Remember Dorothy, the intrepid traveler from the classic Wizard of Oz? She said it best: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”
And while Nashville might not be exactly in your back yard, it’s almost certainly closer than Athens, Greece. So if you want to see the world’s only full-scale replica of the world-famous Parthenon, then pack your bags for Tennessee.
The ancient Parthenon, perched atop the Acropolis in Athens, is one of the most recognizable buildings on the planet, and for many visitors, it’s the inspiration for the journey to Greece. Historians and architects alike consider it the perfect Greek building, but 2500 years and a turbulent history have not been kind to the structure. And truthfully, the restoration that remains today takes a good deal of imagination to fully appreciate. But if you need a little nudge to complete your vision, then the Nashville replica is perfect.
In 1897, a Centennial and International Exhibition was held to blow the Tennessee trumpet, or more appropriately, twang the Nashville guitar. Their state was modern and looking to the future, and planners wanted the world to know it.
Playing on their reputation as “The Athens of the South,” the fair committee decided to construct a complete, full-scale replica of the Parthenon as the centerpiece for the exposition.
Like most exhibition buildings at the time, the original temple was meant to be temporary. But it proved so popular that it was rebuilt with more durable materials, and today it functions as a museum, which showcases the work of local artists, and an interesting display on the Centennial Exhibition.
But, the headliner of the show is a replica of the statue of Athena, which originally stood in the Parthenon in Athens. Completed in 1990, this golden sculpture is astonishing, and it dominates the interior. The temple and sculpture are exceptional because not only are they full-size but they’ve been reproduced with scholarly detail.
So even if Athens has been checked off your bucket list, if you’re anywhere near Nashville, do yourself a favor and make the detour to see the Parthenon. And who knows, you might develop a taste for toe-tappin’ country music, and you’ll certainly enjoy a bit of southern hospitality.
James & Terri
P.S. In our next post we’ll go inside for an up-close and personal look at the fabulous Athena.