descriptions of the Parthenon from the 1670s

Below are two extracts describing the Parthenon shortly before its destruction on September 26, 1687.

(Francis Vernon's, "letter written from Athens in 1675", is reproduced in the Gentleman's Magazine, volume 158, 1835)

"Athenes, Oct. 20, 1675.
Reverend Sir,
I SEND this from a place which I have long desired to see, of which I had heard much — learned Athenes — your sister university. She is now indeed grown old, and I had almost said deformed. Such hath been her hard fortune, and so great the variety of her disasters, of which the worst, (as I suppose) is that she now actually groans under, her subjection to the Turke, who is a proud and a barbarous master — the scourge of the world, and who rends to pieces every thing that falls into his clawes. Yet cruelty itself hath some pity on this poor unfortunate city, and there remaine still some shadows of its antient beauty. The temple of Minerva, which stands upon the top of all the fortresse, which fortresse hath its situation upon a rocke of a reasonable height, and which overlooks all the Campagna on all sides of it, will always beare witnesse that the antient Athenians were an ingenious and a magnificent people. It is of the Dorique order, of that aspect which Vitruvius calls Peripteros, having a portico all round about it. This portico hath 8 pillars in front, and 17 in depth; the whole number is 46; it hath a double frontispiece; that which lookes towards the Areopagus, being the west end, where was the entry of the temple, is filled with figures of a most excellent sculpture. The biggest, which are just in the middle, are Jupiter and Pallas, — Jupiter with a grave majestic countenance stretching out his armes, and Pallas on his right hand, all in armour, holding a lance and her shield at her foot; but she hath been worse used than Jupiter, for her head is broke of, and one of her armes. The figures which are by, are in postures as looking and pointing to the people which come up to the temple. At the east end there hath been antiently an inscription, but it is gone, for it was plates of brasse fastened on with nailes. The prints of the nailes still remaine; the brasse is lost There are great noble figures of horses, and a triumphant chariot, and women with shields, done with great skill. For this temple was built in Pericles his time, when architecture and sculpture was at the height among the Greeks, and Ictinus and Callicrates were the master-builders. Round the fregio are several other figures, most relating to Theseus. The figure of the temple is along square, the length is 170 feet, the breadth I could not take, for it is a garrison, and the Turkes are vexatious, and would scarce let me finish the length. Withinside there are no ornaments, only rows of pillars, which stand parallel to those without, and make the isles of the temple. Towards the upper end, where the goddesse stood, there is ascent of some four steps, the rest is all naked. The windowes are strangely small for such a fabrique, and those placed towards the top, which makes it very darke. There comes in more light at the door, than at all the windows together. The doore is very large; I judge it near 30 foot high. The Turkes have made a mosche of it, and they made noe alterations in it, only laide some ugly carpets along the floore. The Christian Greekes made a church of it, and spoiled the east end, to make a high altar after their fashion, which is an apsis advancing out. There is remaining, besides, in the castle of Athènes, or Acropolis, a temple of Pandrosos, which is but small, (but there are four figures of women, which belong to it, in a Turke's house adjoining, of excellent worke), a temple of victory, and an antient palace, which the Turkish governor made his residence, till part of it was blown up some 36 years ago—a most sumptuous and stately structure. The pillars which remaine are Ionique..."

(Taken from, The Present state of the Morea, called anciently Peloponnesus, by Bernard Randolph who traveled in Greece from 1671 to 1679)

"The Castle stands on a Rock, which is high and steep, having but one way up, and three Gates to pass through into the Body of it: The Walls are much out of repair. The Situation makes it strong. This Castle stood almost in the middle of Old Athens: The Place most worth Observation in it, is the Temple of Minerva, which remains entire, being esteemed (by all who have seen it) to be one of the Most Glorious Buildings in Europe. It is all pure White Marble: The Length of the Body of the Temple is One Hundred Sixty Eight English Feet, and the Breadth Seventy One: There are Seventeen Pillars at each Side, and Eight at the Front: The Circuit of the Pillars are Nineteen Foot and a Half: The length of the whole Temple two Hundred and Thirty Feet. The Temple is very dark, having only some Lights to the Eastward. The Greeks did Consecrate, and Dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. Since that, the Turks have preverted it with ther Worship. The Turks have White-wash'd the Inside, notwithstanding it is all of pure Marble."