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The Parthenon (Wonders of the World)

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  210 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Read the Bldg Blog interview with Mary Beard about the Wonders of the World series (Part I and Part II)

Oscar Wilde compared it to a white goddess, Evelyn Waugh to Stilton cheese. In observers from Lord Byron to Sigmund Freud to Virginia Woolf it met with astonishment, rapture, poetry, even tears--and, always, recognition. Twenty-five hundred years after it first rose above
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published March 31st 2003 by Harvard University Press (first published 2002)
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Sep 24, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
Mary Beard is a wonderful writer, who has written extensively on the Classical World. So, the subject of the Parthenon would seem at natural one for her. For the first 100 pages or so, that is the case as Beard tells the history (as much as we know at least) of the famous 5th Century Athens temple. It’s amazing that there is even a building left. It’s been hit by 700 cannon balls, blown up, shot at, and, in more peaceful times, turned into a Christian church and, later, Muslim mosque. Over the y ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Nikki rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Mary Beard’s book on Pompeii, so when I spotted The Parthenon in a deal, I figured it’d be an interesting one. I actually expected it to be a bit more about the Greek context of the Parthenon, rather than going into the afterlife of the building — the use as a church and a mosque, the archaeology and tourism, even the literary responses to it, which is what it actually did. It seemed quite inconclusive about what the Parthenon actually was, though the evidence that might tell us about ...more
Lou Robinson
Struggled with this a I don't really "do" non-fiction (too much reading of text books for exams I think). The last section was quite good though, a synopsis of the recent wranglings between Greece and the UK over the Elgin marbles. I can't say I'm any more decided on what the right answer is.
Jul 25, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
While the book is about a famous work of art, Mary Beard’s story of the Parthenon takes us through almost 2500 years of history. At the height of Greek power, the Athenians venerated – who else? – Athena by building the Parthenon. The Romans adopted the building as the suitable venue to exalt its own leaders. The Christians turned it into a church. During the Ottoman empire, the building, now a mosque, was mostly treated with benign neglect – until the Ottomans stored gunpowder there. Thus, when ...more
Sarah u
This is a very good book which discusses the Parthenon thoroughly, ranging from the 6th century BCE pre-Parthenon Acropolis, to the Parthenon's use as a cathedral, mosque, and ammunitions store (seriously, what were those people thinking?). The book also addresses the ongoing debates about the Elgin Marbles and other pieces of Ancient Greek sculpture that are now in different countries, and has a new chapter discussing the modern Acropolis museum.

Especially useful is the appendix in the back for
Looking for a relatively quick introduction to the Parthenon? One that covers its periods as a church and a mosque? A book that discusses how the Parthenon marbles made their way to the British Museum and how they came to be arranged in the cold and rather sterile Duveen Gallery? This is your book. In less than 200 pages? This is your book.

Mary Beard covers the history of the Parthenon as a public building from its initial construction to today. There is enough to give an overview of why the Par
Jan 31, 2016 Juanita rated it really liked it
Review: The Parthenon by Mary Beard.

This is an interesting book about the history of a famous building. Anyone touring in that area of Greece or the British Museum in London where Lord Elgin sold many large pieces of marble columns, frieze hangings, and sculptures from the ancient Parthenon ruins may want to read a book like this or even take the book with you for reference reasons. The author reminds us that there are great voids of mystery about what it was built for or the exact date and much
Zachary Taylor
Aug 25, 2015 Zachary Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
With The Parthenon Mary Beard tackles one of the ancient world’s most architecturally spectacular and most popular public monuments in a style marked by mirth and bitter sarcasm. Like in all of her other works, Beard’s prose is both scholarly and instantly accessible, keen as she is to appeal to a wide audience. So, as an introduction to the Parthenon and its multifaceted history, this volume is indispensable and extraordinarily helpful. Nevertheless, Beard moves beyond the period of classical h ...more
An enjoyable little book about the Parthenon, its art and history as well as everyone's obsession over it. Mary Beard writes knowledgeably and humorously.
May 30, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school, history

I loved this book!! It was so fascinating and easy to read. Would definitely recommend
May 09, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it
A small book that covers a lot more territory than just the history of the Parthenon. As usual, Beard writes with great erudition, wit and insight about both the building itself and the idea of the Parthenon as different cultures have come to grips with it. Fascinating, very well-written, and it has a bibliography that will satisfy the reader's (that would be me) desire for more information about virtually everything she discussed. I wish God had seen fit to give us several lifetimes, because in ...more
For what was meant to be an mere introduction to the Parthenon, I found this book alone was more informative on the subject than other Athenian history accounts.

Numerous arguments about the Parthenon are presented throughout the book, some supporting each other while other's find themselves on the other side. The arguments alone was one of my favourite parts of the book, because I found myself learning about ones I had never heard mentioned before as well as getting to hear both sides of the sto
Jan 24, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-history
I can't say enough wonderful things about Mary Beard. Her writing is spot-on and is backed-up by the perfect amount of wit, research, warmth, reason, and intelligence.

This book is a nice read because, although it is scholarly in nature, Beard has a conversational tone that really gives her subject life. It's one of the few books I've read for research purposes that I would dare to call a "page-turner."

Another point is simply that the parthenon's history is so expansive and volatile, that it's a
Thomas Escritt
Aug 24, 2014 Thomas Escritt rated it liked it
Entertaining discussion of the monument, its place in history, of changing attitudes towards it over the centuries, and especially of the sheer complexities of the controversy surrounding the Elgin Marbles, a dispute on which she studiously avoids taking sides, despite clearly greatly admiring one of the principle living protagonists. Worth a read for that discussion alone, but this short book is clearly intended as a guide to the acropolis for those visiting athens - and for that it's ideal.
Some very interesting information. A lot of pieces of the history of the Parthenon that I didn't know presented in a readable format. I am not sure why but I thought we had a pretty clear picture of what the art work represented and how it looked when the Parthenon was completed in the fifth century BC and was surprised to find that is not true. It is interesting that we have some more documentation of some of the remodels and restorations down through history and less about others. I would high ...more
Imogen Herrad
Dec 30, 2015 Imogen Herrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everybody read this book. It's about the Parthenon, and it's also about wider issues of identity and myth, politics and history, patriotism and wishful thinking. It's intelligent and entertaining and erudite and funny. Read it.
Oct 18, 2012 Sammi rated it liked it
Shelves: books-for-school
This book was not my favorite read of the semester--not by a long shot. Though the history of the Athenian Acropolis is interesting, it's not something I really care to read about extensively (though this may also be a side-effect of my procrastination, making it necessary to read most of the book in a span of 48 hours). However, the question that is posed by the work is certainly worth thinking about--to whom does the Parthenon frieze belong? Is it really so important to reunite it? And why are ...more
Virginia Van
Feb 23, 2016 Virginia Van rated it really liked it
A wry and insightful look at the history of the Pantheon and the controversy that has long dogged it by one of a noted historian holder of the Chair of Classics at Cambridge.
Aug 04, 2011 Midori rated it it was amazing
Unusual information, interesting approach, Mary Beard tries to get away from her "britishness" in a folly attempt to be objective but she does not make it. Unfortunately, she falls into the same pit as Ian Jenkins does only she is more carefull and she does not break all her bones in that fall. Overall, it is a nice book, entertaining to read but the treatment of her subjects is done in a rather superfluous, unsystematic way. What shocked me most were her terrible characterizations of the 300 Sp ...more
Feb 21, 2014 Anjella rated it liked it
Wasn't quite what I was expecting from Mary Beard in this book, but she does give a very thorough look at the Parthenon. I think I was expecting more about the social life and personal history around it.
Oct 07, 2015 Celtic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
₵oincidental   Ðandy
Jul 14, 2016 ₵oincidental Ðandy rated it really liked it
Equally as informative as it is thoroughly enjoyable - a trove of fascinating, well-researched information. An exceptionally good book.
Nov 29, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Taught me a lot about this iconic structure
David Whittlestone
Jan 30, 2016 David Whittlestone rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Well written, as usual, interesting and informative.
Alina Trigger
Dec 06, 2009 Alina Trigger rated it it was amazing
Although this is non fiction it reads very well. The book is well written, with a light wry sense of humour and it is very well researched - as one would expect from a classicist such as Mary Beard. (Have read some of her more erudite 'bits' as part of a classics course.)
Jun 27, 2008 Ed rated it really liked it
One of my favorite structures in all the world, the Parthenon here gets a succinct but thorough treatment. Its history, its miraculous survival after numerous accidents and destructions, its proportions and architectural splendor, and its future fate. Enjoy!
Aug 18, 2013 Roisin rated it really liked it
A very good, varied and fascinating short history of The Parthenon, admired by artists, writers, and travellers alike. Mary Beard unfolds this building's history, and significance. You will definitely want to read more about this building and more by her.
Apr 23, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
A good general audience book on the history of the Parthenon, written by an engaging and highly respected scholar. I'd recommend this over Dorothy King's "The Elgin Marbles."
Apr 04, 2010 Converse rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The unlikely rise of the edifice to a cultural symbol, a rise which has generally ignored its long periods as a Eastern orthodox church and then as a mosque
Bookie Monster
Oct 28, 2015 Bookie Monster rated it really liked it
Does what it says on the tin. Prof Beard is her usual, lucid and engaging self. Good stuff.
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See also: Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958).

Winifred Mary Beard (born 1 January 1955) is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears on The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements h
More about Mary Beard...

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