Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Athens of the South

We were delighted to learn a full-scale replica of the Parthenon proudly stands as the center of Nashville's urban green space, Centennial Park. 

We had beautiful weather for our visit, and the park was a wonderful oasis in the city. 

In the 1970's, Nashville's Parthenon hosted the United Nations council for a visit. 

Nashville's Parthenon was actually built as part of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897, and though a lot of effort was invested in making their Parthenon to scale, it was meant only to be a temporary exhibition. Nashville chose to construct it because of its nickname, "Athens of the South." Unlike most of the structures built for the fair, the Parthenon replica was not torn down, but because it was not meant to last, it fell into serious disrepair. The structure was rebuilt and repaired from 1920 to 1931, when it finally re-opened to the public. 

The Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition was a spectacular event. All sorts of buildings were constructed exclusively for the six-month fair. Memphis constructed a grand pyramid replica on the fair grounds, and there was an Egyptian Pavilion with belly dancers. The giant Vanity Fair building, known today as the Midway, housed games, rides, and entertainment, including a massive, 40 person see-saw. 

The scale of the Parthenon was impressive. It was astounding to think about the original building being built by the ancient Greeks with no modern machinery. 

The columns dwarfed us, as did the massive doors. 

The plaster sculptures adorning the pediments were created out of existing casts when possible. Painstaking work was taken to make them accurate. 

A student was receiving guitar lessons on the Parthenon steps. 

An inside view of those gigantic doors. 

The most recent addition to the Parthenon has been the Athena statue, which was commissioned in 1982 and completed in 1990. I can only imagine what awe the statue must have inspired in the ancient Greeks; even today, with our modern skyscrapers and buildings, Athena inspired reverence and admiration. 

Athena's shield stands 15 feet in diameter. The front depicts Greek heroes battling the mythical Amazonian women. It is believed that the Amazonian "women" depicted are actually warriors from Arabia. The Arabian warriors carried curved swords and were much more slight of build than their Greek counterparts, though no less fierce in battle.  

To give some perspective, I was smaller than even one of Athena's feet! 

In 2002, the Athena statue was gilded in gold to make it a more accurate representation of the original. 

Though we were only able to stay for a brief 24-hour period, we really enjoyed Nashville, and would place it high on our list of favorite places we've visited. The city had a great energy about it, and seemed to have a lot of good stuff going on. Our road trip to Chattanooga and back with stops in Louisville, Nashville, and Columbus was brief, but very enjoyable. It was nice to be able to see the Kentucky-Tennessee-Ohio area we missed on our way South from Florida. Though we really only scratched the surface, we are happy to say we at least visited almost every state on the East Coast! We enjoy having first-hand knowledge of places. It is delightful to hear about a city on the news, and say, "Oh, we've been there," and to perhaps even recognize the place being talked about. 


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