Not so long ago, a friend of mine had the incredible opportunity to see the Elgin marbles at the museum in London. I was more than a little envious, lamenting how unlikely it is I’ll ever be able to travel and see the wonders of ancient architecture I love. Fortunately, not all is lost: Enter the Parthenon in Nashville.
Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon in Nashville is the only full-size replica of the Parthenon in the world. Unlike the real thing, the Nashville Parthenon portrays the temple in its original state. In love with ruins as I am, I’d still like to see the real deal in Greece, but this is an amazing experience on its own!
I’m sad to say we arrived shortly after the Parthenon closed, so we didn’t get to see the inside. It’s a terrible shame, because aside from being an art museum, the Parthenon also contains a stunning statue of Athena, again replicated from what would have stood in Greece. Saying the building is huge doesn’t do it justice, nor does sharing pictures, bur keep in mind that the statue inside is 42 feet tall.
The exterior is stunning enough, with the pediments featuring sculptures cast in concrete. We didn’t pick the best day to go, as it was frigid and beginning to snow as I tried to snap pictures. On top of that, the baby was asleep and wearing my husband’s jacket, so I had to make it quick!
Stunning as they are, the sculptures have long been a point of contention between England and Greece. In 1806, while Greece was still part of the Ottoman Empire, the Earl of Elgin obtained permission to remove a number of surviving sculptures from the Parthenon, which is why they’re called the Elgin marbles now. Not long after, in 1816, the collection was sold to the British Museum, where they remain, despite Greece’s pleas to have this precious part of their history returned to their country.
While I’d still like to travel to Greece someday, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to get a taste of other cultures and their history, not so far from home.
Do you know of any similar destinations? What are your favorites?