Architecture / Art / History / Slice of Americana / Tennessee / Travel

Athena: Music City’s Biggest Celebrity

Athena FI sq

Gods, goddesses, and myths have inspired artists throughout history. In ancient Greece, two primary expressions of mythical art were architecture and sculpture. And for Athenians, the most important deity was their patron goddess Athena. In fact, she was so important, that the Parthenon was built in her honor on the Acropolis. A large gold and ivory statue was installed, which unfortunately has been missing for centuries.

She was the goddess of the arts, wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law, justice, mathematics, strength, strategy, crafts, skill, … and justifiable warfare. A busy girl, our Athena!

Given this wide-ranging purview, it’s easy to understand her popularity with the Greeks.

There are many ancient drawings and statues of Athena, but in 1990, the city of Nashville, Tennessee added a modern replica which forms the backbone of one of the city’s premier sights, the Parthenon.


After extensive research to ensure the accuracy of the statue’s resemblance to the original work in the ancient Parthenon, Nashville native Alan Lequire created the 42 foot replica.

Like most mythical art, the statue of Athena symbolizes her strengths, attributes, and deeds.


Nike Closeup

The large spear, shield, and helmet establishes her credentials as a warrior, and the 6 foot statue of Nike in her right hand celebrates her victories.

Shield back

The snake behind the shield represents the people of Athens, who are under her protection.


On her breastplate and shield, the head of Medusa is displayed. This severed head was given to Athena by Perseus for her aid in slaying the evil snake-haired gorgon.

Shield front

Sheild and snake

In the frieze below her statue, the Pantheon of Gods is witnessing the birth of Pandora – the first mortal human.


And on what must be history’s fanciest sandals, scenes of Athena’s battle with the centaurs are depicted.

Athena's feet

Athena's sandals

This fine reproduction of the interior of the Parthenon, complete with this amazingly detailed statue, is the only place on earth to experience what is was like to stand inside Athena’s temple in 480 B.C.

For many travelers, Nashville’s Parthenon may be a bit off the beaten path. But it’s an outstanding place to visit, and worth the effort. If you see just one famous celebrity in Nashville this year, make it the multi-talented Athena.

Happy Trails
Shield detail

26 thoughts on “Athena: Music City’s Biggest Celebrity

  1. I want those sandals! Well, maybe a lighter version?
    Brilliant, James (literally). I’d never heard of it and am amazed and hugely entertained by it. Job done!

    • Thanks Jo. This statue really is something to see. Frequently ancient art was colorful, and over the centuries, the pieces have lost all their color. In this case, it was nice to see how colorful the statue might have been in Ancient Athens. ~James

  2. Like restlessjo, Louise would want those sandals. Go to the end of the earth for them. Kill for them (in a figurative sense of the word, of course). I am not sharing your post with her.

  3. James, it’s a wonder Donald Trump hasn’t confiscated this what with his love of all that’s gold. Beautiful pics. I’d love this in my front yard. Athena looks as if she can most definitely protect. ;).

    • Thanks for the comment Brigitte, and for dropping by the blog. At over 40 feet, and covered with gold, it would certainly attract attention. And funny you mention the gold. Geek that I am, I looked it up. According to the brochure, the gold needed to gild the statue weighed 8.5 pounds. At today’s price, that’s approximately $210,000! Not bad. ~James

  4. Spot on James! Since I am visiting Athens at this moment, I can attest to your accuracy in every detail about this statue. Unfrickingbelievabe that this outstanding copy is in Nashville. WHO KNEW? LOL!! Great post!

    • Thanks Steve. Your comment should add some cred to the post, since your’s is a voice “from the trenches.” You’ve probably been to the Acropolis, and hopefully, this will help visualize it better. Hopefully, you’re feeling better. ~James

      • Yes, I visited the Acropolis my second day in Athens. The National Archaeological Museum has a copy (much smaller than the original 9-12 meter statue). Most experts suspect the statue was taken to Constantinople by the Byzantine empire in the 5th century. After that, no one really knows what happened to the statue.

  5. I love that the statue-within-a-statue is 6′ tall! Out of curiosity, do you know what happened to the original?

    Your pictures and description really do her justice. It makes this Nashvillian proud.

    • Thanks Anita and you should feel proud. The original surface was made of ivory and gold sheets. A general stripped the gold to pay his troops, and bronze sheets gilt with gold were added. There’s some mystery about what actually happened to the original, but most scholars think the Romans carted her off, and she disappeared into the mists of time. ~James

    • Thanks LuAnn. The museum is very interesting, but this statue of Athena alone is worth the price of admission. Yep, and it’s in TN. This is just the sort of building that fell to the wrecking ball in many places. Bravo to Nashville, for not only saving it, but making it into a wonderful destination. ~James

    • Sue, I grew up 100 miles from Nashville, and didn’t know about this wonderful replica. I was obviously suffering from “my own backyard” syndrome, and am glad that a blogging friend brought it to our attention. ~James

      • I find that as I blog I am learning so much about my own community. Last week I discovered that there are Korean totem poles in a town 15 minutes from Calgary. Who knew? I appreciate how much I am learning about the world, and my backyard though the blogging business. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Veronica. I’ve been to Athens a couple of times, and love the antiquities, but it was really nice to see a modern reconstruction of the Athena statue and the Parthenon … in Nashville of all places. ~James

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