(This video clip is no longer easily accessible for virtual streaming.) For 25 centuries the Parthenon has been shoot at, collection on fire, rocked by earthquakes, looted for its sculptures, virtually destroyed through explosion, and also disfigured by well-meaning renovations. It has gone native temple, to church, come mosque, to munitions dump. What can be next? How around a clinical search because that the secrets of that incomparable beauty and astonishingly rapid construction? through unprecedented access, NOVA unravels the architectural and also engineering mysteries of this celebrated ancient temple.

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secrets of the Parthenon

katifund.org Airdate: January 29, 2008

NARRATOR: it is the golden age of Greece, a unique window of time that offers birth to western ideals the beauty, science, art and also a radical new form of government: democracy.

come immortalize those ideals, the Greeks develop what will come to be the really symbol of west Civilization, the Parthenon.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT (University the Oregon) : It to be the physics embodiment of their values, your beliefs, of your ideology. It remains for us a an effective statement that what human beings are qualified of.

NARRATOR: however today, fixing the secrets of just how the ancients designed and also engineered the Parthenon has taken top top a new urgency. For, after 2,500 years of being ruined by man and nature, the building is in hazard of collapse.

covert behind the columns, a rescue mission is under way. The team should take apart, repair and reassemble tens of thousands of its pieces. And although the Parthenon appears to be geometrically straight and also made from interchangeable parts, subtle curves do each piece unique, differing by fractions of a millimeter.

CATHY PARASCHI (Acropolis restoration Project) : The high quality of the engineering work and the precision is unmatched, also from united state today.

NARRATOR: The repair team has taken over 30 years and also spent fine over $100 million restoring what the old Athenians constructed in just eight or nine years.

the is clean today's technology can just take the team so far. To rescue the Parthenon, these modern-day architects, stonemasons and archaeologists have to unlock the engineering secrets the the ancient Greeks.

also in its current form, a distinguishable marble ruin, the Parthenon is revered as an icon of western civilization. That is shapely muscular columns, crowned through majestic capitals, space the very symbol the the classic world. Its height and also width specify perfect proportions. Its initial sculptures have actually been looted and lusted after for your beauty.

and also if imitation is the sincerest type of flattery, the Parthenon reigns together the most copied structure in the world, indigenous the French Parliament, come the U.S. Supreme Court, come banks, museums and countless buildings that aspire to convey wealth, culture and power.

BARBARA BARLETTA (University of Florida) : The Parthenon remains an enduring symbol. The was developed to glorify Athens, yet it's taken on a much greater meaning. In spite of the destructions of time and also man, that still to represent the highest possible level of human creativity.

NARRATOR: but as magnificent as the Parthenon is today, that is a shadow of its previous self. Twenty-five-hundred year ago, the Parthenon was constructed as the crowning achievement of classic Greece. The towered on the Acropolis, at the facility of a complex of temples and altars, vividly painted and adorned with statues that mortal and immortal greats.

The most influential sculpture was standing inside, a 40-foot-high gold and also ivory statue of Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess the Athens.

yet that to be then. Wherein Athena as soon as stood, today stands a crane. No a map of her statue remains. Now her holy precinct is a construction site, for lot of her temple lies in tens of countless pieces, part scattered approximately the Acropolis, some roughly the world and some lost forever.

What does remain standing is in danger of collapse. Now, a rescue mission, the Acropolis reconstruction Project, is make the efforts to conserve it. The team, guided by the meticulous investigate of Manolis Korres, has collection the bar high, salvaging whatever old marble block remain, in bespeak to produce the most faithful restoration. The cost to day is quickly over $100 million.

CHARALAMBOS BOURAS (President, Acropolis repair Project) : We store as much as feasible of the initial material, and also we carry out not damages the ancient material. The concept is the we preserve all the initial pieces and we add only a few marble in order to fit them to the general construction.

NARRATOR: This capital, as soon as atop a column, typifies the battle they face. It is in 6 pieces, with countless fragments quiet missing.

First, understand marble masons have to puzzle with each other what piece they can find, climate meticulously recreate what is missing. The block chin weighs 10 tons. It will must be hoisted come the optimal of a pillar consisting the 11 drums, the which many are also fragmented. Together, the drums and also capital may need to support approximately 100 lots of surviving marble beams and also sculpture.

But prior to they deserve to hoist the funding into place, the team must solve a much more perplexing problem. On i m sorry of the Parthenon's 46 columns go the resources belong? For, return the Parthenon may show up to be one giant building kit v interchangeable parts, it's not. The building celebrated together a prize of beauty and perfect proportions hides an ancient secret.

Cathy Paraschi and Lena Lambrinou, architects top top the repair team, investigate.

LENA LAMBRINOU (Acropolis reconstruction Project) : girlfriend think the all the blocks are square in this building, however in fact, if you check it v a collection square, you have the right to see that us don't have a ideal angle here.

NARRATOR: and also when Paraschi locations her book on one end of the stylobate, the Parthenon's foundation, the can't be viewed from the various other end.

CATHY PARASCHI: This is since there is a curve in the middle of the currently of the stylobate, around six and also three-fourths centimeters high.

NARRATOR: Korres and his team have investigated every angle on the Parthenon. And also although the structure looks straight, they've found there's proper a directly line ~ above it.

this curves room no accident. They begin with the foundation, or stylobate. Each of the 46 columns has a gently curving profile and leans inward. Also the architraves, marble beams that span the columns, and the architecture elements over them, space curved.

This method that every of the over 70,000 pieces of the Parthenon is unique and also fits in just one place. And also the challenge of fitting the pieces back together is compounded through the Parthenon's history.

due to the fact that it to be built, in the 5th century B.C.E., it has been shooting at, exploded, set on fire, rocked by earthquakes, converted to a church then a mosque, and in the 19th century, looted for its magnificent sculptures.

To make matters worse, in ~ the start of the 20th century, the Parthenon was based on catastrophic restorations.

CATHY PARASCHI: more recent damages was excellent in the 1900s by the repair team placing in this iron clamps. Castle rusted and expanded, cracking and destroying the marble.

NARRATOR: In addition, the early on restorers put column drums and whole blocks ago in the not correct place. Prior to the repair team could even start, they had to correct this mistakes by acquisition apart, block by block, much of the Parthenon.

Paraschi take it on the Herculean job of functioning out the initial positions the 700 scattered blocks from the lengthy inner wall surfaces of the temple.

CATHY PARASCHI: although the block seem to be the same, every block is different. Each one has actually individual and perceivable information, the cuttings, the height. We're talking around differences the a tenth of a millimeter here.

NARRATOR: That's about the thickness of a hair.

The team turn to modern technology to aid them. Each stone, like all over on the Acropolis, to be I.D.'d and entered into the computer system.

EVI PETROPOULOU (Acropolis repair Project) : As soon as a fragment the marble is found, that takes a number and also it is gotten in in the database. So far we have 5,500 architectural members the the Parthenon.

NARRATOR: all with comprehensive descriptions of height, width, slope, corrosion, cracking, stain marks, even graffiti. Through mapping these variables, Paraschi and also the team hope to rebuild the two inner walls.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS (Acropolis restoration Project) : we found around 52 criteria we can give, maximum, come one block of the wall. If you measure all the constructive elements, friend have about 52 criteria. So us thought, let's shot to placed it ~ above a computer program, to press the button, to see if we have actually a result.

NARRATOR: yet the puzzle confirmed too complex.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS: Mathematically it to be working, however we didn't have any result.

NARRATOR: In the end, to placed her wall surface back together, Paraschi had to attract each rock onto a card, and also with the assist of thorough measurements, shuffle lock around.

CATHY PARASCHI: so the final decision was made by eye.

NARRATOR: it took 5 years to determine the position of roughly 500 that the pieces. It's been over 30 years because the repair began.

The Parthenon is a 20,000 ton, 70,000 piece, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. And worse, it's a puzzle the doesn't include instructions. No one has discovered anything the same, similar thing architectural plans.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS: Where are they written, this things? Where are they writing? We have so many papers, we have computers; we have everything. Exactly how they space doing it? how they communicate and also were going therefore quickly, in eight years? i cannot understand. Ns cannot imagine.

NARRATOR: exactly how did the ancient Athenians build the Parthenon v such precision in less than ripe years? and why through these ethereal curves and couple of right angles? How deserve to the modern-day restorers faithful repair and also reassemble these pieces before air pollution and also even earthquakes inflict more damage?

To conserve this masterpiece that Western civilization for the future, Korres and his team that architects, engineers and also marble masons will need to unlock the keys of the past.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: The Parthenon was the biggest monument in the greatest sanctuary in the biggest city of classic Greece. It to be the central repository of the Athenians' lofty conception that themselves and the physical—marble—embodiment of your values, your beliefs, your myths, your ideologies. It to be as lot a holy place to Athens and also the Athenians as it is to their patron goddess, Athena Parthenos.

NARRATOR: yet just 30 years before it to be built, Athens lay in ruins, a victim of Emperor Xerxes, leader that Greece's classic enemy, Persia. The Athenians rally the rest of the Greek city-states and, v a collection of heroic army victories, drive the end the Persian invaders.

with the international threat neutralized and almost 200 cities across the Aegean paying right into a shared defense fund, Athens grows wealthy. It's now 450 B.C.E., and a former general emerges together leader, Pericles.

that spearheads an ambitious project to rebuild Athens and also ushers in the golden e of Greece, a unique home window of time that develops Western ideals the beauty, science, art and a radical new type of government: "demos" meaning "people," and "cratos," "power"— people power, or democracy.

BARBARA BARLETTA: This is the area that Athens, just past the Acropolis, where male citizens concerned vote. We think that throughout the fifth century, the assembly would have comprised around 30,000, possibly up come 40,000 masculine citizens.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: Mid-fifth-century Athens to be a golden e because that the constellation of an effective intellects that gathered there.

NARRATOR: Socrates studies approach here. Hippocrates, considered the founder of modern-day medicine follow to later on traditions, checked out Athens. Herodotus, dad of history, and Thucydides write detailed accounts of this time.

BARBARA BARLETTA: Theater, especially, flourished. This is the moment of Sophocles and also Euripides performing their wonderful plays to the public in these theaters, including this certain one, the theater of Dionysus, on the southern slope that the Acropolis.

NARRATOR: yet while all of Athens flourishes, the Acropolis quiet lay in damages from the Persian invasion. Then, in 449 B.C.E., Pericles proposes come rebuild the temples destroyed by the Persians. He opens the inquiry to debate.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: Every monument, every aspect of the Periclean building program had to be voted upon so that these monuments would, in fact, it is in monuments the the democracy and not that one man, such as Pericles himself.

NARRATOR: In a powerful statement of your self-confidence, the people of Athens poll to rebuild the Acropolis, and also at the center, a building to embody your ideals, the Parthenon. The Parthenon would certainly be the largest structure in the human being constructed entirely of marble; and also in tracing the route of the marble, lies the first clue as to how it to be built.

before the Parthenon, marble had been imported from quarries on archipelago in the Aegean Sea. On among those islands, Naxos, excavators discover a little temple.

CATHY PARASCHI: top top the beautiful island that Naxos, we see this temple which is one of the early antiquated Greek temples, make of stone.

NARRATOR: The holy place of Demeter to be constructed about 100 years before the Parthenon. It, too, was built with few right angle or right lines.

CATHY PARASCHI: We have the right to indicate currently the curvature of the base of the temple, likewise the widening the the lower component of the columns.

NARRATOR: Why room these contractors deliberately building their holy places with curve and couple of right angles? Professor Margaret Livingstone, a Harvard neurobiologist, to trust the ancient Greeks can have been mindful of optical illusions.

MARGARET LIVINGSTONE (Harvard clinical School) : The duty of the visual device is not to transmit picture to the brain; there's no one up there to look at an image. It's to transmit information around the human being up come the brain.

NARRATOR: Our brain translates visual information, favor converging lines to aid us evaluate distance and relative size. Yet sometimes, something's lost in translation. Right here the converging lines are telling united state that the line on the right is taller 보다 the line on the left. The result? an optical illusion.

MARGARET LIVINGSTONE: This is an additional classical illusion. If you have actually two straight lines, if you add converging lines, these two lines seem to bow in the middle. Therefore if the floor the the Parthenon has converging cues as to depth and also perspective, you can have one illusory death in the floor the the Parthenon.

NARRATOR: probably to compensate because that the illusory sag, the building contractors left extra marble in the middle. The ancient Greeks realized that to construct a structure that appears perfect, castle would need to come up with a design that tip the eye. What they design is a device of optical refinements.

CATHY PARASCHI: Their concern was the visual perfection the the building.

NARRATOR: This little stone temple, top top Naxos, provides evidence of the Greeks' keen monitoring over thousands of years.

CATHY PARASCHI: here we can see the an initial optical refinements already experimented by the people building the temple. Right here lies, literally, the D.N.A. That the Parthenon.

NARRATOR: however even v the wealth of Periclean Athens, it was also expensive to lug so much marble indigenous the islands to the mainland. Fortunately, the Athenians find a rich resource of marble, 11 miles from the Acropolis.

The Pentelicon quarry came to be one of the largest and also deepest marble quarries in the world and is the source for the reconstruction today. In minutes, diamond-tipped saws reduced through the same rock used through the ancients.

Nikos Toganidis, the architect in fee of day-to-day work on the Parthenon restoration, is in search of a flawless 12-ton block.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS: now we are going to inspect a marble the George found here in the quarry. It's walking to it is in an architrave. It's the last large marble that we require for the repair of the phibìc side.

NARRATOR: The reconstruction team has waited month for just the appropriate block to make the brand-new architrave, the marble assistance beam over the columns. It costs over a million dollars and also will have to support as much as 20 tons.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS: Let's measure up it. Let's watch if we have the size of the marble that we need.

NARRATOR: It seems perfect except for a concealed vein, which can compromise its structural integrity.

NIKOS TOGANIDIS: If over there is the problem, climate the sound is rather different. It sounds together a bell. For this reason we room going to buy.

Jurgo, bravo.

NARRATOR: At the moment of Pericles, groups of quarrymen extracted an approximated 100,000 tons of marble native Pentelicon. The cost of extracting and also transporting it, inscriptions in component on this rock placard indigenous 434 B.C.E., to be over 400 silver talents, the tantamount of much more than 400 of your fully-equipped warships.

BARBARA BARLETTA: expenses for the building of the Parthenon were videotaped on rock annually. The stone was actually collection up ~ above the Acropolis. This is since Athens had actually a autonomous system of government so the they compelled that the expenditure of publicly monies it is in made public.

NARRATOR: The rest of the construction budget was spent on carving the marble. In that sense, the rectal today, as in old times, is less a building site and much more a sculptor's studio.

MARIA IOANNIDOU (Acropolis restoration Project) : we have, in part cases, to kind a brand-new drum native one hundred various pieces. That is a very, very difficult work.

NARRATOR: below the restorers recovered a component of an initial capital, however were missing the piece to fit approximately it. They had to carve them by hand from the recently quarried Pentelic marble.

They begin by make a plaster actors of a absent piece. Climate they use this old mason's device, called a pantograph, to record the three-dimensional shape of the cast, and transfer it, point by point, come the new marble.

LENA LAMBRINOU: It's a an extremely traditional technique. Even the Romans were using the same device to copy their sculptures in antiquity.

NARRATOR: when a new piece is completed, they can join it v an old. But will their new piece fit?

the doesn't. It's just millimeters off.

The moderns will certainly borrow a an approach used by the ancients because that fitting with each other two new blocks. Castle coat the inside surface with red clay.

LENA LAMBRINOU: In the points that it doesn't fit, it leaves white marks whereby the clay goes come white. They have to carve that a small bit more and test it again until they have actually no brand-new marks when they space closing the 2 pieces.

NARRATOR: The operation is repeated dozens of times till the new marble exactly matches the ancient broken surface. Yet even as soon as they succeed, there's still the an obstacle of installation the revived pieces precisely back into place. After months of painstaking work, drum number 14192 doesn't quite make it.

LENA LAMBRINOU: as you check out here, we have a tiny ancient fragment. We built roughly it with the brand-new addition. Currently we're walk to move it and also take it down to the workshop.

NARRATOR: simply a few millimeters that excess new white marble has to be reduced from the base, at ever so slim an angle, to enhance the precision the the initial blocks.

LENA LAMBRINOU: These differences of one or 2 millimeters is just a miracle. Girlfriend can't believe that you have so little differences.

NARRATOR: and also here lies the Parthenon's main mystery: how did the ancients sculpt it v such precision and also speed?

MANOLIS KORRES (Acropolis restoration Project) : we were evaluating a drum over there on which over there were part lines.

NARRATOR: Etched into the marble itself, Manolis Korres find a clue.

MANOLIS KORRES: have actually you ever seen this?

WORKER: No. This is the first time.

NARRATOR: Korres made an extensive study that the relationship between toolmarks and the type of tool and also force essential to produce them. From this marks, he reconstructed a form of chisel lost because antiquity.

MANOLIS KORRES: girlfriend see just how it goes?

NARRATOR: The marks led Korres to determine a selection of tools that reflect centuries of field of expertise in metallurgy, allowing the Greeks to develop sharper and much more durable devices than we have today.

MANOLIS KORRES: The various artisans is obvious.

NARRATOR: and also from minute distinctions in the chisel marks, Korres can also identify the distinctive workmanship of around 200 various stonemasons.

They were recruited from transparent the Greek islands and also would have actually had countless different solution of measurement. There is no a common standard, coordinating this workforce would have been a logistical nightmare.

exactly how did they execute it? One answer lies top top the island of Salamis, not much from Athens. Here, found on a church wall, was a stone carving. Today, the is in the Piraeus Museum.

Architect mark Wilson Jones to trust the enigmatic Salamis Stone, showing an arm, hands and also feet, may be a counter table because that the different measuring systems, Doric, Ionic and Common.

note WILSON JONES (University the Bath) : This is a tracing I've excellent that mirrors the stone, and also you can automatically see just how the key measures work. We have this foot ascendancy here. That's 327 millimeters, much more or less, the Doric foot. And also here you have a foot imprint that's around a 307-millimeter-long foot, which we tend to call the common foot. And also there are, in reality other feet. For example, this dimension here is one Ionic foot. So there is a, type of, entirety network of different interrelated measurements here.

NARRATOR: The Salamis rock represents all the competing old Greek measurements: the Doric foot, the Ionic foot, and, for the an initial time, the usual foot—virtually the very same measurement we usage today.

Wilson Jones finds proof of all three measuring systems in the height of the Parthenon.

note WILSON JONES: That distance is, at one and also the same time, 45 Doric feet, that's the leader on the relief; it's likewise 48 common feet, i m sorry is the foot imprint; and also it's 50 Ionic feet, every at the same time. And also these are quite precise correspondences.

NARRATOR: so the Salamis stone may have listed a simple means for old workers from various places come calibrate your rulers and cross-reference various units the measurement.

but the Salamis stone may likewise be a proviso to how the ancient Greeks were using the human body to develop what we currently regard as ideal proportions.

note WILSON JONES: What's extraordinary about this, is that at the exact same time together being a helpful device, it's likewise a type of design of theory, architecture theory, that a perfect, ideal human being body, draft by nature, is a kind of paradigm for exactly how architects should architecture temples.

NARRATOR: amongst the very first to record that Greek holy places were based upon the ideal person body was the roman inn architect, Marcus Vitruvius. He studied the proportions of temples favor the Parthenon, in the first century B.C.E., 400 year after it was built.

MANOLIS KORRES: Vitruvius's work offers us the as whole frame i beg your pardon is important to recognize the mechanism of proportions that the Parthenon.

NARRATOR: according to Vitruvius, Greek architects believed in one objective communication of beauty the mirrors the proportions of perfect human body. Castle observed, amongst many examples, that the span from finger tip to finger pointer is a fixed ratio to full height, and also height is a fixed ratio to the distance between the navel and the foot.

2 thousand years after the Parthenon, one more artist was likewise searching for an objective communication of beauty.

note WILSON JONES: This is a very famous image. It's drawn by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Renaissance, and it's based upon Vitruvius's description of the ideal the human being body. And he encapsulates this idea of its theoretical importance. And also what's really exciting for united state is that when we superimpose the Salamis relief ~ above this drawing, we watch that there's a remarkable correspondence. There space differences, however it's the exact same principle. You have actually the same interest in the humanlike principle of getting a type of sacred basic justification because that these measures.

NARRATOR: Da Vinci's appropriate Renaissance guy famously was standing in a circle surrounding by a square. Da Vinci called this picture "Vitruvian Man" after the roman inn architect.

The proportion of the radius of the circle come a side of the square is 1 come 1.6. That proportion is sometimes attributed come the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, who lived 100 years before the structure of the Parthenon. In the victor age, it ended up being known together the "golden ratio." It to be a math formula because that beauty. Because that centuries countless scholars thought the golden ratio provided the Parthenon its remarkable power and perfect proportions. Most notably, the ratio of elevation to broad on that facades is a gold ratio.

today the golden ratio's use in the Parthenon has actually been mostly discredited, yet Manolis Korres and also most scholar believe another ratio walk in fact show up in much of the building.

MANOLIS KORRES: The width, for instance is 30 meters and also 80 centimeters; the size is 69 meters and 51 centimeters, the proportion being 4:9.

NARRATOR: The 4:9 proportion is additionally found in between the broad of the columns and also the distance between their centers, and the height of the facade to its width.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: The Parthenon, like a statue, exemplifies a specific symmetria , a specific harmony of part to component and of part to the whole. There's no concern that the harmony that the building, i m sorry is plainly one the its most visible features is dependent upon a certain mathematical mechanism of proportions.

note WILSON JONES: for the Greeks, there was nothing far better than a design based on the coming together of measures, the proportions and harmonies and shapes. It's rather favor an orchestrated piece of music in i beg your pardon the harmonies that the various tools are, sort of, fused with each other in a wonderful, glorious, orchestrated symphony.

NARRATOR: v something like the Salamis Stone's use of the human being body as systems of measure, and also the idealized human kind to define perfect proportions, the Parthenon literally embodies the indigenous of the Greek theorist Protagoras, who resided in Athens throughout the building and construction of the Parthenon, "Man is the measure of every things."

however proportions and also principles do not a perfect Parthenon make. Cathy Paraschi has been commuting to work on the Acropolis for 10 years. In every her time on the Parthenon restoration team, she's tho amazed in ~ one particular achievement of the ancients, their precision.

CATHY PARASCHI: We have actually a joint on the step of the Parthenon which has actually been so thin, it's, like, 1/20th that a millimeter, thinner 보다 a hair. Further up, you can not detect the joint at all. And also finally, probably as result of an earthquake, a cracked starts native one block and continues to the other. And also the two behave together one.

NARRATOR: This is the level of precision the the restorers require to match today.

their reconstructed tower drum, number 14192, to be taken down due to the fact that its basic didn't fit. To attain the forced precision, castle use steel smoothing plates, a technique based on ancient rock plates found on the Acropolis.

LENA LAMBRINOU: It's a very traditional way to level a marble surface. We are placing sand in these holes, and also they just move it on the peak of the stone. They have the right to make very little differences in between the surfaces.

NARRATOR: Manolis Korres to trust the ancient rock sanding plates might grind to 1/20th of a millimeter. But to stack and precisely align the north presents second challenge.

Again, the contemporary restorers uncover an old technique, as soon as they different these two shaft drums for the first time in 2,500 years.

CATHY PARASCHI: The ancients to adjust the drums really simply yet again ingeniously. They had this block of hardwood that they cut in half. The lower part was inserted at the center of the reduced drum, flush and perfectly fitted. And also the upper part is focused in the upper drum coming down. So once the top drum is placed, the centers ~ above this pin. The surface was perfect connected, and also it to be so airtight that as soon as we opened up the north we found this—and it's 2,500 years old—intact.

NARRATOR: The cedar is for this reason well maintained that restorers could still odor the wood placed there by Pericles' stonemasons. Today, the contemporary restorers use the same method but through titanium.

but even though the reconstruction team has actually solved plenty of details that the ancients' engineering secrets, they room still in ~ a loss come answer the larger question. Just how did the Athenians develop the Parthenon, with all its ethereal curves, without an architectural plan?

note WILSON JONES: There's a simple problem. To get a arrangement of this size on a reasonably small dimension that you can grapple with—something like this, which would certainly be around 1 to 50 or so—that would be i do not have anything near an exact enough to resolve all the subtle curvature and the minute adjustments the are additionally essential because that this sort of project.

NARRATOR: one of the subtlest of this curves have the right to be found on the Parthenon's columns.

LENA LAMBRINOU: If us pull a string, we have the right to see the from the center of the column and also up, we have the right to see a curve, a an extremely slight curve.

NARRATOR: The curve is gentle, starting a small less than halfway up and also tapering again near the top. It's an optical refinement called "entasis."

CATHY PARASCHI: Entasis method tension. It offers life come the column visually. It each other an athlete trying to lift the weight, also the deep breadth the the swelling of that is chest. The is no longer dead stone. It has actually life in it. It has actually pulse.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: these deviations native the straight, from the perfect vertical, indigenous the perfect horizontal room analogous come the curvatures and also the swellings and also the person that is abnormal of the person body. And also in that feeling the Parthenon strikes me together being a sculptural and an architecture achievement.

NARRATOR: The entasis curve top top the next of the tower is so subtle and so slight, restorers have the right to only draw it through computer. Because that the ancients to have drawn it at full scale, they would certainly have had to set their compass at an difficult radius of almost a mile. Exactly how they constructed the bent columns was among the last good riddles left through the old Greek temple builders.

The price literally "came to light" in ~ Didyma, 200 miles from Athens, in what is, today, Turkey. Here, a team of German excavators was trying out the damage of the temple of Apollo.

developed at the time of Alexander the Great, 150 year after the Parthenon, it was the biggest Greek temple ever before conceived: 120 columns, every one an ext than twice the height of the Parthenon's.

The German team provided an optical refinement, a curvature, ~ above the basic of the temple, comparable to the of the Parthenon. They doubt there might be more.

Traversing the tunnel to the temple's spiritual inner sanctum, open to the air, Lothar Haselberger waited because that his eyes to adjust.

LOTHAR HASELBERGER (University that Pennsylvania) : Coming the end of the darkness the the tunnel, right into that white marble hall, is a blinding experience. What then, to my surprise, come up, were routinely incised horizontal lines. And also I discovered them interesting enough to at least keep them in psychic in order to return in ~ a time when whatever was under far better light conditions. So i was left wondering.

NARRATOR: in ~ the mercy that the sun, Haselberger would have to wait for just the appropriate time of day because that the irradiate to reveal an ext of the secret lines.

LOTHAR HASELBERGER: There's a gold time every day when the sunlight comes just about parallel come the surface.

NARRATOR: It to be worth the wait.

LOTHAR HASELBERGER: Coming back again, under much better light conditions, it was a kind of revelation, since I establish this is a full-sized vertical section of a column, the very one in ~ the front of the temple.

NARRATOR: At simply the right ar in the temple of the sun god Apollo, at just the best time of day, he found what can be the answer to the riddle: an nearly invisible, scaled-down version of the ethereal entasis curve the the columns.

This layout represents a squashed column. Because it is difficult to draw the curve the the column in full size, the Greeks scaled under the height of the column by a variable of 16.

currently they had actually a curve that could be attracted with a huge compass-like instrument. Yet the genius behind the layout is that the width was no scaled down, so each horizontal line is quiet the radius of a full-scale column. Now all a stonemason need do, is set his compass to any type of line the the theme to get the diameter of any corresponding point on the column.

This an easy scale illustration was a crucial reference for the stonemasons at Didyma, together they sculpted one tower drum after ~ another.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: Greek stonemasons to be so proficient in developing optical refinements choose entasis, that they may have actually been given relatively little guidance.

NARRATOR: The inscribed template made it through at Didyma due to the fact that the holy place was ruined by an earthquake and remained unfinished. Yet at the Parthenon, together lines more than likely disappeared once the wall surfaces were polished at the moment of completion.

LOTHAR HASELBERGER: The Parthenon was finished, the marble surfaces smoothed and also polished, and also with it went what we assumed to be the building lines of the temple.

NARRATOR: The contemporary restorers think the ancient builders must have actually had similar kind of template to produce the subtle curvature on, not only the columns, however most of the Parthenon's marble blocks.

mark WILSON JONES: The key problems space these remarkable refinements, the curvatures, the inclination and so on. However once you've acquired them established, when you know, with these blueprints, precisely where you're going, then you proceed down the size of the building and throughout the former by repetition. So once they gain going, lock can acquire going at substantial speed.

NARRATOR: with the discovery of the Didyma plans, the restorers have brand-new insight right into the last great secret of how the ancients constructed the Parthenon.

but now they face the ultimate test, together they location the drum they've so painstakingly reconstructed ago on that is column. Through all that is curves and angles, will this new column north fit?

it does.

LENA LAMBRINOU: We're an extremely happy.

NARRATOR: The restorers now require only apply a finish sanding to the most distinctive feature of the columns, the fluting. The crowning achievement will come through the placement of this 12-ton resources on height of the shaft shaft.

for Korres and the modern-day restorers, this finished marble is much more than just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. They feeling they have efficiently entered the minds of the ancient builders and also discovered how Pericles and his architects to be able come design and also engineer the ideals the beauty and also perfection right into this huge building.

using the exact same marble and similar techniques and also tools, the Acropolis reconstruction team has actually reconstructed a part of the Parthenon, perhaps as perfectly as the original builders.

CATHY PARASCHI: In the following 10 years, the worksite will be empty and we will be able to admire the perfect proportions the the Parthenon again.

NARRATOR: The Parthenon to be completed in 432 B.C.E. As the can be fried expression of Athenian ideals, the holy place is adorned with supernatural battles the victory: justice end injustice, world defeating barbarity, order prevailing end chaos. And, possibly for the first time on a Greek temple, the Athenians, just mortals, depict themselves together the gods.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: and so, if the human beings, the Athenians ~ above the Parthenon frieze, room elevated near the location of gods, the gods are stood for in a way that makes them human. And the difference between gods and mortals, in between Athenians and the Olympians is not one so much of kind, as of degree. This is very humanistic means of representing themselves.

NARRATOR: however the holy place and society that developed it would certainly not last. Just one year later, Pericles goes come the citizens of Athens because that funds come equip one army versus the danger of Sparta. To pay because that it, he suggests they could, if necessary, strip the gold from the good statue the Athena. Soon after, Pericles and also a third of the city die from the plague. Athens is crushed by the Spartans, who turn the Parthenon into an military barracks.

because that the following two millennia, the Parthenon would be abused by Romans, Barbarians, Christians, Muslims, Turks, through the final insult coming in the 18th and 19th centuries, as soon as Europeans rediscover classical Greece, and, the end of reverence, plunder lot of its remaining sculptures, the most famous of which, the Elgin Marbles, are in the brothers Museum to this day.

when the Acropolis Restoration project began, over 30 year ago, Manolis Korres and also his colleagues can have liked to gain back the Parthenon come its initial state, adorned v sculpture and also friezes painted in lively colors. Instead, they determined to preserve what has survived these 2,500 years, a majestic ruin, a witness come what us needlessly destroyed and also the beauty and also perfection the we can create.

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~ above NOVA's tricks of the Parthenon internet site, see exactly how the holy place was supplied over time, and also examine the inquiry of whether an old ruin need to be revitalized at all. Find it in ~ katifund.org.