Architecture / Travel / USA

Athena: Music City’s Biggest Celebrity

Athena FI sq

If you’re looking for an all-purpose goddess, look no further than Athena. Her wide-ranging purview included the arts, wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law, justice, mathematics, strength, strategy, crafts, skill, … and, justifiable (hmmm?) warfare.

She was the patron goddess of Athens, beloved by all, and one of Greece’s most famous temples, the Parthenon, was built expressly in her honor.

Following in the the footsteps of enthusiastic Athenians, a couple of millennia later, the organizers for Nashville’s 1897 Centennial and International Exhibition built a replica of the Parthenon. And about 100 years after that, city officials completed the picture with an astounding, 42-foot, gilded statue of Athena that’s the centerpiece of the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park.

Athena

In keeping with the scholarly detail of the building itself, native Nashville artist Alan Lequire researched extensively to ensure that the replica resembled the original gold and ivory sculpture as closely as possible.

Athena, top to bottom, is a compendium of greek mythology. And, like most mythical art, the statue symbolizes her strengths and deeds.

Nike

Nike Closeup

Check out her large spear, shield, and helmet, as well as the 6 foot Mini-Me statue of Nike – goddess of victory and running shoes. All this regalia clearly establishes her warrior bona fides, and leaves no doubt that Athena was a badass.

Shield back

In Greek mythology, snakes can represent good or evil, and Athena’s statue has one of each. The coiled snake behind her grandiose shield represents the people of Athens, who are under her protection. 

Breastplate

Both her breastplate and shield bear the severed head of the evil, snake-haired Medusa. An appreciative Perseus rewarded the head to Athena as thanks for her aid in dispatching the one-look-turns-you-to-salt monster.

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 created by the gods, as well as the person responsible for opening the infamous box which released all the evils of humanity. (OK, extra points if you recognize this story from somewhere else.)

Frieze

Athena's feet

On Athena’s not-so-dainty feet are what must be history’s biggest, most artistic sandals, which show her battle with the horsey-human centaurs.

Athena's sandals

Not only is Athena a remarkable sight to behold, but if you know, or want to know anything about Greek mythology, she’s a glimmering billboard. She took me back to my university days and a summer-school course I took to meet an arts requirement. Oh those heady days of in-one-ear-out-the other.

This fine reproduction of the interior of the Parthenon, complete with Athena’s fabulous statue, is the only place on earth to experience what is was like to stand inside one of Athens’ premier buildings in 480 B.C. If you see just one famous celebrity on your trip to Nashville, make it Athena in the Parthenon in Centennial Park.

Happy Trails
James & Terri
Shield detail

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

    • Alison, I was just as surprised to find this Vegas-style Athena inside the temple as I was finding the Parthenon in Nashville. I’ve seen the real Parthenon a couple of times, and for me, this replica really helps to complete the picture. ~James

  1. I might not have enough time to visit Nashville should I get the chance to go to the US, so this has been a very nice visual treat for me who, as you might have noticed, adore ancient temples. What an impressive copy of the Parthenon!

    • Bama, like you, I love antiquities and ancient temples. The remains of buildings and cities always motiviates me to find out more about the culture and people that lived there. But replicas and reconstructions help even more to visualize what life was like, and understand the culture. ~James

  2. Goddess of victory and running shoes! You two crack me up. Although we have never been to Nashville when I imagine it the Parthenon did not jump to mind. Finder of the unusual. You should get a t-shirt made. 🙂

    • Hey Sue. In most people’s mind, I suspect Nashville is a specific activity city – sort of like Vegas and gambling. And I’m sure that lots of residents get tired of hearing country music. But the Parthenon and Athena are proof there’s more to the place than twang. There’s lots of other things to do, it just takes a bit of effort. BTW, glad you liked the Nike reference. Hope you and Dave are well and having a great summer. ~James

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