ATHENS – Likely the world’s most dazzling example of architecture – created without computers or power tools – The Parthenon atop The Acropolis hill in Greece’s capital of Athens is misnamed and was really called the Hekatompedon.
That was the finding by researchers at Utrecht University in The Netherlands who said the name Parthenon, which became popular during the Roman period, really applies to an ancient treasury with offerings to the goddess Athena.
The name given the glorious building that represents Ancient Greece – with marbles ripped off the edifice by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin 200 years ago, the stolen treasures now residing in the British Museum – was Hekatompedon, the researchers said.
That means “Hundred foot temple,” for the building whose front is an optical illusion looking as if the base is straight when it isn’t, the misnomer applying for more than 2,000 years now with former Culture Minister and late actress Melina Mercouri calling the stolen goods The Parthenon Marbles.
Millions of tourists annually visit The Acropolis and stand in awe of The Parthenon, the real building by that original name now known as the Erechtheion, about 100 yards from the main temple on the Acropolis, the massive rocky escarpment that rises from central Athens.
The main room of the big temple was indeed exactly 100 feet long,” Janric van Rookhuijzen, the archeologist behind the research, told the British newspaper The Telegraph, saying Hekatompedon is so tough to say if you’re not Greek a better name would be The Great Temple of Athena.
“Hekatompedon is a difficult name to pronounce. That may be part of the reason that Parthenon caught on – it was much more catchy,” he said, adding that his research isn’t sitting well with Greek archeologists.
“My Greek friends and colleagues were of course very suspicious – who is this Dutch guy saying the name should be changed? But they’re now saying there is some merit to the theory I have put forward,” he told the paper.
Parthenon means “House of Virgins” and the smaller temple is decorated with stone caryatids, sculpted female figures which act as pillars, holding up the roof, the structure devoted to the ancient cult of Athena.
“Where the scientific community is concerned, Van Rookhuijzen’s insight will cause a minor seismic shift,” said Josine Blok, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Cultures at Utrecht University.
“Not only will the names need to be adjusted, this changes our image of the cult of the goddess Athena and the Acropolis as a whole,” she said.
Ineke Sluiter, Professor of Greek Language and literature at Leiden University, also added that: “This study demonstrates the permanent importance of never blindly trusting that the commonly-held wisdom is actually true.”
The research was published in the American Journal of Archaeology and the Dutch edition of National Geographic Magazine.